How to Build a Winning Team

winning team

What do sports have to do with the way you run a business? Quite a lot, says Ross Bernstein, an award-winning, peak-performance business speaker who is the best-selling author of nearly 50 sports books. Bernstein will be leading a 2020 Leaders Forum workshop entitled, “Harnessing Innovation and Technology to Invest in Your Company’s Future: Greatest Lessons from the World of Sports,” in which he will perform a deep dive into some of the great lessons of leadership that have come directly from professional sports, including how to build a winning team.

winning team

“There are so many great lessons of leadership that come out of sports,” says Bernstein. “Sports offer a hyper-accelerated learning curve—you either win or you get fired.”

In sales, there’s a similar metric, he says. You need to perform, or the business starts to fail.

“People need to connect quickly and build relationships quickly,” Bernstein continues. “I’ll be sharing some ideas about how coaches do it and how some great companies have applied the same principles and been successful as a result. I’ll be challenging attendees to think about different ways they can lead—and will be giving them some tools to support this.”

We asked Bernstein to give us a preview of some of the important topics that will be discussed during his workshop.

A Winning Team: The Plus-Minus Metric

During Bernstein’s workshop, there will also be an exploration into the people who make up your team. Bernstein says he’ll talk about the “Plus-Minus” hockey metric. This is a sports statistic used to measure a player’s impact on the game represented by the difference between their team’s total scoring versus the opponent’s (when the player is in the game). It also helps compare how combinations of players work (or don’t work) together.

winning team
Ross Bernstein

“It’s helpful for business owners to think of their team this way,” says Bernstein. “Which players are PLUS players? A good team player doesn’t create drama, mentors your younger employees, and perhaps provides you with valuable information that you might not otherwise have had.”

Ultimately, Bernstein says PLUS players are those who are selfless, willing to come in early and stay late, and lead by example. They will have a positive influence on the rest of your employees.

A Winning Team: It’s Not Always About the Best Players

Bernstein says assembling a winning team is not always about acquiring the best players but is more about assembling the right players. This is something that coaches do well.

“The top coaches figure out which players get along well with others,” he says. “Have any employees who create drama? Employees who cause drama will eventually contaminate your staff. In sports, they are referenced to as ‘team cancers.’ Yes, the old cliché still rings true—one bad apple will spoil the entire barrel.”

A Winning Team: You Must Start with Neutral Turf

In order for you to create the right chemistry on your team, you need to get your people out of the building and onto “natural turf,” shares Bernstein. He suggests taking them out for a team-building exercise somewhere fun—a picnic, a bar, bowling, etc.—and seeing who hangs out together.

“Observe who smiles and laughs and enjoys being around one another,” he says. “That’s why Scotty Bowman did—the winningest coach in the history of the National Hockey League. Scotty figured out early on in his career that his friends like to pass their puck to friends. He discovered that when people who liked each other and cared for each other played together on the same team, they were more unselfish and even found genuine pleasure in watching their pals achieve success. He had a whole line of Russians in Detroit, and another entire line of Swedes, but, needless to say, they just clicked. In a culture steeped in individual statistics and huge egos, this is rare.”

Bernstein says the same can be achieved in the workplace, when attention is given to how people ultimately work as a team.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Leaders Forum is January 23-25, 2020 at the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico.

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