Winning teams – what does “winning” mean to you?

What does “winning” mean to you? How would you define it? I guess this may appear to be a stupid question to most, but I think we can translate a “winning team” in a multitude of different ways.

The meaning of “winning” in the Oxford English Dictionary is given as “gaining, resulting in, or relating to victory in a contest or competition”. From this definition it is clear that winning means beating someone at something. Would you agree?

For most of us, certainly in relation to a sport, this means scoring more goals, tries, points, having a better time or score to beat your opponents. From an early age I was brought up playing a range of sports including football, rugby, golf and American football. As a very fiery red head, winning had a very clear definition and unless achieved, my mum had to put up with a bad tempered and inconsolable wee boy. There was no smile for 2nd place!  

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In football I was lucky enough to be brought up as a Liverpool supporter and so didn’t know any other word than winning. I don’t think I even realised there were other teams out there as Liverpool Football Club, until 1989, seemed to win everything they played for, whether it be in England or Europe. As a central defender, the teams I played for were blessed with real talent, and again my bedside drawer is full of league and cup medals, so once again winning had only one definition. This also translated into my rugby teams, at the age of 12 I enjoyed teammates around me who were already 6ft, shaving and couldn’t be stopped by our opponents, and so once again winning always meant gaining more points than the other team.

Winning, by the Oxford English Dictionary definition, is purely a result and does not take into account the process to achieve it. With hindsight and several decades on, I would probably change my own definition of “winning”. If we all worked to the above definition then why do we carry on? Not many of us are actually going to “win” anything.

In business, this definition of winning would translate into revenue and profit and for many companies, this is their primary and only goal. On the face of it, these companies are the darlings of investors or money focused owners and behind them is a wake of disgruntled employees, low employee engagement and a high staff turnover.

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However, there are other companies out there with a differing view who generate profitable revenue as a consequence of creating a strong “winning” team.

Only this week I met the owner of a 50 employee company that he established 8 years ago who, when I asked, “what does success look like for you in 5 years’ time”, did not once mention revenue growth or wanting to become a millionaire by selling his business. Instead his passionate and clearly well thought through answer was all around delivering a market leading experience for his customers, making his business an environment where his employees jump out of bed every morning to come to work, a place where people can really achieve anything they want to and enjoy a very fulfilled career, an open environment where innovation happens bottom up, a strong team based on a moral compass that respects and supports one another with a common goal, to delight customers. Winning, for this entrepreneur, was creating a strong, loyal team who enjoy limitless personal growth all in the pursuit to deliver a market leading customer experience. What a breath of fresh air and a view that we share and practice at Collingwood.

I believe there are 7 key steps needed to create a “winning” team:

  • Create a clear purpose, vision and set of agreed values with your team.
  • Develop a team who share your vision and recruit only those who demonstrate your core values and sought behaviours. Do not give-in to “putting a bum on a seat” as it will return to haunt you. There is no quick fix but appointing the right people will fuel success and ensure you have a solid foundation to achieve your vision.
  • Ensure everyone understands who your customers are, their needs, their pains and how you can support them to achieve their goals.
  • Create an environment which thrives on open communication, encourage innovation to come from every part of your team and not top down.
  • Create a learning environment where people are hungry to look outside their world and push their comfort zone.
  • Ensure you devise a performance management ethos and process that is fit for purpose.
  • Above all, don’t focus on the end result and instead, on the components that will get you there.

"Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you." - Tony Hsieh

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Comments (1)

  • Chris Allwood Avatar

    Chris Allwood

    The benefits of being part of a successful team are always more than anything measured in financial terms or points on the board. That feeling of being a part of success never leaves you and it drives you forward to want to repeat that feeling in whatever you then take on, whether as part of the same team or in other challenges. The feeling is infectious and definitely spreads once established...

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