2 Keys that help Great Teams
Create Big Success
From Winning Emmys To Winning Olympic Gold
"When you know your why and you know the way, you won’t let obstacles get in the way."
No one creates success alone. We all need a team to be successful. As I writer, I need my editor and my publisher and my marketing team, as well as my family and my spouse. An NBA team isn't just the players on the bench, but also its strength and conditioning staff, it's travel coordinator and the people who keep the uniforms clean. Not everyone contributes equally to a team and not everyone spends the same amount of time in the spotlight, but it's undeniable that we are better together, and together we accomplish great things. Teams work together to launch initiatives, companies, brands, products, and missions that change the world.
As part of my job, I've worked with some of the best businesses, educational organizations, nonprofits, and professional and college sports teams on building better teams. I didn't plan it, but I've become someone that leaders call when they need help developing high-performing and winning teams.
In over a decade working with everyone from The Los Angeles Rams to West Point Academy to Southwest Airlines, I've found that winning teams share two qualities:
A greater purpose
A great team starts with having a shared vision of where your team is going, and a greater purpose of why you are going there. A team can't win a championship or cure a disease without planning to, and they won't be able to execute that plan with purely selfish motivations (like "And then we'll be rich and famous!") Without a vision and purpose you will burn out. After all we don't get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it. Your shared vision and greater purpose will keep you fresh and keep you moving forward.
Let's break down what these two qualities look like.
The key words here are "shared vision." It's a vision that the entire team shares. It's one vision that unites and inspires the team members individually and collectively. This one vision serves as a North Star that moves everyone on the team in the same direction.
As a team, you must continually point each other toward this North Star. Yes, we were here yesterday, but this is where we are going. Yes, we faced this challenge, but here's where we are going now. We don't have a perfect set of plans because the world is always changing, but we do have a vision and a North Star that will guide us. We don't have a perfect road map, but we have a path forward and we have each other. Together we can reach our vision if we keep our eyes on the North Star and move toward it together.
The other key words are "greater purpose." Research shows people are most energized when they are using their strengths for a bigger purpose, one that goes beyond themselves as individuals.
It's a purpose beyond oneself that truly drives and energizes people and teams. It's not just about having a shared vision. It's also having a greater purpose that drives you toward your shared vision.
It's essential for you and your team to understand why you exist and the difference your team can make. When each member of the team knows their team's purpose and how they can contribute to it, the collective energy and passion will soar. For example, my friend John Rauvola, the president of Superfeet, knew that over 75 percent of the US adult population has foot pain, so he and his team created a bigger purpose: "To make a positive difference in people's lives by establishing a strong foundation." HP recently selected Superfeet to introduce the first foot scanning and pressure plate analysis, which results in 3D-printed custom insoles and custom footwear produced at the Superfeet manufacturing facility. One of the main reasons why they were selected was because the Superfeet team was driven by purpose and was said to have amazing positive energy regarding this project.
Creating Billions and Winning Gold
When Brian Koppelman and his writing partner David Levien looked into their metaphorical telescope they saw billions. Not billions of stars, but rather the megahit television show Billions. The duo that created movie hits such as Ocean’s Thirteen and Rounders have worked together for years with a shared vision and a greater purpose to become one of Hollywood's most successful writing teams.
When I asked Brian their secret, he said that he and David were always mission focused and purpose driven. He said, whatever movie, show, or project they were working on, they knew that the work they were creating was the important thing and their job was to work together to serve the purpose of making it the best it could be. They believed that if they focused on making something great, that would allow them to tell more stories together. The movie or show was the vision they were working toward, and the purpose was to make it great.
Their commitment was to the project and to each other. Egos didn't surface because everything they did together was to serve their vision and mission. I've learned from them that egos don't get in the way when you have a team that is driven by a shared vision and a greater purpose.
A team with a vision on a mission doesn't let division stop them.
Whether it's creating Billions or winning Olympic gold medals, the same principles apply. The same day I spoke to Brian Koppelman I also spoke to Kerri Walsh Jennings. Kerri and Misty May-Treanor make up the greatest beach volleyball team of all time. Together they won gold medals at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics, and they also won the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship three times.
When I asked Kerri what made her and Misty a great team she said, "We knew where we wanted to go. We had a vision and a goal, and were comfortable about what we had to do to get there. We wanted to be truly great. We owned our deep desire to kick butt. We had a lot of love for the game and each other. We were excited about doing this together. From the beginning, we were committed to each other and our mission. We knew what we had to do together, and it was about achieving greatness together."
I had to smile. I spoke to Kerri only a few hours after I spoke to Brian and their answers were amazingly similar. I realized in that moment that a team with talent can be good, but they must have a shared vision and a greater purpose in order to be great.
When you know your why and you know the way, you won't let obstacles get in the way. You will keep moving forward toward the shared vision you have, and your greater purpose will fuel you on the journey.
Discover the Proven Principles and Practices that Make Great Teams Great with Jon Gordon's new book The Power of a Positive Team.
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