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Take Your Team from Good to Great

Patrick Nelson, January 29, 2018

Take Your Team from Good to Great

Imagine – you’re down by two points with 10 seconds left in the game. You’re 61 yards away from the end zone. What are the odds you score a touchdown and walk off a winner? (Hint: Slim to none.) Earlier this month in what is being called the “Minneapolis Miracle,” the Minnesota Vikings scored an improbable last-second touchdown to win the game and advance to the Conference Championship. Even better, I was there to watch the whole thing.

I previously worked for the Vikings and this was my first time in the new stadium. The energy from 60,000+ screaming fans was incredible. After the excitement wore down, I couldn’t help but think how far the team has come. From being a mediocre 8-8 last year, they made it to one game away from the Super Bowl.

Now, I get it. You may not like the Vikings or football and be wondering: “What’s the point?” 

Sports are a great analogy for leadership, and the Vikings are a team that went from good to great. Professional teams train and practice relentlessly to be the best. There is no reason that we cannot adopt that same mentality with our teams at work. Your actions can positively influence the work environment you’re in and help your team succeed. Start by practicing the following: 

  • Get to know your players. What are your interactions with team members like? Professional athletes often spend a lot of time getting to know each other, and this deep understanding of each other is evident in how they play. Build trust by spending time with members of your team.
  • Offer Praise. Research has shown that positive feedback has a significant impact on team performance. When providing feedback, whether it is positive or developmental, focus on specific behaviors that allow the other person to know what they did well or what areas could be improved.
  • Challenge each other. You don’t want a team of head nodders that always agree. Once you establish trust, team members are more likely to challenge each other and bring a diversity of thought to the table. Productive disagreement is a great thing. If you have an idea or question, speak up and encourage others to do the same.
  • Pick members based on skills and potential. As discussed in the classic Harvard Business Review article, “The Discipline of Teams,” teams succeed and perform at high levels when they can rely on the performance of individual members. Choose team members that have both necessary skills and a strong urge to develop and maintain a growth mindset.

Following the “Minneapolis Miracle,” the Vikings lost in the Conference Championship game. All teams will face setbacks, but it’s how they respond that defines their leadership during difficult times. Like the Vikings, you can take your team from good to great and overcome setbacks. Start taking steps to elevate your team’s performance today.

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