How do you create a winning team?


By just reading the headline, you might think that this article is targeting leaders. You are wrong, this article is targeting you, as the employee, as a part of a team. I am going to write a bit about team work and your part in it. Remember that you hold a vital role in any team, and you need to understand this role to contribute to the victory. I will first start by a comparison with ancient boats,

Gar! Land hoy Pirates!

Pirate o hoy!I always like to compare teamwork with a sea voyage where you set sail for a faraway destination. You need a captain, you need a navigator and you need a lookout, gunmen, a chef, cannon fodders and deck boys. All of you have different skills and abilities, and you are expected to use them. The chef does not necessary know how to read a map, he is still an important part of the team. The captain does not know how to cook, but the captain is still in charge. Each and one of them with different roles, but still equal important. The captain must understand that he is not more important than all the other roles, as this often leads to mutiny.

Learn how to navigate

If you are the navigator of your team, make sure that you are hungry for more skills about navigation. Create a learning goal to become the best navigator possible. I will tell you again and again, buy some books! Learn from other navigators, participate in online forums (yes pirates are very modern these days ). Don’t worry about IF you are going to reach your destination, because without proper skill you won’t unless you do as Christopher Columbus and set sail, only to re-name your destination when you missed with half a globe. What you need to worry about is improving your skills. And the reason is simple, with skills comes success. If you know how to navigate, you will get to your destination. If you become an even better navigator, you will get there faster.

But do not forget to cook

This is very important. When you are on a team, you’re not alone! What if the chef has to walk the plank? Who is supposed to cook? Unlike an engine that breaks down, with one part out of order, humans have the ability to adapt new conditions. What if an engine was redundant, one breaks down and another one keeps going. This is absolutely necessary in a good team. This does not mean that you now need to be full time chef, but you know how to cook and can prevent the crew from starving or ending up with scurvy, until a new chef is in place. This is why it is a good advice to learn a bit about what the other people in the team do as well. Create a redundant team that will keep going.

Mutiny happens for a reason

When the captain keeps changing the recipe for the chef, or deciding on another route, overruling the navigator he is micromanaging and create two things you do not want in a crew; Lack of trust and dissatisfaction. The captain needs to trust his crew members to be best at whatever they are hired for. But the captain need to know the value of knowledge and make sure the crew has learning goals. The captain should help the navigator to become a better navigator. Start with; “What do you want to improve?” A leader is a servant, applying his efforts to help other evolve. But wait, your captain is currently in a flying state between the plank and the deep ocean, what do you do? Who is in command? Now what? Yes, you get the point. In addition to being a good navigator, an above average chef, you should also read about leadership. You should also know the role of the captain. Who runs this place when the captain is gone? Do you all set sail for Tahiti? Or are you trying to loot the next armada? You must understand the importance of achieving the goals and as a team you need to take responsibility, for the team to run smoothly. So if you want to be captain one day, start acquiring the necessary skills now. No need to wait until the captain is shark bait.

Now you know about the different roles, and how you need to know more about more than just yours.

Create an open space for dialogue

To get a team to function you need room and space for open dialogue. It is important that people can talk without fear, and team members need to understand that it is ok to be criticized. But remember criticism need to be constructive and with an intention to make people grow. If you have people with opinions, let them speak, listen to them. I heard about a woman here in Norway that had a sound proof scream room at work, where people could go and just scream! How great is that? Do not look down on people with other opinions. The deck boy might not like the food the chef is making, he is allowed to have this opinion, there is still no reason for the chef to hate the boy, but he might rather take it into consideration, and maybe once in a while adjust his menu? You understand what I mean.

Hire the right people

Look for tolerance in the people you hire. Look for people that understand that there is a difference between what you do and who you are. Look for people that are able to understand the importance of lifelong learning. If you get team members that care about each other, and are interested in seeing their friends and co-workers develop, you are then hiring the best crew. – Remember lesson number 1: Understand the different team roles.

Please do feel free to add more ingredients to this team recipe by commenting – what does it take to make a winning team?

I hope you enjoy my blog and feel free to subscribe. Thank you so much for reading, you rock!

Frode Heimen
Motivational Gardener

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7 Comments on "How do you create a winning team?"

  1. I Googled “bringing employees into meetings” and this article came up. We have such a mix of employees all with the same role at different locations.

    Some are engaged, some are not.

    Based up the concepts and ideas here, I was able to draft a quick resolution to present to the higher-ups to change the forum of the monthly meetings.

    I just asked the staff “What do you want to get out of the meeting?” So, we’ll see how it goes – thank you for your insights …


  2. Wonderful insights! I couldn’t agree more, that everyone should play it’s vital role and valuing the significance of the work of everyone in the team.

  3. Anytime you can take an analogy and apply it to something that hits home, you’ve done well. And this article does just that.

    To add to the analogy, the ship building crew and restocking crews at each port are your external support people. They aren’t directly impacting your team but showing them respect and appreciation will help maintain the core foundation of your business. When computer systems go down in a company the IT department, though often not in the forefront, becomes integral to getting things back up and running. Develop a good relationship with them when things aren’t on the fritz and you’ll appreciate it more when emergencies happen.

  4. Hi David!
    Thank you for bringing regular feedback. I have to agree, as this is one of my favorite analogies. I can compare anything with pirates and soccer/sports 🙂

  5. Interesting analogy. It works on many levels. I’m going to play around with it in my head for awhile.

  6. Hi Geoff!
    Hope all is well. Thank you for commenting.
    A soundproof bat room sounds like a lot of fun. 🙂

    Building an understanding of the company is actually very important for motivation.


  7. Frode, my man…you hit some really good key points on teamwork here. I couldn’t agree with you more when it comes to having an understanding of what other’s roles are. When it comes to serving others, I believe it is an absolute necessity to have defined duties so that there is now confusion, BUT…let it be known that there is plenty of room to “bleed.” What I mean by “bleeding” is that each person should be willing to and able to blend their duties with others, so that as you mentioned…the chef(s) can and will be able to man the ship, as well as the captain be able to cook the crew a nice meal without the worry of burning it and/or the ship! I think this also helps build a level of understand and respect within the organization.

    Thanks again.

    P.S. The scream room concept is great. It reminded me of a client who showed me his “Bat Room” – which consisted of a heavy bag and a huge plastic wiffle ball bat. I think you could guess how that worked! 🙂
    Geoff Snyder recently posted..World Business Forum 2010

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