Teams Pulling Together-Aligning Teams for Results

Blog - Teams Pulling Together-Aligning TeamsAs I head off to take part in the Vineman triathlon (my first!), I am reflecting on my four years of watching the Tour de France.  It has become abundantly clear to me that the essence of superior performance in cycling on the Tour is esprit de corps, a key ingredient in aligning teams for better results.   This latest Tour vividly showcases a team battling it out on the road, pulling together to help each other to win, even when high-performing cyclists can and do pull away from the group; as in other Tours, the team members put the team first to achieve victory.  What appears to be a sport where every man is for himself is actually one of the best models available for becoming a high-performing team.

The Tour ended this past Sunday, July 22, 2012.   The winner of this years’ Tour de France was Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky.   Each member of Team Sky has significant riding potential.  For example, Mark Cavendish, known in cycling as “The Manx Missile” is the fastest man on two wheels.  He had the potential in this Tour to win stage after stage yet, for the benefit of the team, he held back and did his work as part of the team.  And, when it made sense for the Sky Team strategy, the team pulled for Mark allowing him to test his strength and achieve two stage wins in this 2012 Tour.  To date, Cavendish has four consecutive Champs-Elysées sprint wins.  He is surpassing Lance Armstrong—23 stage wins for Cavendish vs. 22 for Armstrong.  Cavendish sacrificed a lot to join Team Sky. He went from being the focus of a team, to being a player on a team whose focus was pushing Wiggins, another superior cyclist, to the Tour title. This still didn’t prevent Cavendish from winning three stages, but there is little question that Cavendish could have won more on a team geared towards his success.  However, Cavendish was aware of his role and stuck to his commitment to pull the team together rather than make himself the “winner.”

At one stage, Chris Froome, another member of Team Sky, was passing Wiggins. Chris had the power to pull away yet his job was to pull Wiggins not abandon him.  Rather than chase the break-away leader and try to take the Stage for himself, Chris stayed with Wiggins and, as a result, was awarded second place in the Tour while Wiggins is the overall winner.   Despite perhaps his desire to shine, Chris made the decision to stay with Wiggins and committed to his role on the team as a supporter and not a star.

The next challenge for winning teams like Team Sky holds true for any organizational team that creates top performers: “The big battle [now] here will be for them [Team Sky] to keep this powerhouse team together, and as such, most of the questions surrounding their future will revolve around that.” (Bleacher Report)

How many times in organizational life do we see people on teams putting their egos aside for the better of the team?    It takes a special team for members to put their individual agendas to the side and make the team agenda first and foremost.  Even in low-stake team exercises like  “Prisoner’s Dilemma-type” games, where teams strategize together, participants often change their votes and go against agreed-upon decisions just to “win” the “prize”!

Imagine a world in which organizational teams were comprised of members who trusted each other, made decisions for the team rather than for their part of the business, were transparent, spoke with candor and compassion to one another, and held themselves accountable.

I have had the pleasure of working with teams like that.   How do they get from chaos to cohesiveness?

1.    They assess the team, evaluating key areas like trust, conflict, candor, accountability.
2.    They create a set of behaviors or Guiding Principles that lift the team to a new standard of excellence.
3.    They learn about one another and have fun with each other.
4.    They look at each other’s strengths and weaknesses and help one another grow.
5.    They revisit their ability to work as a team frequently and evaluate what is working and what isn’t.
6.    They admit their mistakes and congratulate each other on their successes.
7.    They make sure that their work is aligned with the strategic plan, values, mission and vision
of the organization and prioritize accordingly.

What can you do to keep creating high-performing teams in your organization?
How do you encourage and retain top performers who are so able to be “winners” on their own?

Reference Bleacher Report:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1269558-tour-de-france-2012-biggest-questions-facing-team-sky-after-dominant-outin

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