Leadership Lessons From World Class Teams

I have always believed that if you want to be the best then you need to learn from the best. I recall a time when I was asked to spend
17 Mar 2018 11:00
Leadership Lessons From World Class Teams
Mark Wager

I have always believed that if you want to be the best then you need to learn from the best.

I recall a time when I was asked to spend some time with a team that was ambitious about improving their performance.

As I walked into their boardroom where all their managers were gathered, the first thing that caught my eye was a plaque hanging on the wall.

Written on the plaque was their company values, the kind of values you find on walls of almost every business in the world.

At the top of the list values was their com­mitment to becoming a world class team.

I started the meeting by addressing the managers with a question “What is a world class team?”

During the next five minutes I heard a selec­tion of different answers most of which were quite general but of all the Managers gath­ered around the table none of them had the same answer.

The meeting was only a few minutes long but we had already identified a weakness within the team.

You cannot become a world class team if you do not actually know what world class is.

No journey can be successful if you do not know where your destination is.

If you are an ambitious leader and you gen­uinely want your team to become world class the first step is to be able to describe what world class actually is.

The most important question you need to ask is if the team became world class tomor­row what would be different?

How would the team act differently, how would meetings be different how would the office be different.

Once you answer these questions then your journey as team truly starts.

A leader who asked himself that very same question was Sir Clive Woodward who when he was in charge of the England rugby team wanted to know what world class truly was, so he took his team to spend time with the Royal Marines, an elite fighting force.

Once he saw what world class truly was he then raised the expectations of what behav­iours he expected from the team.

A couple of years later England used this knowledge to win the Rugby World Cup.

When you look at world class teams no mat­ter what industry they are in whether you are talking about the Navy SEAL, the All Blacks or Olympic champions, there are consist­ent patterns of behaviours that these teams adopt and if you as a leader adopt these be­haviours within your team then you will see a difference.

Share weaknesses

The best way to become strong is to share weaknesses.

The United States Navy’s Sea, Air and Land team better known as the Navy SEALs are one of the world’s most elected special opera­tions force.

A common practice they employ is what they call the AAR (the after action review) this is when the team gets together after every mission and discuss what went wrong, what went right and what they need to do dif­ferently in the future.

Vulnerability is not an option when you want your team to become world class.

The best team cultures give people the cour­age and respect in order to share their own weaknesses and to provide feedback on the weaknesses of others.

This starts with the leader.

In my experience one of the most powerful statements a leader can make is “I made a mistake” every team and leader makes mis­takes, yet it’s the world class ones that admit those mistakes.

Make everyone part of the vision

Pixar is one of the world’s top movie stu­dios.

If you have taken the family to see an ani­mated movie within the past few years the chances are that it was a Pixar movie with successful movies such as The Incredibles, Inside out, Finding Nemo and Finding Dori as well as the Toy Story franchise.

Pixar is clearly a world class organisation.

One of the things that Pixar does in order to create this world class environment is when­ever anyone new starts they gather together in a theatre and the president of Pixar comes in and welcomes everyone and as part of that welcome they are told that “whatever you do before you are a movie maker now, we need you to help us make our movies better.”

This message is given to everyone regard­less of their role whether they are a cleaner or an animator.

A world class team has a clear vision and everyone and I mean everyone is made to feel part of that vision.

Discover Everyone’s Trigger

Every single person has the potential to achieve great things, they have this inner re­source of motivation that will allow them to push beyond any perceived limitations and everyone has a trigger that releases this mo­tivation.

Everyone has a different trigger.

For some it may be the desire to provide for their family while for others it may be some sort of personal achievement.

It is what you care for more than anything else, it’s your deepest desire and world class leaders know what triggers each member of their team.

Individual vs team

Jose Mourinho is one of the world’s most successful football managers and has a track record of creating environments that pro­duce world class teams and throughout his career he has won the league championship in four countries: Portugal, England, Italy and Spain and has won the European Cup twice.

When he starts with every team he meets individually with each member.

The purpose of this discussion is to dis­cover their ambition and what they want in life. Some players want to make money, oth­ers want to win trophies and others want to represent their country.

When Jose Mourinho listens he then links the personal ambition to the team’s overall objective.

This makes everyone understand that by helping the team achieve their objective they will also achieve their own personal goals.

This gives the leader the trigger to motivate their team.

If you want to become a better leader then you need to know your team, their personal ambitions, their dreams and how to help them realise their dreams.

True leaders never stop learning and luck­ily lessons can be found in many places some of which are unlikely.

You may never need to go on a top secret military mission, you may not be working on the next movie blockbuster nor will you be planning to win a football match but when we look at those people who are at the top of their field you will find universal truths that all world class teams share.

All of us regardless of our industry can em­brace these lessons in order to become world class ourselves.


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