- THE MAGAZINE
“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere.”
- Ronald Reagan
History is full of sports teams that have been “one shot wonders,” world champions one year and in the cellar the next. Obviously, heads are going to roll among the management of such a team. The goal of all teams is to keep on winning, to build momentum and achieve that hallowed Hall of Fame word: “Dynasty.”
Wikipedia says, “the term ‘dynasty’ is often used to refer to a team that dominates their sport for a period of time. Such dominance is usually recognized only after a team has won many championships in a given time.” (The Green Bay Packers of the ‘60s or the New York Yankees of the 1990s come to mind.) Building a sports dynasty is an achievement to be proud o, but it is just a game, right? (Try telling this to a sports-obsessed fan!)
But now let’s focus on you. As you play this incredibly complicated but important game called life, are you building a dynasty out of your business? Do you dominate your market and have you won many “championships” in a given time? Or is your business characterized by short winning spurts and then yet another season in the cellar? Most importantly, how can you build and then keep a winning team year after year? (For suggestions on attracting superb employees, see Competing For Your Internal Customer in last month’s issue.) Here are some time-tested dynasty-building principles that work equally well in sports or life.
How often do you remind your customers that “Quality costs”? But we tend to forget this essential business principle when we are building (and maintaining) a team of quality people. Investing in your people means much more than paying a high salary, even though money talks when it comes to employees. You invest in your workers by providing them a stable, sane and secure business environment while giving them the opportunity to advance professionally (honestly, does this sound like the typical carpet-cleaning operation?).
Cut the Daily Stress
Sure, your people can step up to the plate and do incredible things under crisis conditions. But can they perform under the gun all the time? When your business is constantly in “crisis mode” your employees will eventually become discouraged, lose their sense of fun, burn out and finally quit, guaranteed! Your job is to make your employees’ daily work a comfortable routine that both invigorates and challenges them, but that is – as much as possible – stress free.
It is a scary thing for a coach to have the entire success of his team hanging up the health or longevity of one marquee player. Your situation is the same. Once an employee comes to recognize that you need them more than they need you, they will hold you hostage. And who can blame your employee for his demands? After all, he is just following the Law of Supply and Demand. Avoid this uncomfortable situation by making everything in your company so easy that anyone can do it. It is so much better to have a varied group of solid and competent players than to pin all your hopes on one spectacular but unstable employee.
Set High Moral Standards
Some things in your company should be non-negotiable, including that you will not tolerate unethical or immoral behavior, period. Your entire “team culture” should be based on always doing the right thing. Teams that do well for the long term are willing to bench any player – even a star – for improper activities. Do you have the same zero-tolerance policy for even your key employees?
Tough to define and difficult to achieve. Yet sports dynasties keep their winning status for years based on the mutual respect and cooperation of a core group of team players. This close family affection (dare I call it “love”?) moves individuals to get past their own egos and self-interest and focus on what is best for the team.
Teams (and families) win and lose together. One of the priceless moments of winning is rejoicing over your triumphs. You can recognize something as small as a heartfelt letter of appreciation from a newly created Cheerleader Customer. Or celebrate a huge record-breaking year of profits with a group party and, even better, individual bonuses for every player on your team! Of course, winning is easy to define for a sports team; the game is everything. But in business you must define your goals.
Without the “artificial game” of goals, business can stretch out into a monotonous and dreary grind. You must set up milestones to strive for in your company and then celebrate in style when you reach them. Be sure to set up smaller increments that are recognized as you move toward the larger prize. For example, if you want to increase sales by $250,000 this year, break the number down into weekly increments and also track your cumulative success. Recognize employees that come up with viable ideas on how to hit your numbers.
Sports teams have short-term goals, e.g. win the game! They also focus on long-range goals such as winning the championship. But wise and forward-looking coaches also have a vision, a dream focused on a dynasty. Everything they do works toward the eventual realization of that dream. What is your vision for your company, for your life? And are you making the needed sacrifices and investments now to achieve your dreams? Remember, it isn’t just about you. Your employees also have visions and dreams. How well you help your people to define and achieve their dreams will affect your dynasty-building success.
Lead by Example
Any winning coach must earn not only the obedience but also the respect of his players. How to do this? I call it the “iron fist in the velvet glove” approach. Yes, you must be approachable and personable. Showing concern, sympathy and a sincere interest in the lives and families of your employees will go a long way toward winning their respect and affection. But you must also be like iron when it comes to the firm company rules and procedures you have set up. Accept no compromises and hold your people accountable. Believe it or not, this “tough love” approach will not only earn you the respect of your employees, you will also be well on your way toward building a valuable and successful dynasty.