How Strong Is Your Team? - Engine Builder Magazine

How Strong Is Your Team?

Every year there is at least one team that causes a big upset during the tournament – we call them the “Cinderella” or the “Dark Horse” and of course, everyone is pulling for these underdogs. This year the field was expanded from 64 teams to 68, and the battle VCU waged to get from the play-in game (the First Four) to the semi-finals (the Final Four) was nothing short of impressive. How do they find the character and teamwork to reach the Championship game during the Madness? If you lose you are out, and to win the title you need to be the best six times in three weeks.

How do these teams seem to rise to the occasion? Is it because of an exceptional coach, exceptional players, circumstances, luck or what? It may be all of the above. We have all known coaches, teachers, bosses who always seemed to get the best out of us. We were glad to give 110% every day. Do you motivate your team to give that 110%? Can your team be its best every day?

Just like the parts you put into your engines, each part of your team has to work together. Like an engine, every piece is integral to the efficient operation of your business. As the “Coach” it is your job to motivate everyone involved in your business, regardless of his or her position. No one should be considered more (or less!) important than anyone else!

I will make a statement here that may draw some criticism, but I truly believe it. You do not need to have the “best player” in each position, but each player needs to know his job and be competent at it every time he is called upon to perform! The best player (employee) is the one that fits the team best.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.” – John Wooden

John Wooden was arguably the best college basketball coach in history. He was also a great motivator. As a player, John Wooden never experienced a losing season and as a coach, his only losing season was his first, when he coached Dayton (KY) High School to a 6-11 record in 1932. From that point on, he never had another losing season, retiring as UCLA’s head coach in 1975. For 42 years, John Wooden’s team was the best it could be every day. Can you say that about your team?

Coach Wooden also developed what he called his “Pyramid of Success.” As the team leader, it can help you motivate the rest of the team. The Pyramid of Success is a great business tool – and life tool, for that matter. I encourage everyone reading this to go to and study it. Better yet, get a copy of one of his books.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” How do you treat your employees when they do make a mistake? Are you a teacher like Coach Wooden?

Teammates don’t have to like each other, BUT teammates all need to work together toward a common goal, AND, they need to understand that what is good for the team is good for them, too! That’s not a John Wooden quote, just a statement from my own 55 years of learning so far.

I can just about guarantee that not everyone on your team likes each other – of course if it’s just you and your wife, I hope I’m wrong; but it’s just human nature that differences will occur. Hopefully, though, everyone likes WHAT he or she is doing and works together toward that common goal.

How many times have you had a job comeback, and then put the responsibility for the comeback on one of your teammates? Remember; there is no “I” in team. The team wins together or they lose together.

Too often we get caught up in blame, backstabbing, politics and an “Us vs. Them” mentality. Look around your shop. Do you have a group of employees who always hang out together, maybe go to lunch together, while another group keeps to themselves?

Many years ago I worked as an Assistant Service Manager at a  small town dealership. We had around six technicians, a couple cashiers/office girls (is that PC?), the Parts Manager, Body Shop Manager and couple of bodymen.

Being a small town dealership, we closed the service area down for an hour at lunchtime every day. Most of the time, we all ate lunch together, maybe played some cards. On Fridays, we all did eat together including, many times, with the owners of the dealership. From the top to the bottom, everyone was treated the same; no one was treated better than anyone else.

None of us hung around together after hours, but during our work hours we were like family. Everyone got along and everyone participated in the success of the business. While the original owners are no longer with us, that smalltown dealership is still going strong today, and I believe it’s because we had that “team” relationship.

How often have you heard a fellow employee complain about working too hard while the boss makes all the money? Or maybe they give less than their best. Maybe it’s because they don’t feel like part of the team – or because they don’t know any better.

Unless you tell them, many (and by that I mean MOST) employees have NO CONCEPT of the cost of doing business. Make it a point to let your entire team know what it costs every time you open that door in the morning and what that comeback cost the team.

Your team needs to understand that operating a successful business is good for them too and that it should be everyone’s goal. Unless you are in a mom and pop operation, as Coach you can’t afford to show favoritism to any individual team member. I know there will be some exceptions to this, but for the most part, showing favoritism towards one employee will almost always cause issues with other employees.

Of course, there are winners in other sports that you can draw inspiration from as well. I can give you a long list: Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske in motorsports; or how about the late Herb Brooks (1980 Miracle on Ice USA Olympic hockey coach); or Phil Jackson (LA Lakers head coach) just to name a few.

Each one of these successful team leaders may have his own style, but each adheres to certain principles in his approach to leading his team. And their particular approach and principles trickle down to everyone on that particular team.

Would Chad Knauss be as successful with another team? Would Jimmie Johnson have won five straight NASCAR titles away from Hendrick Motorsports? Some might call it chemistry and others might just say some are just better at it than others. Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls as a football coach and now has seen just as much success as a NASCAR team owner.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – John Wooden.

And what keeps a team at the top year after year? Never quit learning, because no matter how smart you are, there is always someone who knows something you don’t and just may be one of your teammates. Listen to everyone around you; you never know where that next great idea will come from.

Character is that ingredient that makes a teammate give 110-percent each and every day, it’s who you are. Reputation can come and go like the wind because it is someone’s perception of who you or your company are. Character is who you really are.

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” – John Wooden.

I could quote the late John Wooden all day, but look at any highly successful team and I bet they all lead in a similar fashion. Follow the ideas of some of these successful leaders and you will become more successful, too.

Jim Walbolt, a professional writer and photographer covering motorsports activities, is from Custar, OH. john wooden
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