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Cupcake worthy?

March 14, 2012

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It’s 75 degrees and windy. A team of six year olds stand ready to drive the soccer ball down the field. Each player is envisioning the moment he will kick the ball into the goal while the crowd goes wild. The coach is yelling directives from the sideline. Two of the stand-out players are elevating the play of the rest of the team. It’s zero to zero when the team takes a water break and heads to the bench. The chatter about the game halts as 10 pairs of eyes notice the post-game cupcakes dripping with icing. The coach turns to the players and says, “Let’s get this straight. No one is getting a cupcake unless we start scoring some goals.” That was all it took to get this set of boys motivated to go out the next half, score seven goals and win the game.

A lot goes into having a winning team. In our business, having a winning team can mean the difference between signing on a new client, solving a crisis with a cool head or creating a campaign worth talking about. Following are a few thoughts on winning teams:

  • Motivate and inspire:  Leading a successful team often starts at the C-suite and trickles down. Think Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Gary Kelly of Southwest Airlines or Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, where strong leaders build morale and a culture where teams are motivated to do more, sell more and think outside the box.
  • Play to your strengths:  Winning teams know what they’re good at and know how to maximize each player’s skill set, whether its relationship building, creative ideation, project management, etc. Whole Foods credits its success to the team, where each store has an average of 10 self-managed teams with assigned leaders and clear performance targets.
  • Respect others opinions:  One of the quickest ways to strike discord on a team is to start tearing down another person’s work or ideas. Successful colleagues don’t always agree, they just know when to agree to disagree. And other opinions might just be what you’re looking for. According to the late Steve Jobs of Apple, “Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.”
  • Work toward a greater good:  Obvious, and yet crucial, winning teams work together with the end goal in mind. Look at Walt Disney Co. According to Laurie Bassi, author of Good Company: Business Success in the Worthiness Era, “Disney understands that employees are the key to it being a good seller and good steward. And so all employees — including the street sweepers — are treated as essential, because they are essential.”
  • Reward and recognize accomplishments:  Whether it’s a game of soccer, customer service excellence or award-winning design, make sure to call attention to great work. Even the little things, like a cupcake or a shout out in a meeting can be all it takes to keep your team inspired to keep going above and beyond.

Our office values teamwork. From the request for proposal we all jumped in to work on last week to the old-fashioned “pounding” where we all helped give a “pound” of something to fill the pantry of a colleague who just moved into a new apartment, we look for opportunities to rally together. What winning team tips can you share?

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