There is one fact in business that is always true, no matter what business you are in: you will never build a great business all on your own. The bigger and better the business you want to build, the bigger and better the team you will need around you.

But winning teams do not happen by accident, nor are they created overnight. We can look to sport for examples of this. Lawrie McMenemy took 3 years to win the FA cup with the Southampton football team, finally achieving it in 1976. Alex Ferguson took 4 years before he won his first trophy with Manchester United in 1990, as did Clive Woodward with his World Cup winning rugby team in 2003. So what can we learn from these great managers, and how does what they did translate into the business world?

Well, in business, as in sport, there are 6 Keys to a Winning Team.

1. Strong Leadership

The First Key was these guys weren’t just managers, they were strong leaders. There have been many books written on what makes a strong leader, and it is not the aim of this article to explain what it takes. What we we should note however is that they all led in different ways, and each had spent many years learning the necessary skills to enable them to achieve their goals.

There is evidence that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. This equates to about 3 to 5 years of practice, which fits nicely with the time frames stated above.  The fact is, these individuals were prepared to take the time to learn how to become great managers. If YOU want to build a great business, you must also dedicate yourself to being a great leader by learning from as many sources as you can.

2. Common Goal

The Second Key is that these managers had a clear and common goal. In sport, this is generally easier than in business – there is normally a league title or a cup to play for, and the whole team know every day what they are working towards. Every time they play the game, they can measure how well they have done in terms of goals, tries, passes, saves and tackles. In today’s sporting world, the statistics are as much a part of the game as the gameplay itself. Clive Woodward talks of the fact that he bought every member of his team a laptop so that they could analyse their stats after every match!

In business, goals can be a little less clear, but they are no less important. Sales, profit, leads, conversion rates etc. – you must know your numbers. Then set goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Realistic in the Time frame, and also (importantly) that inspire you to take ACTION!

3. Action Plan

The Third Key is that these managers had a clear plan of action.  enjamin Franklin is said to have coined the phrase, “Fail to plan, and you are planning to fail.” No manager goes to a game without a plan, and this plan will depend on the team they have. and the team they are playing against. In every team, the players have specific roles and they know what is expected of them, even if the plan has to be changed on the day.

In business, I like the idea of working to a 90 day plan, which shows who needs to do what by when, and allows for responsibility and accountability for all team members.

4. Know the Rules

The Fourth Key is one of the most overlooked, but the also one of the most vital. In every game and for every team, it is important to set out the rules of the game. Every game must have rules, as these allow the team to know what is right and what is wrong, and therefore play their best within the agreed parameters. When players breach the rules, they expect and accept that they will be brought to account and must take the consequences.

In the same way, your business should have its own set of rules. From roles and responsibilities and dress code to culture and values, all must be documented, shared and enforced in a positive and consistent way, so that all staff know what is expected of them.

5. Support Risk Taking

The Fifth Key is to support risk taking – i.e. to allow people to do things their own way, even if it’s different to your way. While there is no “I” in TEAM, there is one in WIN. Every team member has a set of personal attributes that make them good at what they do.  It is the leader’s job to know what these talents are, and to ensure that they are maximised on the field of play.

Likewise, your team members need to be able to do their job their way, and be encouraged to take risks. This is how they will grow and develop.  As long as they moving are in the direction of the goal, following the plan and in line with the rules, very little can actually go wrong.

6.Ensure 100% Participation

The Sixth and Final Key is to encourage 100% participation. Can you imagine a team where one player does not give as much as the other players? This would lead to discord, irritation and eventually a reduction in performance from everybody in the team.

The bigger the organisation is, the harder it can be to ensure all staff participate fully.  This is why it is important to keep the manager to staff ratio workable within your business. Too many direct reports for one manager means there are places for slackers to hide, and the lines of communication suffer.

So now you know how to put the 6 Keys to a Winning Team into ACTION in your business!  Just remember though that you get the team that you deserve, so if you don’t yet have your dream team. the first thing to do is to up-skill yourself and become the leader your business needs in order to be great!