What does it take to be a championship team? There’s not just one secret trait to success. The rock band Queen’s lyrics to We Are The Champions hit on a few:
I’ve paid my dues / time after time
I’ve done my sentence / But committed no crime
Training: If you put the effort into something, you’ll recognize the progress you’ve made over time.
Dedication: You can’t just show up the day of the big meeting without being prepared. You have to put the time and effort into your work.
And bad mistakes / I’ve made a few
I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face / But I’ve come through
Flexibility: Sure, we all make mistakes, but it’s important to adapt and pivot when necessary.
Perseverance: It’s not over ‘til it’s over. Everyone loves a good comeback story.
And we mean to go on and on and on / We are the champions, my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting / Till the end
We are the champions / No time for losers / ‘Cause we are the champions of the world.
Additional characteristics such as having a shared fate, possessing talent, leveraging the strengths of each teammate, and having your teammate’s back are all traits of championship teams. Your team should strive to encompass most if not all of those elements.
Whenever I’m asked what was the best team I’ve ever been on, I think of two top-notch teams: one work-related, one play – and both shared the traits I mentioned above.
Fight ‘Til The End
Quite a few years ago while still in the Air Force and stationed in northern Michigan, I was on a slow pitch softball team. Because we were one of the smaller squadrons – and our mission kept some of us at work and off the diamond – we sometimes had a hard time fielding a full team. Consequently, we recruited anyone to play on the team, even if they hadn’t ever picked up a bat.
Fortunately, our lack of experience didn’t stop us from persevering. We had four or five hitters who could smash a home run at any time, and most of us could play multiple positions well. More importantly, no matter who showed up for the game, we always had each other’s back.
I’d like to say we won the championship that year, but we actually lost the three-game series to a much more talented – and fully staffed – team. In two of the games we were a man short, but we gave it our all, and lost the last game by a couple of runs. I have fond memories of my underdog team and the obstacles we overcame.
No Time For Losers
I was with the White House Communications Agency back in the mid-80s while still in the Air Force. As part of the presidential advance team, we traveled in ahead of POTUS to organize the communications infrastructure at his destination. That way when he and his staff arrived anywhere in the world, they could communicate as if they were sitting at their desks in Washington, D.C.
This is during the time when computers, radio, and satellite communications gear was bulky and heavy. We would load up the trucks, drive to Andrews Air Force Base, unload the truck, load the plane, fly to our destination, unload the plane, load the trucks, drive to the hotel or facility where we would set up shop, and unload the trucks. Within a couple of days, we would have installed a world-class operational office and communications infrastructure.
In addition to the grunt work, we were all communications experts. While we each had our own positions, it was necessary to know a little about everyone else’s role, just in case something happened to any of us. That meant the infrastructure’s backups had to have backups, too. We all knew how important each of our jobs were, and we all knew we had to complete the mission each and every time we were deployed. We were a well-oiled machine with a shared fate.
I was fortunate enough to be part of the advance teams for the first two Reagan-Gorbachev Summits held in Geneva, Switzerland and later in Reykjavik, Iceland. We had three weeks to set up in Geneva, but you may remember the Reykjavik summit was on again and off again as the world leaders were jockeying for position. When the Reykjavik trip was finally “on,” we had to do in one week what it took to do in three weeks in Geneva. This was truly one of those “failure is not an option” scenarios.
It was an INSANE schedule on a world stage and yet we were able to succeed because we had each other’s backs, and we were all dedicated to completing the mission. What’s more, we all had respect for each other, we held each other accountable, and we all pushed each other if someone wasn’t pulling their weight. Both summits were incredible experiences, and those were some of the talented men and women I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
Creating Your Own Championship Team
Is your current company the best team you’ve ever been on? If the answer is no, then why not? What can you do to change it?
Gather your team and ask them to think about their best team ever, then capture all of the traits of that team. Now pick the Top 10 Traits, and ask yourself and your team how you measure up against each of them. Those traits you exemplify, keep it up. For those you fall short on, prioritize them and start working on them as a team.
In your weekly and monthly team meetings, discuss the progress you are making on those traits. I can assure you, if you work together on those Top 10 Traits each day at work, your current company will become your best team ever. Then you can proudly sing along with Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” because you’ll know it’s true.
Brian’s Musical Inspiration:
RIFF: Written by Freddie Mercury, this song was built on audience response, with Brian May stating; “We wanted to get the crowds waving and singing. It’s very unifying and positive”. In 2011, a team of scientific researchers concluded that the song was the catchiest song in the history of pop music, despite it not hitting #1 in the charts in any major market..
BAND ON WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_(band)