Before You Build Your Strategy, Build Your Team



Three years ago I learned of an upstart consumer packaged goods company who was set up to corner a niche market.  This company’s strategy was unique, attention-grabbing and well thought out. Their prospects for growth were huge and the company hired a newly minted MBA as CEO. Within one year, the company declared bankruptcy.  This is an all too familiar story.

A little digging turned up and an unsettling series of events.  The Board of Directors never fully trusted the CEO to deliver and so they established a direct relationship with the head of sales.

The sales department responded to the highest people in the pecking order( the Directors) who consistently undermined the CEO. This constant battle for supremacy created unbearable stress and tension on all parties. The work environment was toxic and employee turnover high.

In most undergraduate business degrees, the first three years of curriculum sets up fourth year strategy courses. Much of the final year is working through strategic plans and execution tactics.

However, what often happens is the people in the company are not taken care of and the company’s strategies fail.  Before corporations contemplate strategy, they need to create committed teams founded on solid relationships.

Phil Jackson is one of the most decorated and accomplished coaches in sports history.  He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles from 1989 to 1998 and the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles. It’s safe to say that Coach Jackson was a great technician of the game of basketball. But if you read his memoirs, it becomes evident his genius was bringing teams together. He famously said, “Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds teams together.” Jackson’s focus was on tempering the egos of his stars and aligning the group on a common vision of success, in this case, championships.

This is not rocket science. You may be saying to yourself, “Of course that’s the case! Take care of people, we know that!”  Yet so many companies ignore this advice. Here are some key areas of focus to ensure you’re in the game of team building:

1)      Ensure your people become a responsible team. This means excuses, complaining, finger pointing, and politicking must brought to the team and addressed.

2)      Align your team on a critical (and audacious) result. Everybody needs to know what the end game is and what’s in it for them. Alignment is not agreement or consensus. True alignment means a team leaves a meeting with a commitment  and inspiration to achieve results.

3)      Build relationships. Ensure that you are team building on a regular basis. Events, parties, activities, or rewards are good ways to ensure your team relate to each other in a powerful, personal manner.

Audacious results are found in people communicating and relating to each other in effective and powerful ways.  Before your next strategic review make the time to build up your team. Take on the humanity of your business and results will follow.