As business leaders and Olympic coaches both know, you need more than exceptional talent to succeed. To create a winning team, entrepreneurs can learn from great Olympians who came together to reach their full potential.
Dominique Moceanu won Olympic gold in 1996, as part of the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team known as the 'Magnificent Seven.' It was the first gold medal in women's gymnastics for the U.S., a feat that was unrivaled until the 'Fab Five' won gold in London last week.
When the Magnificent Seven was selected, it was a disparate group of outstanding gymnasts. Moceanu explains how they came together during their training to create one of the most celebrated teams in American Olympic history. Here's what you can learn from her experience to create a winning team for your startup.
Rally your team around a shared vision. By the time the Magnificent Seven assembled, each of them had dreamed of winning Olympic gold for years. "We had the same goal in mind. That gave us the drive and dedication," says Moceanu, who recently penned her memoir, Off Balance (Touchstone, 2012). "We wanted to change gymnastics."
In a business, your employees don't start with a shared vision, so make sure everyone is clear about the end goal--and why it matters. Find out why each person cares about the goal, then use those motivations to drive success.
Lead employees to strive for personal bests. In training, Moceanu was paired with returning Olympian Kerri Strug, known for vaulting on a sprained ankle to secure the team's gold medal. The girls channeled their competitiveness by pushing each other to do their personal best.
"Don't pit people against each other, but if they can motivate each other, then a little competitiveness can be good," Moceanu says, recalling her personal mantra: Be calm but aggressive.
Value the individual strengths of each employee. Each person is a vital member of the team, so you need to help them recognize how they can best support the group. "It's important to nurture them along the way and make each person feel important," Moceanu says.
To do that, show each person how his or her strengths will elevate the team so that their role and value is clear.
Encourage camaraderie. Selfishness and jealousy destroy a team effort, so emphasize succeeding as a team. "Being happy for others' successes will help you succeed, too," Moceanu says. "As a team, you can all accomplish more."
Remind everyone that the success you're working toward--your company's success--is a victory you'll share. "Star players will only help uplift you," Moceanu adds.
Promote a supportive culture. The mental pressures of meeting an ambitious goal (especially when you're working long hours) can be harder than physical hurdles. Moceanu saw teammate Dominique Dawes crying as the competition started. "[Our team captain Amanda Borden] was right there saying, 'you've got this, you can do this,'" she says.
Readily available support from everyone, not just the leader, holds a team together when the pressure mounts. "Amanda was there for her," Moceanu remembers. "That's what sportsmanship and team is all about."