4 Secrets to Cultivating a Winning Team Gleaned From Pro Football

Building a team doesn't come naturally, yet we humans accomplish little working alone.

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By Andre Lavoie • Sep 30, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With fall, comes football season and many of us are spending a lot of time cheering on our favorite teams. However, football can bring us more than amazing drives and game-winning touchdowns. A closer look at these teams shows what it takes to recruit the best talent, develop strong mentors and build winning.

Here are four ways to bring on and cultivate the best possible talent for game-day plays or business success:

1. Find the right players. To win the game or find great success in business, it's important to build a team that works together.

Prior to the start of football season, players are tested, evaluated and reviewed to see who is coming into the season in the best shape and ready to play. In the office, you should be doing the same. Hiring assessments are a good way to identify top players and determine whether a candidate is performing to their best abilities. By asking a set of pre-determined questions, companies can tell how candidates will perform on the job and how well they fit into the company culture.

Related: 10 Insights on Building, Motivating and Managing an Exceptional Team

The key is basing assessments on proven decisions and processes that have worked to establish the current team. The questions on these assessments and requirements for new hires should be regularly adjusted and improved to align with the evolving team.

2. Review and make adjustments regularly. Constant evaluations on performance of both teams and individuals, enable management to make adjustments with training, development and direction accordingly.

Following every big game, coaches are evaluating the game tape. In the business world, evaluations need to be a constant process of looking at where employees should be and how they can best contribute to the success of the company.

Take, for instance, Kirk Cousins' recent stellar performance stepping up to fill starting quarterback Robert Griffin III's place due to an ankle injury. As this point, the question in many people's minds is whether Griffin will still have a starting spot as quarterback when he's healthy again. There is a possibility he won't, if evaluations of both players determine that Cousins is actually a better fit now.

Star employees fall into the shadows if not given the chance to prove their abilities and be consistently evaluated. That results in losing great talent that is primed to make significant contributions to the company.

Related: A Strong Team Can Carry Your Vision to the End Zone

3. Find the motivational drive in each player. Finding what truly motivates each employee and how to cultivate that into great work is key to a successful business. While a pregame pep-talk to the entire team might not be necessary every day, the same sort of encouraging instruction might be what gets the office going.

Great leaders know when to take a big picture approach and when, instead, to think of employees as unique individuals each responding to different motivatation. Bringing those differences together and creating a cohesive motivational environment is key. From a weekly recognition of top performers to regular (or random) incentives to keep everyone working toward the company goals, these activities eventually will lead to higher engagement and better performance overall.

4. Cultivate the strongest future for each player. It's fairly common to see an all-star college quarterback be drafted only to transition into a different position entirely. Take Antwaan Randle El, for example.

After ending his college career as QB at Indiana in the all-time top five in the NCAA record books for passing and rushing, he was drafted by the Steelers. There, he was turned into a receiver and returner. The team saw the opportunity to utilize his speed, good hands and overall athletic ability to contribute to the team in way that was strongest for both him and the team.

Giving employees a strong future within the company means providing them with the best opportunities and tools to succeed. Let them know how success in their role is measured. Give them the opportunity and flexibility to achieve that success through their own creativity and innovation. Giving employees direction for steady improvement empowers them to succeed.

Related: Winning Management Lessons From the NFL

Andre Lavoie

Entrepreneur; CEO and Co-Founder, ClearCompany

Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the talent-management solution that helps companies identify, hire and retain more A players. You can connect with him and the ClearCompany team on Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter.


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