The fine art of building a winning team

RECOVERY: Like all good organisations, the Wildcats have moved to cover the loss of their star player. Picture: Jacob Crook/Shutterstock
RECOVERY: Like all good organisations, the Wildcats have moved to cover the loss of their star player. Picture: Jacob Crook/Shutterstock

Basketball was a huge part of my childhood - I played it, watched it, coached it, and I even scored for my dad's veterans' team so the guys didn't need to dig out their glasses when they subbed off.

I spent hours watching our local representative team, the Albury Wodonga Bandits, train (and play!) to learn their drills and techniques so I could coach my young team and get them to the grand finals. Basketball has always been a huge passion of mine.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I am a mad Perth Wildcats fan. I lived in Perth for several years and married a Sandgroper.

Growing up, I idolised Luc Longley and Andrew Vlahov. Watching the team make the finals again for the 34th consecutive time has been a stressful, but thoroughly satisfying experience - thank you SBS for televising the games.

But what prompted this article was seeing the team rally after losing their star player, Bryce Cotton, to injury on the eve of the finals.

Mitch Norton stepped into Cotton's giant shoes and really rose to the occasion.

But then, on Friday night, we lost Norton as well to injury. The coach, Trevor Gleeson said that when Norton went down, they could have fallen like a "house of cards".

Instead, the team stepped up and showed great heart - echoing the moving moment in the movie, The Replacements, almost perfectly. The Wildcats won on Friday night to stay alive in the post-season.

As I write this on Monday, I'm nervously anticipating this evening's game - and hopefully this article won't be the eulogy of the season of the Wildcats.

You might be wondering why I'm writing about basketball when I'm a careers practitioner.

Well, there is a connection, I promise. Looking at the Wildcats' mateship and teamwork really highlighted the importance of having a championship team, not a team of champions.

Recruitment is more than just hiring for experience and performance; team design is an art.

You need to make sure that the people that you hire can work together, that if one team member falls sick (or leaves), the team members left standing can still get the job done, and get it done well.

It's rare that you can hire a championship team; usually, you need to build it. The heart of a championship team is a common goal. You need to be able to all strive towards the achievement of the same outcome.

This requires commitment from your team members. If you have a team member who doesn't really care about the work being done, is regularly late and doesn't give the work their full attention, then this can be a weak link that lets the rest of the team down.

This is why managers who can bring a team along on the journey of change and growth is always going to succeed more than one who delegates and sits back.

It takes work to inspire commitment to a common goal. It doesn't just happen naturally.

Then, you need to make sure that the roles in your team complement each other and are delegated based on staff strengths: you wouldn't make a basketball player who is 5'10'' the centre in your championship team.

Then, you need to start to develop your team members so that those roles can overlap if necessary to cover each other when someone goes on leave.

This will allow your team to step up under pressure, help and support each other and work together more cohesively.

Constructive conflict can be a positive thing in a team, characterised by respectfully challenging others to improve collective performance.

This allows a team to hold each other to account and learn how to deal with conflict within a work environment, building resilience and confidence as we learn to stand our ground and listen to the input of others to shape our own work approach.

A team of champions isn't really a team. It's a collection. Collections don't work together, they stand next to each other, and you don't want that in your work team.

If you have a team that will work together and throw everything that they have at achieving a common goal, you can't really lose, can you?

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocateat impressability.com.au.

Twitter: @ZoeWundenberg

This story Zoë Wundenberg | The fine art of building a winning team first appeared on The Canberra Times.