Building a Winning Team is So Damn Hard

in Perspectives


With all of the forces affecting the business cycle, companies typically focus human resource management on hiring plans, competitive strategy, and resource allocation. But, is this leading to a winning team or just creating a mediocre organization?

Most organizations get distracted, lose perspective, or let biases cloud decisions when picking the best talent. Winning teams must have the best players and a coach who knows how to make the sum greater than the parts.

Hardly rocket science, right? Then why is it so damn hard? I believe that removing personal biases has the greatest influence on a group’s success. This is key to avoiding dysfunction that often renders teams ineffective.

We’ve all been part of groups that failed, either because of personalities that didn’t quite mesh or personal biases that sabotaged team spirit. While we understand that we need to reduce or eliminate personal biases, it’s an entirely different thing to apply it.

Why is it so tough for firms to have diverse teams? The truth is that everyone has personal biases to some degree, and they are deeply embedded. Based on cognitive neuroscience research, we know that the basis of our biases is formed from our life experiences, culture, background, and exposure. These biases pop up almost as automatic thinking.

Consider the ways in which personal biases may manifest themselves among team members – favoritism, unjust job losses, hearsay-based doubts, conclusions about another person, turning a “blind eye” to weaknesses in an individual that others plainly see, turning a “deaf ear” to a proposed idea or solution, mistrust, sabotage, mediocrity, and animosity.

Biases can be reduced through humanizing. A one-day teambuilding exercise does very little to reduce personal biases because most are task-focused, not people-focused. I like to provide employees opportunities to get to know each other as individuals and discover common interests. By getting to know their team members better, executives can reduce team dysfunction, and co-workers can gain respect and understanding of one another.

Bias, in either positive or negative form, can compromise the objectivity of reviews and impact employee careers as well as the company. I believe that the ability to work closely together in a team is far more important than any technical skill or experience an employee brings to the company.

Having the right mix of talented people on our team who don’t carry biases is the key to building a winning team. Great teams, whether composed of athletes or business people have an intense, shared passion to achieve a specific goal. They have an unwavering belief in the intentions and abilities of fellow teammates.


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