Keys to a Winning Team: Part 1

Keys to a Winning Team: Part 1


Winning teams are by far more productive than teams that are less engaged and less involved at work.

But what makes up a winning team?

The first component is Strong Leadership, and the second is a Common Goal.

In this series, we share a story about an exceptional leader named Chad and how he built an extremely cohesive team from a position of relatively low power within an organization.

Watch this vlog to learn the characteristics of a strong leader and why those traits are so important in influencing teams to adopt a shared goal.


Hello, everybody, and welcome to this new vlog series: ‘Keys to a Winning Team’. My name is Rick Phelps, and I am a business coach with ActionCOACH business coaching here in the greater Cleveland area. 

A winning team is really important to your business. Winning teams are by far more productive than teams that are less engaged, less involved, and having less fun at work. So in this short series, I’m going to tell you the story about the most amazing winning team I ever saw created, and the leader who led that team, a fellow named Chad. 

Keys to a Winning Team

1) Strong Leadership
2) A Common Goal
3) Rules of the Game
4) Action Plan
5)  Risk-Taking
6) Involvement and Inclusion of Everybody

So I’m going to tell you the story of Chad, and how he built a winning team at an iron ore mine up in northern Michigan. So strong leaders, really important to the business, if you’re the owner, strong leadership, we’re talking about you. But leaders are found at every level of the organization. And in the case of this story, the strong leader was in fact, not at the top of the company. In fact, as I unwind this story, I’ll tell you about how the leadership at higher levels of the organization really failed in the role of a strong leader. 

No, Chad was not a leader of a large group. He was in fact a maintenance planner with nobody working for him. And he had been moved into the position of a black belt and was going through certification training. This company had embraced Lean Six Sigma and had done so lacking any good leadership. And so they trained a bunch of people and launch them out to find their own projects and get themselves certified. No sign of leadership in that. 

And so what happened is these black belts, Chad being one of many, went out and found himself a project. Now coming out of a maintenance background, Chad decided that he was going to work on the problem of poor plant equipment availability. All right, and give you a little bit of a point of reference. Chad’s plant had literally 1000s of pieces of equipment, dozens of processes, and was huge, I mean, huge hundreds of acres inside of the roof. And his production plant was one of two up there in northern Michigan. And so Chad launched his career as a strong leader from a position of no power. And he did an amazing job. 

So why what’s what makes somebody a strong leader? Well, passion. Chad was an extremely smart individual. And an amazing he had high IQ and extremely high EQ, he could relate with everybody, he could relate all the way up the chain, to the executives in the company, and all the way out onto the shop floor, with everybody, it didn’t matter who you were, you were a friend of Chad’s. Chad always brought enthusiasm and energy. What Chad was missing, though, in his project, plus, was really the ability to get passion and responsibility or ownership. His project to “improve plant availability” is what we would call a “boil the ocean project”, there’s no way to get your hands around it. And so he was floundering. 

And I had the pleasure of serving as his guide to help him understand how he could shape and form his project so that he could have passion and have responsibility to do some really cool stuff. And that’s exactly what happened. 

Right? And why strong leadership is important is because it brings to the table, a much higher level of performance. If we think about the performance of an individual, as a 16 cylinder engine, then the body of the individual gets the person physically engaged in the work. That’s the equivalent of three of the cylinders on an engine and engaging their mind, getting, heaven forbid, to think a little bit. That’s another three points. And so just in the role of manager, to manage people is about engaging people’s body and mind. So there are six out of the 16 cylinders, the leadership role is to instill that passion, that ownership, that engagement, that sense of responsibility because when you can get somebody’s heart engaged in the work they’re doing that’s equivalent of five cylinders. And when it gets catches their spirit, they feel like it’s worth something that’s, it’s part of a bigger cause, then that’s another five cylinders. And so the amount of engagement and productivity and success that people have depends on how much of them, you engage. And so good managers can get six cylinders, great leaders can get 16 cylinders. And Chad, as we’ll see turned into a great leader. 

So how did that happen? Well, the second key to winning team is to have a Common Goal. And his initial goal of improving plant availability was hard to wrap anybody’s head around much less his or mine, or any of the team’s like that, how do you do that? all this things, do you? Do you fix this kind of defect? Do you fix this kind of problem? Do you work on these machines or the other machines, and so really didn’t have a message that resonated certainly didn’t inspire. And so, I guided Chad to start thinking about what was possible. And through the process of learning what can be done and how to really focus a project, Chad developed an amazing vision for what could be created at his plant. 

And not only did he create an amazing vision, but he got passionate about it he got enthusiastic about it, when he talked about what could be, he effused emotion, energy, and just you want it to be a part of it. And so what did he envision? Well, let me give you a little bit more background on this plant. There were, I don’t know, several 100 people 1000. In the two sites, there were over 1500 people. So probably we’re talking seven or 800 people in this plant. And it was, it was a mess. Most of the maintenance systems, most of the processes in this plant had somewhere along the line atrophied or deteriorated into dysfunction. And so the plant was in really bad shape, physically. equipment was falling apart, equipment hadn’t been maintained in years. And it was a very low morale organization. 

The Union, US Steel Workers unions, basically, were disgusted with leadership and management and chose not to participate and work with leadership or management on any of the initiatives. They just thought, Why bother, Why do work, and Chad was able to turn that around. And he turned that around, by developing a vision of how a small group of people led by him could start a process that would meaningfully engage maintenance crews, followed by operating crews, followed by the whole organization. And he would do this with a very simple project. And so he went on a goal of putting together a team and for his team to work, he needed union representation. 

Now, Chad being a gregarious individual went to two neighbors of his Chris, and I’ll call him Frank, I don’t actually honestly remember his name. But so Chris and Frank were neighbors. Frank was actually the Treasurer of the Union. And Chris was a master mechanic. And he went to his neighbors, and he said, Look, guys, I have this vision of starting with a project that would improve how we repair equipment, specifically, these big Mills that we take down and are having lots of trouble with. And by focusing and designing a work plan, we can start identifying clearly what problems are causing us headaches, as we try and fix these machines and put them back together and start ticking off one at a time, the problems. And I believe when we do this, we can have a huge amount of success. And he was passionate about it and believed in enough that he got his two neighbors to enroll and become say, “yeah, we want to be part of the team”. We need to go to the union and make sure that happens. 

So strong leadership is somebody who has a vision of what can be and can articulate that with passion, with enthusiasm with energy, and encapsulate it in terms of a common goal, because it’s really important that the leader is able to enroll and inspire individuals within the organization and answer the question that everybody always has. And that’s, “What’s in it for me?” And what’s in it, for the union members in this case, was the opportunity to actually start solving some of the entrenched problems that made life hell for them as they went to work. Not having the right parts, not having the right tools, not having a clean workplace, all kinds of things that made it just that much less desirable to show up for your shift. And so Chad presented a vision of how it could be different, it will be different. He believed in it, he got the team to believe in it. And that set the stage for the next set, which is developing the Rules of the Game. And so we’ll visit that in the next vlog. But thanks for joining us with this one, and we’ll see you again soon.

Rick Phelps coaches business owners and their leadership teams to create and sustain cultures and systems with the goal of providing spectacular results.

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