Build success with teamwork, motivation and balance

Don’t rely on jargon and consultants — offer employees the genuine stuff.

James McCusker

James McCusker

Business is not the same as sports, but they share some important characteristics. Three of these are teamwork, motivation and balance between offense and defense.

The important thing to remember about teamwork is that it is so easy to distinguish between the real thing and the fake. Adopting the vocabulary of teamwork is not real teamwork. Outsourcing team-building to consultants is not the real thing. In the words of ‘69 Mets closer Tug McGraw, “Ya gotta believe.”

Whether the business is big or small, if the CEO doesn’t believe, there will be no real teamwork. In a real teamwork environment workers back each other, support each other and encourage each other.

CEOs should also be very selective about any top-level managers who are hired as the business grows — making sure that they understand the value of teamwork, not just the teamwork lingo that is so common on resumes. And top managers should also be competent, for the more skilled a new manager is the easier he or she will fit into the team environment.

There are other good reasons to hire the best you can. One of them is the impression you and your company make on others — customers, bank officers, sales representatives and even rivals, for example. Even back in the 16th century Machiavelli noted that leaders “… should surround themselves with competent advisers and shun flatterers, since people’s first impression of a ruler’s intelligence is based on the quality of his staff.”

You might think that surrounding yourself with boneheads would make you look good by comparison — but it doesn’t work that way.

Motivation is both a lot simpler and a lot more complicated than teamwork. Some managers mistakenly believe that motivation “comes with” teamwork, like the grated cheese that accompanies your order of spaghetti and meatballs. Even a cursory look at football, basketball and baseball teams to see that the level of motivation varies a lot and is a major factor in a team’s success.

That same cursory look at professional team sports will reveal that money is not the answer to motivation problems. It often is a factor in retention, but its value as a motivator is questionable as best.

If you want a better understanding of the power of motivation, you should look at why legendary football coach Vince Lombardi remains a legend. It wasn’t simply because of his impressive win-loss record.

In 1958 the Green Bay Packers amassed a record memorably described by sportswriter Red Smith. He wrote, “The Packers overwhelmed one opponent, underwhelmed 10, and whelmed one.”

The following season Vince Lombardi took over as head coach and they won seven games. A year after that, the Packers won the National Football League Championship. The team would go on to win a total of five NFL championships during Lombardi’s nine seasons as head coach. But his achievement, and his legacy, were more than that.

The NFL structure was different then, and there were fewer opportunities for a team to buy or trade their way to a better win-loss record. Lombardi took the same crew of losers that had barely managed to win one game and remade them into champions. And he did it with motivation.

A CEO or manager can transform a company from lackluster performance to excellence the same way. Just remember that it can’t be outsourced. If it is going to be done, it must be done by you.

If you follow or participate in team sports, you know the importance of balancing offense and defense. We often see games where a team will gain a lead, then find that its defense is unable to hold it.

Business, too, must balance its offense and defense. It scores through marketing and sales and often these areas get the lion’s share of a CEO’s attention. There is less glamour or excitement on the defense side – the accounting, payroll, legal, logistics, security and insurance sides of your operation. However, they can become decisive elements in your business if you don’t pay attention to them.

Bringing your defense into balance is mostly a matter of motivating the people involved by letting them know you realize how important it is. If you have to restate earnings, for example, it is tough to regain your credibility with your bank. An insurance claim on an expired policy can dampen more than your spirits. Logistics failures can lose customers faster than your best salespeople can replace them. And a break-in or a hacking intrusion can open the door to a heap of trouble, legal and otherwise.

The three keys to excellent performance — teamwork, motivation and balance — aren’t a secret. If you pay attention to them, you can develop a successful business team.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

David Simpson (left) and Scott Murphy.
Port of Everett candidates spar over transparency

An incumbent, David Simpson, is challenged by Everett City Councilmember Scott Murphy.

Rendering of the new terminal that Propeller Airports plans to build at Paine Field in Everett. The terminal, which will serve the general aviation community, will replace Castle & Cooke Aviation's existing building at the Snohomish County-owned airport. (Propeller Airports LLC)
Propeller Airports to acquire Castle & Cooke at Paine Field

Propeller, which owns the nearby passenger terminal, plans a new complex for private aviation.

Everett Farmer’s Market canceled Sunday due to weather

Organizers cited a high-wind advisory. It is to reopen Oct. 31 for the final market of the season.

FILE - In this May 26, 2020, file photo, a sign at the headquarters for the Washington state Employment Security Department is shown at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington state's rush to get unemployment benefits to residents who lost jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak left it vulnerable to criminals who made off with hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Washington’s unemployment rate in September was 4.9%

Employers added 17,600 jobs last month, a 7.3% increase over August.

With the Olympic mountains in the background, the first passenger flight by Alaska Airlines Flight 2878 departs for Portland on opening day of the Paine Field Terminal on Monday, March 4, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Alaska Airlines stalls plan for extra flights in Everett

Business has been sluggish, but the airline says it will offer 12 flights a day at Paine Field in the new year.

Hillside homes in Mukilteo are seen from the ferry line on Oct. 20. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
Mukilteo asks for input on housing density, and it’s complicated

Here’s a guide to what voters should know about the advisory ballot measure. What does it actually do?

People hold signs in protest of the vaccine mandate after Boeing announced it would terminate workers who do not comply on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Some Boeing workers protest in Everett over vaccine mandate

The Boeing Company announced earlier this week that its workers must be vaccinated by Dec. 8.

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, March 11, 2019, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019 according to a report released Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020, by the aviation consultancy To70, revealing the worst crash for the year was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX on March 10 that lost 157 lives. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)
Former Boeing test pilot pleads not guilty in 737 Max case

He’s the first person to be charged with a crime in connection with the Indonesia and Ethiopia crashes.

FILE - In this March 14, 2019 file photo, Ethiopian relatives of crash victims mourn at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. Relatives of some of the passengers who died in the crash will mark the two-year anniversary of the disaster on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, by seeking a reversal of government orders that let Boeing 737 Max jets fly again.  (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)
Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

He’s accused of giving the FAA false information about systems that played a role in two deadly crashes.

Top (L-R): Kim Daughtry, Steve Ewing. Bottom (L-R): Gary Petershagen, Marcus Tageant.
Developers court Lake Stevens council incumbents with over $20K

Over half of the campaign dollars for four candidates came from people tied to real estate or property development.

Traffic drives in view of a massive Boeing Co. production plant, where images of jets decorate the hangar doors, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Everett, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing says workers must get the COVID vaccine by Dec. 8

“Compliance with these requirements is a condition of employment,” says an internal company presentation.

The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane landing at Boeing Field in Seattle on June 18. (Chona Kasinger / Bloomberg)
Boeing ramps up 737 Max but 787 deliveries are still blocked

Boeing last month maintained its steady trickle of sales as it navigates the aviation downturn.