Book Excerpt: The ABC’s of Building a Business Team That Wins

Great champions have one thing in common: They know how to work as a team. The ABCs of Building a Business Team That Wins offers a set of simple, powerful rules to govern the internal behaviors of businesses and other groups. Read an excerpt from Chapter One

  Chapter One

Why Do You Need a Code of Honor?

In the absence of rules, people make up their own rules. And some of the biggest collisions in finance, business and relationships occur because well-meaning people are simply playing by different sets of rules. By the same token, the most miraculous results come from “like-minded” folks who band together under some invisible bond to achieve greatness.

By experience and default we all formulate our own sets of guidelines, rules and assumptions. That’s natural. But when we start coming together with other people, organizations and cultures, we sometimes have a tough time figuring out why “those guys” don’t understand, or how they could so blatantly turn their back on our feelings, our way of doing things and our rules. In most respects, “those guys” feel the same way about us. Why? Because we assume that certain basic rules are the same. Bad assumption.

This book is about revealing the process for eliminating one of the biggest causes for financial loss, frustration and heartbreak. It is about surrounding yourself with folks who subscribe to the same sets of rules and how to establish them so that you can ensure peak performance, fun and incredible results in all you do.

For about twelve years now, I’ve actively studied teams, looking at what makes them successful and how they are able to operate at peak performance. And after all this time, I can tell you this: You cannot have a championship team, in any facet of your life, without a Code of Honor.

Team Tip:

Sometimes the easiest way to avoid upset, collisions and disharmony in any group is to take the time to make sure that everyone is playing by the same rules.

If you are interested in building a great relationship, whether it’s with your business, your community, your family or even yourself, there have to be rules and standards for the behavior that will ultimately achieve your goals. A Code of Honor is the physical manifestation of the team’s values, extended into behavior. It’s not enough to have values, because we all do. What’s so crucial is knowing how to put physical behavior into practice to reflect those values.

Let me illustrate what I mean. When I was in high school in Ohio, I was on the cross-country running team. Typically, any human being of the male sex living in the state of Ohio was ex-pected to play football, but if you could see my size you’d realize that I was just not built to go up against a two-hundred-pound linebacker, even though I love the game. Cross-country was more my style.

What a lot of people don’t know about cross-country is that there are typically about five to seven runners per team racing at the same time. Usually there are several other teams running at the same time. The only way your team can win is if the whole team finishes relatively close together close to the front of the pack of runners. In other words, having a superstar who runs ahead of the pack and places first doesn’t do the team any good if everyone else is all spread out across the field. Cross-country is a low-scoring sport, meaning that first place receives a point, second receives two points, and so on. The idea is to get the whole team to finish near the front, so that your team gets the lowest score possible. If we could get fourth-, sixth-, seventh- and ninth-place finishes, then even if another team got a first, second, twelfth and eighteenth we would still win the meet.

So for the entire two-and-a-half-mile race each of us would push the others on, encouraging, threatening, supporting, yelling with each gasping breath for air. With muscles burning and body strength faltering, it was as much a race of emotional endurance as it was physical. We pushed each other both on and off the course. If someone was slacking, you can rest assured the rest of the team would be on him quickly to pick it up. It took ALL that each of us had for us to win. Whatever it took for us to cross that finish line close together, that’s what we did. In other words, part of our code was to do whatever it took to support everyone to win.

We won most of our cross-country meets, or placed very high, even though we had very few superstar runners. We were a championship team. It was my first experience with teams, at the most basic, physical, gut-wrenching level, but the lessons it taught me remain the same today. I have always surrounded myself with people who would push me that way and who would allow me to push as well. It serves them and it serves me. As a result I have always been blessed with incredibly great friendships, success and wealth.

I have also observed that it is in times of pressure, when the stakes are high, that people are transformed. I’ve NEVER seen a great team that didn’t come together without some type of pressure. It could be from competition, from outside influences, or it could be self-induced. We knew in those cross-country meets that every person, every second, every step counted toward a win for our team, and it bound us together. We knew that the success of the team took precedence over our individual goals. No one wanted to let the others down. It drove you as hard as the desire to win. We had a code that said we stuck together no matter what. And in those really important moments, we came together and did what we needed to do to be successful.

Team Tip:

A Code of Honor brings out the best in every person who subscribes to it.

But when pressure increases, sometimes so do emotions. When that happens, intelligence has a tendency to drop. People revert to their base instincts in times of stress, and that’s when their true colors come out. Sometimes that’s not such a pretty sight. Have you ever said something to someone when you were upset that you wished you had not said a few minutes later? I thought so. That’s what I mean about high emotion and low intelligence.

I’ve seen teams that work well together day to day, but when things get tough, they revert to “every man for himself.” A crisis came along and everyone ran for cover, because there was no set of rules to help them see their way through it. Judgments based upon heightened emotions became their guide, which may not turn out to be the best choice for all concerned.

For example, more than half of all marriages end in divorce. In times of stress, the people involved are unable to negotiate their differences. No common code of honor or set of rules holds them together. It is the same issue in the case of a business partnership dispute that has no rules or guidelines. Both situations can get nasty.

It isn’t that people don’t want to work out their differences. The problem is that without rules and expectations mutually agreed upon up front, they act on instinct, particularly when emotions are running high. Each does what he or she thinks is best, based upon his or her feelings at the time. Decisions made in that kind of setting may not be the best ones.

Now I know you’ve never been under any kind of stress, right? Of course you have. You know that when you’re upset, when you’re under a deadline, when you’re angry at a family member or a coworker, it is impossible to try to negotiate terms. Why? Because you aren’t in your right mind! THAT’S why you need a Code of Honor.

You must create, in a sane moment, a set of rules for your team that tell everyone how to operate when the heat is really on. That way, in those moments of high stress, the rules legislate the behavior, rather than the emotions. The Code is NOT just a set of guidelines to be used only when it’s convenient. These are rules that must be “called” when breached.

The needs, tasks and problems of a team determine how rigid its code is. The Marine Corps has a code that holds its teams together under fire. When bullets are flying, life and death may have to take second place to logic and team play. Repetition of their code and its rules conditions the team to come together as a cohesive, trusting unit rather than just running for individual survival.

Having a Code of Honor doesn’t mean that everyone on the team is happy 100 percent of the time. Sometimes things get messy. A code can cause upset, create confrontation and even put people on the spot. But ultimately, it protects every member of the team from abuse, neglect and breaches of ethics. A Code of Honor brings out the best in every person who subscribes to it.

You can NEVER assume that people know the code on their own. It isn’t something that’s necessarily intuitive. You learn it from others-parents, coaches, leaders or friends. Someone has to “show” it to you. And everyone involved must agree to it. This is true for any relationship, be it with your business, your family or yourself-any relationship with an interest in its own happiness and success.

Currently about 50 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States comes from small businesses, and of that, about half of those businesses are sole proprietorships or home-based businesses. I tell you this to emphasize a point: The average person has much more power than you think. The way you conduct your business affects the lives of many others.

Team Tip:

Your code is a reflection of you and will attract those who aspire to the same standards.

Your reputation, your income and your longevity depend upon your consistency of behavior internally and externally. The future of the country is in the hands of those who drive the economy, the markets, our businesses and our families. That’s you! Your significance may seem minuscule but never doubt your influence on others. Your code is a reflection of you and will attract those who aspire to the same standards. How you conduct your business may have a bigger impact than the service you provide.

Decide here and now that you will create a Code of Honor for yourself and for the teams you’re a part of. What do you stand for? What code do you publicize to the world? How tight is your team? How happy do you want to be?

My purpose here is to give you steps, motivation and insights to building a great team that will give you and those you touch the wealth, satisfaction and joy that you all deserve. So let’s talk about who’s on your team.

Team Drill:

1. Discuss great teams that you have been on. What was it like? What were the rules? How did it feel?

2. What would be the benefits to having a code for your business? Your finances? Your health? Your family?

Copyright © 2004 by Blair Singer.

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