The Things You’ll Need to Ask if You Want a Winning Team in 2013

With my favorite NFL team out of the playoffs this year, I’ve had plenty of time to contemplate what makes a winning team, and it’s not all about the coach (or firing the coach, like my team did this year.)

When it comes down to it, making an organization and a football team succeed entail many of the same components:

  • Strategy
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Structure
  • People

Elements of a winning team

Or more to the point:

  • A clearly defined strategy;
  • The right leader to execute the strategy;
  • Open and transparent communication;
  • A structure that supports high performance;
  • A committed and engaged team of people.

Together these things allow you to have a winning season.

So what can you do to ensure your organization has a winning season? Start by asking yourself some tough questions!


A good game plan is key to winning week after week. To win the Super Bowl first requires having a winning season and making it to the big game – and that’s not likely to happen without a clearly defined and communicated win strategy. Start with looking at your strategy.

  • Does the strategy explain who you want to be, where you want to go, and how to chart the course to help you get there?
  • Does it answer organizational imperatives and help you achieve your goals?
  • Can leadership clearly communicate the strategy?
  • Does your team understand the strategy and how and where they fit into helping achieve it?


Leading a winning a team onto the field or into the New Year requires having the right leadership for the culture of your organization, leadership with the commitment and passion to execute your strategy and meet your goals. Leadership is a driving force behind creating and maintaining success. Start with looking at the leadership within your organization.

  • Are your leaders serving as role models through positive actions and behaviors?
  • Are they committed to rallying people around a deeper sense of purpose?
  • Are they expert communicators?
  • Do they have the ability to translate ideals into action?


In football, when plays are called by the coaches, they need to clearly communicate that play to all 11 players to ensure everyone is on the same page. The communication practices, both verbal and non verbal, are reviewed, understood, and practiced by the coaching staff, the team, and even the owners time and time again.

The same applies to your organization. Frequent, transparent, and authentic communication amongst leadership, employees, stakeholders, and customers is a necessity. To keep audiences engaged in your products and services, and committed to the organizations’ strategy, mission and vision, they need to know what is going on and why (within reason).

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  • Does your organization value open, honest and transparent communication and idea sharing?
  • Do you have methods receiving and acting on feedback from target audiences?
  • Do you have clearly developed communication processes to ensure that all audiences are reached with the content vehicles and frequencies appropriate for them?
  • Are you remaining flexible to changing environments and adapting your communication processes as needed?


In order to run a successful football program, you need a platform designed to help you succeed. You need the proper processes to evaluate your players, to ensure their actions are aligned with and in support of your mission and vision, and a structure designed to help you achieve your goals. So, what about structures and processes?

  • Do the structures and processes of your organization help support and execute the strategy?
  • Do the structures and processes align to the mission and vision?
  • Are they flexible enough to adapt to changes over time?
  • Does the structure not only support the strategy and service execution, but also support connecting with employees on deeper levels?

The people

If you’re trying to run a spread offense with a pocket passer quarterback, you’re unlikely to have a winning season. But if you’re trying to run a spread offense with a scrambling quarterback then you’re much more likely to succeed.

The same applies to your organization. You’ve got to have the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles An organization can’t keep winning without having a focus on the people.

  • Do you recruit, engage and retain the right people for your culture and strategy?
  • Do you provide tools and technology to help them succeed at their jobs?
  • Does your organization let employees know they can feel free to try new things and that their ideas are valued and their voices can be heard?
  • What about diversity? Does your organization value and support diversity?

Having a winning season in 2013 is more than just X’s and O’s. By strengthening the five (5) core areas that make an organization succeed, your team likely won’t play themselves out of the playoffs, or out of business.

This was originally published on the Tolero Think Tank blog.

Scott Span, MSOD, is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions, an Organization Improvement & Strategy firm. He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable -- organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business. 


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