Building a game-changing team

Rolling Stone guitarist Ronnie Wood once said that “none of us are as strong individually as we are collectively”. The quote prefaces Khoi Tu’s book, Superteams, which features the band in a line-up of seven “legendary” teams that also includes the 2010 Ryder Cup team, Pixar, Ferrari F1 and the Northern Ireland Peace Process. As well as being stellar teams, what they have in common is that they all changed the game in some way.

Game-changing teams exist in the world of business and can transform the fortunes of an organisation. They will be especially important in the era of digital disruption as organisations find themselves under pressure to gain and maintain competitive edge. The scale of challenges faced is great and organisations need individuals and teams that can bring about major transformation, not only within an organisation but sometimes entire industries.

Identifying game-changing individuals is one thing but assembling a game-changing team is something else again. Eleven clones of your best sales director would no more make a game-changing team than 11 Wayne Rooneys on the football pitch though it might be an interesting spectacle to watch in both cases. The Rooneys and hotshot sales directors of this world need to be surrounded by the right team if they are to bring about transformational change.

The sport of cycling perhaps has one of the best approaches to building teams around a game-changer. In many competitions, it is an individual who is crowned the winner but it is generally acknowledged that this is due to the overall performance of an exceptionally well-oiled machine.

Cycling teams employ a carefully chosen mix of specialisms front and back of house to ensure success such as the cycling domestique or “water-carrier” who works for the benefit of the team on the road and the soigneur who feeds, massages and generally looks after the riders behind the scenes. The team is selected based on the right mix of skills and specialist areas but also other characteristics such as fit.

The same level of detail and attention needs to be applied when picking a game-changing team. Contributing to research into game-changing teams, Dr John Mervyn Smith and Nathan Ott, in collaboration with Dr Adrian Furnham, have developed the GC (Game-changing) Index online assessment tool. Rather than measure skills or personality type, it measures a person’s preferred contribution in a particular role and aims to help individuals and teams increase their influence and impact.

Game-changers are not necessarily the traditional high potential individuals but often individuals who see things another way and are compelled to turn what they see into a reality. They can disrupt but with positive possibilities and create new ways of doing things rather than be purely disruptive. But, significantly, they also need other key players around them to realise their ideas and make them meaningful.

The GC Index identifies five key roles which are required to make game-changing teams: the Game-changer who transforms the future; the Strategist who maps the future; the Implementer who builds the future; the Polisher who creates a future of which to be proud; and the Play Maker who orchestrates the future.

Leaders will not necessarily be game-changers themselves (though they might be) but increasingly they need to be able to put together game-changing teams. This means identifying your organisation’s game-changing talent but also looking at the contribution of a set of individuals. Then, like any team, it needs to understand its mission and purpose and every team member needs to understand what is expected of them and appreciate what fellow members are bringing to the team.

The team needs to be given freedom to express itself and space in which to work if its true potential is to be realised. This may require culture change on behalf of some senior leaders in the organisation, especially those who have fixed and traditional views of how a team should behave. Leaders themselves may also have to learn to manage a higher level of risk if teams are to experiment and explore and progress their ideas.

Without game-changers, there would be no game-changing teams but the converse is also true. Brave new business models, mould-breaking innovation and creativity, and reinvented organisations and industries may start with one single individual but they are realised by team effort.

The GC Index powers the Rialto senior leader game-changing programme. For more information on this programme, please get in touch.


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