iStock_000006191773SmallI spoke recently to 300 leaders at a client’s annual conference. Their event’s theme was “Built to Win.”

They had banners hanging on the walls demonstrating their past successes and industry awards. They celebrated their terrific 2013 financial results, which were the best in the company’s history.

They celebrated their unique organizational culture which they believe is the foundation of the company’s success.

And, company leaders were bold enough to say, “That’s all in the past. We have the opportunity to do very well in 2014 – but we have to earn every customer’s business and earn our employees’ hearts, every day this year, all over again.”

Built to win doesn’t mean you’re going to win.

In the NFL, the 2013 Denver Broncos were built to win, but couldn’t handle the poised Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. In Major League Baseball, the 2011 New York Yankees were built to win, but didn’t make it to the World Series.

There are many other examples of sports teams and company teams around the globe that had talent, leadership, and heart, but were unable to finish. They were unable to “win.”

Every leader on the planet, of every team and company, large or small, believes they have built their team to win. Few leaders would admit their team is built to lose or is built for mediocrity, right?

What separates the teams that should win, that could win from those that execute well, adapt well, and exceed their high expectations?

I suggest these three integrated approaches.

Formalize Your Culture
Your team or company culture drives everything that happens in your company. Don’t leave your culture to chance – be intentional by creating an organizational constitution. Start by formalizing your team or company’s “reason for being,” it’s present day purpose. Then outline your team’s values, the desired principles you want demonstrated in every interaction daily. Define values in observable, measurable, behavioral terms.

Outline your business strategies for the coming year, defining what markets, what opportunities, you will pursue. Finally, formalize goals that align to your strategy. Set clear performance standards for service, responsiveness, market share, mix of new vs. old products and services, etc. Then communicate, demonstrate, and hold everyone accountable for these agreements.

Treat Employees As Your Primary Customers
Create a safe, inspiring, respectful work environment that trusts talented employees to apply their heads (knowledge), hands (skills), and hearts (hopes and passions) in service to your team or company’s organizational constitution daily. If employees feel trusted and honored, they’ll apply their skills and passions, every moment.

Evolve, Learn & Refine Daily
With clear standards defined for your organizational constitution and inspiring work environment, let the efforts play out each day. Spend time and energy paying attention to the quality of your organization’s work environment as well as your team’s performance. Engage and learn employee’s perceptions about how to make the work environment and company performance better. Test new approaches. Learn and test again. This ongoing evolution is the mark of high performing, values aligned teams.

What do you think? What would you add to these approaches? What kept your best teams “on the ball” and enabled them to finish well? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Get your free copy of my ChangeThis manifesto, “What? Your Organization Doesn’t Have a Constitution?

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway. The Great Boss Assessment compares your current boss’ behaviors with those of great bosses. The Performance-Values Assessment compares your organization’s culture practices to those of high performing, values-aligned organizations. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarMark Deterding says

    Great post Chris! These are all fabulous attributes of a high performing team / organization. A great outcome of your second point of honoring your employees is Team Chemistry or Community which will often lead to future success.

    • S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds says

      Thanks, Mark! Team chemistry is SUCH an important responsibility of leaders. Too many – myself included, in my non-profit management days, paid little attention to team chemistry.

      If the only thing we pay attention to is OUTPUT, we send the message that OUTPUT is the only important thing at work!

      The most important thing, always, is the culture of your team.



      S. Chris Edmonds  MacBook Air & iMac

  2. AvatarDS says

    This is one of my favorite posts to date! Culture makes a huge difference and the tone is set from the top. I’ve seen this in organizations I’ve worked as a supervised employee. Good/Bad culture are both contagious! Succinct/Clear communication about goals for the organization help all employees align.

    • S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds says

      Honored that is is one of your fave’s to date, David!

      Culture is definitely contagious (great cultures and sucky ones). Goal clarity can help people align. Only with alignment will team traction happen –



      S. Chris Edmonds  MacBook Air & iMac

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