Building a great team

I want to recount a story I was told as I was growing up, playing hockey in Victoria. The story is about one of the most successful clubs in the Hockey Victoria competition, Camberwell. Quite a few years ago, my dad was speaking to someone involved in the coaching and administration of the club about how they manage to keep that success sustainable. It takes an enormous effort, by many people, to keep a hockey club running at such a level of success.

“Well, all we need to do is find one junior player that is capable of playing State League 1 every year. If we can do that, then we will have constant success, because we will have a consistent stream of great players, at all ages, coming through the system.”

Southern United Hockey Club

I’m not sure of the exact validity of the quote anymore but it’s core still holds true. The hardest things, are often the simplest and most important.Southern United, the club I used to play for (and the guys pictured above), have invested heavily in a similar philosophy these last 5-7 years with success. The story has also remained relevant where the culture of an organisation is concerned.

Building a culture of success is a hard thing to do. Not everyone can be successful, which is why building and maintaining a culture that continues to be generative for it’s members is the important thing. The story above still holds true, even though strategy and budget concerns circulate much quicker than in the hockey world. Think about the times you’ve seen one person take ownership of the organisations new direction, or a new role they’ve taken on. You can understand the potential such a story can have on culture. Imagine seeing one of your team go through such a process each month.

In a year, that’s 12 people that have contributed towards owning and driving a positive culture. Now imagine it spread across various departments and groups, and across years. It has a very large impact on the culture of the company. Creating a generative and successful culture is simple, it just takes a lot of work and time to happen. It happens one person at a time. The challenge is to consistently have one person making the relevant change. That’s what leads to a great culture and great team.

6 thoughts on “Building a great team

  1. Hey Steve, another great post. I’m enjoying you blogging a bit more.

    I think your point about building a high performance culture is important.

    If I have learnt anything over the last six months, it’s that finding good people is really really hard. 

    We’ve been trying to fill four positions for the last six months and finding qualified motivated people is tough. We’ve used job boards, social networks, websites specific for our branch (the chemical industry) and the number of great applicants is low. 

    I think there are two things specific to us: 1) startups are unusual in the chemical industry, and to work on interesting R&D projects in the chemical industry you would want to work for a large company with the facilities for it, rather than a startup; 2) we are making mistakes with the recruiting process, like defining jobs in terms of qualifications rather than performance; but I still think that finding the good people, that are motivated AND fit with the existing team and culture is tough.

    Despite the difficulties, one thing that I am happy about is that there haven’t been compromises on finding someone who >>fits<<.

    Good post keep up the good work.

    1. Hey Alex, thanks for the great comment!

      Yeah, it can be tough. What’s the startup you’re working with? Sounds very interesting. 

      We’re doing some hiring for Yammer at the moment as well and the cultural fit is a big consideration for us too. Most people you get coming through have the right mix of professional qualifications – but it’s the ‘how well will they fit’ question that causes the most discussion. 

      I’d ask perhaps if there is anyone close to you or the founders that may be interested in the role, although I’m guessing you’ve already gone down that path?

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