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December 2017
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Building a gold medal-winning team

With the 2016 Rio Olympics fast approaching, top athletes from around the globe are vying for the final few spots available to represent their respective countries at the games. To make it this far, each contestant has had to take a single-minded approach to maximizing his or her personal performance potential and has pushed him or herself to be the best of the best. For a nation’s Olympic committee, however, the question is not always “Who is the best individual performer?” but “Which group of individual performers will make the best team?”

As a business leader, this is a question you may ask yourself in a work context. An important part of team building is, of course, knowing the team’s objective, whether it’s winning a gold medal or grabbing a larger percentage of market share. But it’s also important to know what type of team you are building as well as what components are needed for the team to be successful.

Take the baton relay in track and field, for instance. Only one team member performs at a time. Each individual must bring speed and stamina, but the critical team component is timing. If that baton hand-off goes awry, it doesn’t matter how fast each team member can run as an individual.

Meanwhile, volleyball requires flawless synchronization of motion, with six athletes each in perfect position to support the player in front of, to the side, or behind her. In gymnastics, on the other hand, each member brings a different specialty to the team, and the entire group succeeds through a collective of strong personal performances.

The parallels to teamwork in business should be apparent. For a company that deals in industrial or warehousing systems, an Outside Sales Rep may carry the baton on the first leg of the relay, the Sales Engineer on the second, the Installation Project Manager on the third, and the Account Manager on the final leg.

A restaurant might be more like the volleyball team, with tables being cleaned, guests seated, orders taken, meals prepared and delivered, credit cards run, and back to tables being cleared, all while supplies continue to arrive and kitchens are kept clean. With the wrong group of people in place, service and food quality go downhill fast.

Numbers and science are essential to building an Olympic team, from initial qualifying times to complex metrics that determine who would be best at running a given leg of a race, just as they are in supporting effective teamwork in business.

About Caliper - For nearly half a century, Caliper has been helping companies achieve peak performance by advising them on hiring the right people, managing individuals most effectively and developing productive teams. The accuracy, objectivity and depth of our consulting approach enable us to provide solutions that work for over 25,000 companies. To find out more about how Caliper can help you identify and develop people who can lead your organization to peak performance, please visit us at  or call us at 609-524-1200. Email to contact Caliper.