Taking Your Team to the Top

How to Take Your Team to the Top

As a leader, how do you spot talent?

How do you take talented individuals and turn them into a winning team?

How do you create a winning culture?

Is it possible to use adversity to your advantage? 

What team is the greatest of all time?


I asked Ted Sundquist all of these questions and more.

Ted Sundquist played fullback at the U.S. Air Force Academy, winning the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl and the 1983 Independence Bowl.  He later served as a flight commander in Germany before returning to the Academy and coaching.  In 1993, the Denver Broncos hired Ted as a talent scout.  Ted was named General Manager of the Broncos in 2002.  Today, Ted is an analyst for the NFL network, a radio personality, a commentator and a blogger.  This year, he added author to that list with the publication of Taking Your Team to the Top.


Identifying Talent

Ted, you’re known for grabbing talent others passed over.  How were you able to see potential where others saw problems?

I think first and foremost you have to identify the talent pool that you’re dealing with.  Understand where the best and the brightest come from that can contribute to your industry.  In professional football, that’s dealing with the entering college football player pool, as well as players already in the NFL, and those available on the street (free agents).


Leading a team in any capacity is not a right but rather a privilege. -Ted Sundquist


Then you have to have a VERY good understanding of what traits are necessary in these individuals in order to execute the plans & procedures required to pursue your mission.  One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to football, and I’m sure that’s the case in other arenas as well.  We had prioritized our requirements prior to searching for those individuals to fill our positions of need.

You must be as detailed with the back end of your prospect list as you are with the top candidates. Look for those individuals that fulfill your priorities in the Critical Factors, those traits which run “vertical” through the organization and are analogous for every person on the team, regardless of position.  Know which factors are most important and which you can “live with.”  Then have a thorough breakdown of the Position Specifics, those skills necessary to fulfill a specific task required of the candidate.

Ensure that the positions are evaluated from various angles within the organization and not from a single viewpoint.  This eliminates personal bias and provides for a crosscheck of opinions.  Mistakes made on the front end of the selection process are difficult to correct once the player is on your team.

Greeting linebacker and team captain Al Wilson after a hard fought win on the road. Greeting linebacker and team captain Al Wilson after a hard fought win on the road.

If you take the time to do your homework, finding the pool of talent, identifying what’s most important to your team to accomplish the mission (Critical Factors [vertical traits] & Position Specifics [horizontal traits]), and then implementing an evaluation system from multiple angles & crosschecks . . . your chances of making mistakes are minimized and you’re more apt to find the best and the brightest talent to execute your plans towards goal achievement.


“The culture should reflect the mission.” Ted Sundquist


Creating A Team Mission Statement

42 Team and Teamwork Quotes

Working effectively as a team creates momentum, improves morale, wins contests, and can even save lives. Here are 42 quotes on teams and teamwork:


“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” -Michael Jordan


“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” -Lee Iacocca


“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” -Henry Ford


“Teamwork makes the dream work.” -Bang Gae


“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” -Helen Keller


“The strength of the team is each member. The strength of each member is the team.” Phil Jackson


“A successful team is a group of many hands and one mind.” Bill Bethel


“Good teams incorporate teamwork into their culture, creating the building blocks for success.” -Ted Sundquist


“None of us is as smart as all of us.” -Ken Blanchard


“No individual can win a game by himself.” -Pele


“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” -HE Luccock


“Teamwork is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results.” -Ifeanyi Onuoha


“The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of the development of a team.” -Lewis B Ergen


“Individual commitment to a group effort – that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi


“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” -Bahaullah


“We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” -Ben Franklin


“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” -Napoleon Hill


“Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.” – Patrick Lencioni


“A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of others.” -Norman Shidle


“If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team.” -Bud Wilkinson


“People achieve more as a result of working with others than against them.” -Dr. Allan Fromme


“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision.” -Andrew Carnegie


“Teamwork. A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.” -Justin Sewell


“Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” -Stephen Covey


“The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side.” Margaret Carty


“There is no ‘I’ in team but there is in win.” -Michael Jordan


“Strategy is not a solo sport, even if you’re the CEO.” Max McKeown


“A leader must inspire or his team will expire.” -Orrin Woodward


“Bad attitudes will ruin your team.” -Terry Bradshaw


“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” -John Wooden


“Teams share the burden and divide the grief.” -Doug Smith


“Everyone is needed, but no one is necessary.” -Bruce Coslet


“On this team, we’re all united in a common goal: to keep my job.” -Lou Holtz


“With an enthusiastic team you can achieve almost anything.” -Tahir Shah


“Many of us are more capable than some of us, but none of us is as capable as all of us.” -Tom Wilson


“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” -Ryunosuke Satoro


“We realized that no one of us could be as good as all of us playing unselfishly.” -Bill Bradley


“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” -Kenyan Proverb


“When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.” -Tibetan Proverb


“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” -Ethiopian Proverb


“A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.” -Japanese Proverb


A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way. Swahili Proverb


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For more quotes on building a winning team, click here.

9 C’s of Lincoln’s Leadership

Photo by netdance on flickr.

When it was in the theatres, I watched the extraordinary movie Lincoln.  Rarely do I watch a movie a second time, but I’m such an admirer of President Lincoln that I couldn’t wait for its video release.  My family watched it last weekend.  To me, the acting is so perfect that I feel like I am truly watching Lincoln himself.

There are thousands of articles and books about Lincoln.  As I watched the movie, I noted some of his attributes for achieving his goals.  The movie was primarily focused on Lincoln’s goal to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  Throughout the fight in the House of Representatives, Lincoln was:

1.  Committed.  He was willing to risk his reputation to do what was right.

2.  Clever.  How he won votes in the House of Representatives is part of the story that intrigues me.

3.  Calm.  In the midst of incomprehensible stress, Abraham Lincoln was calm.  He would tell a story, a joke, or quietly sit by himself.

4.  Compromising.  He didn’t compromise his values, but he understood the political necessities and how to negotiate in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Leading Through the 5 Stages of Change

In yesterday’s post, I interviewed Jim Huling about the disciplines of execution.  The concepts in the The 4 Disciplines of Execution were so fascinating, we continued the conversation.


5 Stages of Changing Behavior

Much of leadership is influencing people to change.  You talk about the five stages of changing human behavior.  Would you explain these and is there one stage more difficult to move through than the others?

Because changing human behavior is such a big job, many leaders face challenges when first installing 4DX.  In fact, we’ve found that most teams go through five distinct stages of behavior change.

Stage 1: Getting Clear – The leader and the team commit to a new level of performance. They are oriented to 4DX and develop crystal-clear WIGs (wildly important goals), lag and lead measures, and a compelling scoreboard. They commit to regular WIG sessions. Although you can naturally expect varying levels of commitment, team members will be more motivated if they are closely involved in the 4DX work session.

Stage 2: Launch – Now the team is at the starting line. Whether you hold a formal kickoff meeting, or gather your team in a brief huddle, you launch the team into action on the WIG. But just as a rocket requires tremendous, highly focused energy to escape the earth’s gravity, the team needs intense involvement from the leader at this point of launch.

5 Stages of Behavior Change

  1. Getting Clear
  2. Launch
  3. Adoption
  4. Optimization
  5. Habits

Stage 3: Adoption – Team members adopt the 4DX process, and new behaviors drive the achievement of the WIG. You can expect resistance to fade and enthusiasm to increase as 4DX begins to work for them. They become accountable to each other for the new level of performance despite the demands of the whirlwind.

Stage 4: Optimization – At this stage, the team shifts to a 4DX mindset. You can expect them to become more purposeful and more engaged in their work as they produce results that make a difference. They will start looking for ways to optimize their performance—they now know what “playing to win” feels like.