So What Is a ‘Winning Team’?

Are you convinced of the benefits of creating a winning team in your organization? What is a ‘winning team,’ anyway? Let’s use this remarkable sports story as our example of team transformation.

The Leicester City football team in England’s Premier League had never won anything in the Premier League in their 138-year history. Yet with new owners and a new coach, wild fans, and unbeatable team spirit, these unheralded players came out of nowhere to win the championship in 2016. It was an achievement considered by many to be the greatest ever seen in the history of team sports. It demonstrated how a small club with limited resources managed to defeat the might of the ultra-rich soccer giants: Arsenal, Manchester United, and others.

My friend, Richard Warburton, who hails from Leicester City and is passionate about his team, recounts the fascinating tale about high performance.


Stranded at the bottom of the Premier League for most of the 2014-15 season and expected to be relegated to the lower league, Leicester City found its form and won eight out their last ten games to avoid the drop. That in itself was considered a miracle but it was nothing compared to what was to unfold in the 2015-16 season, despite oddsmakers gave it incredible 5000:1 odds to win the league. Who brought the coaching skills that ignite the development towards success?

Unable to attract the ‘superstars’, Leicester’s team consisted of a group of players from seven nationalities. Each of these players had talent, and they were seen as a group that worked hard and played for each other. Their ‘escape’ from being dropped from the Premier had instilled confidence and, as results began to go their way, they started to believe that anything was possible.

According to Fox Sports, Australia: “So, how has a humdrum team from central England that was nearly relegated last season managed, and was in administration seven years ago, overcome the mega-rich giants of the Premier League? TEAM SPIRIT.”

Their success also required an innovative manager, open-minded owners, and passionate fans. The team gave much of the credit to the team’s manager.

Affable 64-year-old Italian Claudio Ranieri had come close over his 30-year managerial career, but he had never won a European title. He kept the same lineup week after week, which increased the team’s confidence and bonding. He was also quick to praise the players, taking them out for pizzas from time to time. He trusted his players and they trusted him. On one occasion, Leicester had unluckily lost a game in the last minute to a major rival, Arsenal. He sent the team off to Dubai to relax, regroup, and do light training—without pressure. This was a masterstroke. They came back with a vengeance, not losing in the next 12 games and setting themselves up for the title. Claudio also said that success was for the fans, the “twelfth man.” Ranieri gave credit to the ‘team spirit’ after winning the Premier League. “The players have been fantastic. Their focus, their determination, their spirit has made this possible. Every game they fight for each other and I love to see this in my players. They deserve to be champions.”

Learn from the Best

Great teams are created by great leaders. What makes a great leader? In Fortune magazine’s “The World's 50 Greatest Leaders”, Geoff Colvin identifies three key lessons taught by leaders who excel in today’s environment: 1) Acknowledge reality and hope, 2) Bring followers physically together, and 3) Build bridges. On point number two, Colvin writes, “Research shows that when groups meet in person, face-to-face, they trust each other more, become better problem solvers, and are markedly more creative.”

Great leaders bring people and teams together in person — not just over the phone, video conference, or group chat. It is a key skill that many of today’s leaders sorely lack. No matter how much we communicate virtually or remotely, some degree of face to face meeting is essential to building a High Performance Team.

Douglas Gerber is Founder and CEO of Focus One, a consulting firm that helps leaders create High Performance Teams.

After 23 years as a corporate executive, he developed a reputation for building successful teams. Later, as a consultant, he has personally worked with leaders from over 70 companies to develop their own winning Teams.

Drawing from his own extensive background and 10 years of research, Douglas innovated the concept of “Team Quotient” (TQ). He is a thought leader in the area of team transformation. Learn more about Douglas and his upcoming book Team Quotient: How to Build High Performance Leadership Teams that Win Every Time on

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