Expert Commentary

The Art of Winning in Business

The notion of "the team" has long been used as an analogy for managers to encourage their employees. The list of articles, books, quotes, and philosophies that make comparisons related to sports and management is a long and valuable one. Sports celebrities routinely speak at business events and conferences, bringing their expertise in the art of winning to hopeful leaders.

Leadership at All Levels
September 2017

In my case, the subject was simply unavoidable. I live in Texas. Football is nearly a religion. The Cowboys are the talk of the town, and Friday night football games are so important that a television show was launched to showcase the sport. That, and the fact that we hosted the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas, a few years ago, just 40 minutes from my home, has made the topic even more prevalent in my life.


A second common thread in nearly every discussion of good leadership is the use of the word "integrity." I was in a seminar a few years back and heard a completely new definition of integrity. It made sense to me and clicked with the team concept in a whole new way. The seminar leader was Jim Van Yperen. If you haven’t read one of his books, you might want to.

Integrity means "whole number" or "complete entity" or "something undivided." defines it like this:

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.

Most businesses are familiar with the first meaning, referring to undivided loyalty and complete honesty. It’s a valuable, noble goal and certainly worth pursuing. For this article, let’s explore the second definition referring to wholeness and its relationship to winners.


The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished refers to oneness. The root term integer is a math term, meaning whole number. To me, this means that you can't have integrity apart from the rest of the team. As the leader, you and the team are one—inseparable.

Can we ask of our staff that which we do not ask of ourselves? If we agree with the second definition, will it change the way we lead? The answer is yes, probably minimally. It will be internalized and almost imperceptible to the people you are leading. But, consider this: some scientists believe that if the earth's angle was just one degree different on its axis, we'd all fry to a crisp. Small changes can yield remarkable results!

So, if we think in terms of "oneness," how can that create winners in our offices?

  • If we are all moving in the same direction, according to a simple, well-communicated plan, we will arrive more quickly and efficiently because we're all pulling (or pushing) together. Do you know what direction you are going? Does your team know?
  • If we all focus on one guiding principle, we'll be more effective and make better decisions every day. Do you know your guiding principle? Does your team know?
  • If we all understand a single goal for the type of service we provide to our customers, we can create better options for them. Happy customers really do buy more and stay longer. Do you know the definition of the service you want to provide? Does your team know?
  • If we remain united in our relationships, always assuming the best and helping when we can, we don't waste time arguing and finger-pointing (and later repairing our relationships). Do you know how to foster oneness in your relationships? Does your team know?
  • If we develop one thoughtful message for the world that helps them to understand us, the world will see us as a valuable, mature entity that can be trusted with the details. Do you know what your one message should be? Does your team know?

Developing a Team of Winners

The next step is to determine how this definition of integrity creates winners.

First, think about how teams are formed. Every player has their own unique skill and purpose. Normally, each has a well-defined function and should not interrupt or move into another's position unless there is an extreme circumstance where assistance is required and requested. Knowing exactly what one's own duties are, and practicing that particular set of duties over and over until they are habitual and instinctive, turns a good player into a great one. It requires one mission, one job, and one set of perfect practice plans. (By the way, practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect performance. And no one is perfect.)

Within that sports structure, there is but one goal: to win. In the best teams, the definition of winning includes doing it fairly, without cheating, and without getting hurt. But winning also includes leaving your position only when the team needs you to do so. While a kicker spends a vast majority of time learning and practicing kicking, he does learn how to catch the ball for the rare instance that he is needed to do so. There is one team and one goal, but a variety of methods may need to be employed to reach that goal. The oneness concept prevails even in the details.

Most of the time, the oneness concept is highly evident with winners. When you get past the veneer of the public face, or the press, you'll still see that winners speak a sort of "oneness language." They give credit to the entire team, as the one entity, when it comes to the successes they have had. Winners are willing to do whatever it takes to win, and they know where the goal is at all times.

Defining Winning

So, what about your organization today? Do you know how you define winning? Do you measure the same old thing as most companies do: the money or the bottom line? Why?

I bet you haven't heard a winning Super Bowl coach go to the press after the big win and say: "Guess what? We all earned over $5 million each this year!" or "Have you heard? My bonus is $500,000 because I led the winning team?"

Instead, you'll hear tales of gratefulness to be able to play one more season. You'll hear stories about people pulling out all the stops and playing with heart and drive and how they overcame all the obstacles because they pulled together as a team—as one.

We can translate that spirit into something we can use. Of course, there is nothing wrong with money or bonuses or measuring financial success. These are important yardsticks. Can we find a way to state our purpose and the results of our actions in other tangible ways that will demonstrate oneness?

The classic example is when the hardware store employee asked a customer why he wanted to buy a drill. The customer looked a little confused and said, "Well, sir, I need to make some holes." He didn’t need a drill so much as he needed the holes.

Can we define our purpose that way? Are we in business to make money? Absolutely! Ask yourself, though, what will you do with that money? How will it benefit your team? We should ask and answer this for our personal lives as well. Learning to articulate benefits, instead of results or features, will improve many of our communications in life. There are a few sales training programs that teach students how to define the actual benefit to the customer and not just the features of a particular product.

Money is the given, known element. But it does not tell us what makes us winners. Do you know how to define winning in your organization using the oneness model? Are you able to articulate what you want to accomplish as an organization?

Maybe you're a winner by providing healthy employment in your community. Providing a means by which fellow citizens can feed their families is a noble cause! Maybe you want to be a champion for various causes and spend some time and money for a certain charity. You may want to change the culture of your chosen industry or help the community in some other way.

Do you know how your staff would define a winning status? Ask employees their opinion about the right way to win. The oneness concept is a whole new way to look at the old mission/vision model. That slight shift in focus may be all that you need to have your best year ever! Go, team!

Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.

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