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It’s fun to be on a winning team. It’s motivating and rewarding to be part of a group that works hard together, encourages one another, navigates through challenges, and shares the excitement of “bringing home the gold.” Not every team can win every time, but everyone needs to be a part of at least one winning team at one time or another. It’s an experience that can transform your self-perception as well as your outlook on others.

This past weekend, I was a part of one such winning team. Our karate school, Stillwater Soo Bahk Do, competed in the Region 7 spring tournament at St. Cloud State University. For a number of weeks leading up to the tournament, as our instructors challenged and encouraged us, we worked hard to develop and refine our skills in various karate disciplines. Along the way, there were days of frustration as well as growth. On Saturday, we sent 15 competitors to the tournament and the hard work paid off. We came home with 21 trophies (including two black belt grand champions)!

I’ve had the blessing to be a part of many winning and championship teams in basketball, soccer, track and field, and karate. I’ve been a part of winning teams outside of sports, too. My cohort of classmates at Regent University was a winning team and I’ve been in a few workplaces that are winning teams. All of these have had five common characteristics.

People You Care About

A winning team requires a deep commitment to other people. That commitment involves sacrifice, trust, honesty, and humility. One of the teams I was involved in had a member who couldn’t offer honesty and humility. Eventually, he de-selected himself from the team. If he had stayed, though, we would have had to confront him because the rest of the team was committed to these winning values. If you are working with people that agree to and deliver this commitment, you have the foundation for a winning team.

Something To Fight For

Every team needs a purpose to fight for. There must be a rallying cause that motivates everyone. It must be a purpose they believe in. Without something to fight for, all you’ve got is a social club that enjoys one another’s company. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it will not be a winning team.

A Plan For Success

To achieve that purpose, there has to be a plan. Most teams have a coach or leader. Often, the plan for success comes from the mind of that individual. In some cases, the team itself creates the plan. Either way, there must be a plan to coordinate the people around that purpose.


Let’s face it, championship teams (whether they are sports or not), win only after overcoming significant challenges. Doing something great together naturally invites challenges. As these challenges come your way, welcome them. Embrace them. Challenges actually help the team bond together and develop a greater commitment.


Winning teams win. This seems obvious, but it’s important enough that it needs to be stated. The team must “bring home the gold,” have physical reminders of success, and stories of doing battle together. In one corner of my office, I have my karate medals and trophies as well as my doctoral diploma. This is not a “shrine.” It is a reminder of all the people that I have walked with in struggle and success, and all the teammates and “coaches” who have made tremendous commitments to my life.


Teams that do not win probably have issues with one or more of the first four characteristics: they have a lack of commitment to one another, an unclear purpose, an ineffective plan, or not enough challenge. If your team is not winning, take a moment to assess these factors.

Chances are you’ve been on some winning teams, too. I’ll bet though, that most of those are not groups at your places of work.

Why? Why do we have so few winning teams at work? Are we missing the commitment? Do we not have a clear purpose? Is the plan weak? Is there a lack of challenge? I have my theory. What’s yours?

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