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Ditch the Fantasy-Football Mentality When Choosing Your All-Star Team

By Small Business Entrepreneur.com

The fantasy football draft is an entrepreneur’s dream. Who wouldn’t want to hand-select their all-star team to form an impressive roster?

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Peyton Manning captured this idea when describing the perfect quarterback: “Take a little piece of everybody. Take John Elway’s arm, Dan Marino’s release, maybe Troy Aikman’s drop-back, Brett Favre’s scrambling ability, Joe Montana’s two-minute poise and, naturally, my speed in there.”

No one has perfected every trait you need, but adopting the fantasy sports mindset isn’t a sustainable approach to building an effective team, either. Your lineup changes every week, and you look at each player’s stats when making game-time swaps.

In business, you have to look beyond individual attributes to assemble a team that can move your company down the field.

In fantasy football, you’re vetting each player individually. But this can detract from the bigger picture. Rid yourself of the fantasy sports mindset, and consider these five things when choosing a team in the office:

1. Build a roster that fits together.

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Just because your fantasy football players look good on paper doesn’t mean they’ll mesh in real life. The same goes for your startup. Look for people with complementary skillsets who naturally play off of one another’s strengths. If you’re only concerned with hiring all-stars, you might overlook team cohesion that’s crucial for making real gains.

I always have three employees sit in on interviews. They can spot good culture fits, and I trust their judgment. A culture of people who respect one another and get along will work better every time.

Related: 4 Ways to Turn Your Employees Into an All-Star Team

2. Find diverse skillsets.

To start with, you have to realize that you can’t do everything, and no person has every characteristic you need. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t have the confidence to reach out to a 23-year-old, a 53-year-old or a 73-year-old for fresh ideas. Recognize people with diverse backgrounds, abilities and ways of thinking, then empower them to use those skills.

3. Empower your team.

I love the example of The Home Depot’s former CEO Frank Blake. He took over in a crisis for the company and turned things around. When he was asked how he interacted with his team, he said that he didn’t just ask people, “How are things?” If you’re the boss, people will just say that things are great. Instead, he would say, “I’ve noticed such-and-such problem. What do you think about that?” That empowers people to be honest. You’ve already acknowledged the problem, now you can work together to find a solution.

Related: Team-Building With a Purpose

4. Treat everyone with respect.

Effective leaders create an environment of respect and inclusiveness. I encourage my team to have different opinions and to express them respectfully, so we can arrive at a better decision together. I don’t like to be yelled at, and I bet nobody else does, either. We can respectfully disagree and find the answer in a way that keeps the team together, rather than driving people apart.

5. Maintain a healthy locker room.

A toxic locker room is a disaster for a football team. It can overcome even the greatest collection of talent. In business, you need a healthy culture, not a toxic one. Toxic employees poison your team’s chemistry. These bad apples want to climb the ladder fast and will do whatever it takes to get there, regardless of the negative consequences for everybody else around them. So don’t just focus on abilities. Hire employees with ability and character.

Many coaches believe that chewing people out, yelling at them, demeaning them or embarrassing them is an effective route. But being the boss doesn’t give anyone the right to act that way. My high school coaches were yellers and screamers. But Bud Grant, the great Vikings coach I played under, showed me a different way.

He had the confidence to openly accept feedback and suggestions from everyone. Every team member felt comfortable being around him. He didn’t need to yell.

Maybe what he understood was that everyone wants to be part of a team, to win and to succeed. The best chance we have at succeeding in business is to surround ourselves with a diverse group of people who are ethical, principled, respectful and focused on the team -- not themselves.

Related: 10 Insights on Building, Motivating and Managing an Exceptional Team

This article originally appeared at Entrepreneur. Copyright 2014. 

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