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By John Crites, TTEC President & CEO

Editor’s note: This is the sixth “Executive Insight” column, a weekly feature for Local Tech Wire as part of its partnership with the and

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Developing a high-performance IT team is no easy task. I compare them to championship sport teams and high-performance business teams. I came to this conclusion after evaluating a few unstoppable teams in college and professional sports, and it all came together for me after I began to understand the philosophy of Mike Krzyzewski, the successful head coach of Duke University’s men’s basketball team.

The epiphany came to me back when the St. Louis Rams were unstoppable and known as the “Greatest Show on Turf.” I was in the Dallas airport with an ESPN magazine featuring the Rams’ key players on the cover. The photo was unique because all the players insisted on swapping jerseys to make the point that once on the field, it does not make a difference what number you wear or who carried the ball across the goal line. The team simply wanted to win. It was more than just a good line for ESPN. The team’s statistics reflected a diversity of players who scored touchdowns.

It was then that I realized that most teams have a good game plan and skilled players, but the unbeatable teams have a team ego as opposed to an individual need for recognition.

The million-dollar question: How do we build a championship team within our companies? First, a company must have a solid game plan and skilled players capable of executing this plan. These two challenges can be daunting considering the internal politics, funding and interpersonal obstacles one must face when choosing whom to hire. I will save those challenges for another article. For now, we will assume as an IT leader you have a solid game plan and skilled players. Let’s look into what makes your IT team “unbeatable.”

The attitude of your individual team members is a key aspect. Some of the worst jobs in the world are characterized as stressful, physically demanding and replete with interim setbacks. But these are the job attributes for athletes who play in the Super Bowl. Trying to remove all the stress, physical demands and failures in your environment is a fool’s errand. Your job as an IT leader is to build a team of skilled players who act from a professional standpoint.

The second step is to develop a culture based on dedication and mentoring between each manager and his or her respective team members. When a manager has taken the time to understand team members’ career aspirations and partner with them for the advancement of their careers, individual egos become less of a priority. When a manager is an advocate for his or her employees and is honestly supporting their careers, their need to shine as an individual becomes less critical. Individual ego is transformed into team ego.

This is no simple task. Inevitably, there will be team members that do not buy into the team ego concept. Managers can easily be faced with the option of pursuing a championship team or finding an alternative position for someone who is a key individual player. Having the courage to reassign a key individual who does not embrace the team ego will earn the respect of the team as a whole. It sends a strong message regarding the importance of the “team” and is better for the reassigned individual in the long run.

To conclude, I recommend that managers keep in mind that the process for building a championship IT team takes time and is much more intricate than can be addressed in this article. The difference between the good teams and the championship teams is in the attitude of the players, the culture that refocuses ego from the individual to the team and the courage of IT leadership to make the necessary changes that bring the potential of the team to fruition. For IT leadership, pursuing this objective in your company is your professional “Super Bowl.”

About the author: John Crites is president and CEO of the Triangle Technology Executives Council. He is also the president and CEO of AuctionBlox Inc., an Internet channel marketing firm located in Raleigh, N.C. He has served as the CEO of MCNC and as vice president and CIO at RTI International. He holds a Masters of Science from California State University.

TTEC is a nonprofit organization for IT Executives in the research triangle region of North Carolina. Membership is by invitation only and is limited to the senior decision-makers in companies located in this region. The council facilitates executive education, collaboration and social networking. It also provides volunteer resources to local universities and entrepreneurs.