The Seven “C’s” of Championship Team Building

Janssen Peak Performance

The Seven “C’s” of
Championship Team Building

By Jeff Janssen, M.S., Peak Performance Coach

Former Boston Celtics basketball Coach Red Auerbach once remarked “Some people believe you win with the five best players, but I found out that you win with the five who fit together best.” Like championship sports teams, successful businesses must have employees who work well together to achieve a common goal. While talent is definitely important to be successful, the business with the most talent does not always make the most profits.

Talent without teamwork is trouble. I have seen too many businesses who had highly talented individuals, yet were unable to perform to their potential because of selfishness, jealousies, conflict, and people who were unable to accept their roles. Likewise I have seen teams with solid but not superior talent, rise to a championship level because of teamwork. Thus, teamwork becomes a sort of “wild card” factor whether you have great or average talent.

In working with many high level sports and business teams across the nation, I have discovered seven important factors that distinguish winning teams. It is these seven areas that I seek to improve when I consult with teams and that you as a leader must continually monitor. As you read the description of the Seven “C’s” of Championship Team Building, take a moment to assess how well your business team is doing on each of the characteristics.

Seven “C’s” of Championship Team Building

1. Common goal

Championship teams have a singular, common focus. Obviously, for many organizations the common goal is to serve the consumer, maximize profits, and become the dominant leader in the industry. These are the company’s primary, specified, overt goals and all other goals revolve around them. The goals are firmly embraced by all members of the team, from the CEO to the interns. Everyone understands the direction and destination that the company is moving toward. The employees understand that their individuals goals must fit within the framework and mission of the company.

“A true vision gives the team more than just a target to shoot for; it gives the team a mission, a sense of purpose to get excited about.”

Pat Williams, Senior Executive Vice President,
Orlando Magic

2. Commitment

While some seasons may start with the entire team focused on a common goal, rarely do they end up that way. Commitment is probably the single most important factor that differentiates championship teams, coaches, athletes, businesses, schools, marriages (you name it) from the mediocre. It’s much too easy to say you want to win the championship and its a whole other thing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to pursue a championship – especially when obstacles and adversity strike. Continual commitment to the team’s common goal is one of the toughest areas of team building.

Championship teams buy into the mission at every level and make the mission their own. The players and coaches work hard and pay their dues because they want to, not because they have to. In addition to their commitment, the team members feel a sense of personal and group accountability. The players have a clear understanding of how their individual choices and decisions influence the collective psyche and success of the team. There is a true sense that if an player is slacking off, she is not just hurting herself but her entire team. The players feel a sense of responsibility and obligation to give it their best.

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers

3. Complementary Roles

Championship teams are comprised of several individuals who willingly take pride in a playing a variety of roles. These roles, when played in concert and harmony lead to team success. Thus, each player is assigned specific positions and responsibilities that help determine the entire team’s success. While individually they are not solely responsible for the team’s success or failure, collectively each role forms a synergistic whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The major difficulties in developing complementary roles is that some roles get more attention and praise thereby making them seem more important. Championship teams however realize that all roles are critical to the overall team’s success and willingly accept and value their individual roles.

“I knew that the only way to win consistently was to give everybody – from the stars to the number 12 player on the bench – a vital role on the team.”

Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers

4. Clear Communication

A fourth characteristic of championship teams is clear communication. Successful teams communicate successfully both on and off the field. The on field communication helps them perform more efficiently and effectively. Players must communicate signs, the number of outs, where to throw the ball and call fly balls to perform successfully. Off the field, players need to continually monitor the team’s effectiveness, modify things when necessary, and celebrate successes.

“You can only succeed when people are communicating, not just from the top down but in complete interchange.”

Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49ers

5. Constructive Conflict

Along with effective communication, championship teams have the ability to keep conflict under control. Often, coaches and players are able to use conflict constructively to further develop and strengthen the team. It is not that championship teams never experience conflict, because this is impossible. Instead they are able to handle the conflict they experience and do not let it interfere with the team’s common goal. Championship coaches and players make sure that their common goal always takes precedence over any conflict.

“My job is to avoid or resolve conflict if possible, because our mission is to win.”

Chuck Daly, USA Basketball

6. Cohesion

A sixth characteristic shared by many championship teams is that they genuinely like and respect each other. The players like to spend time with each other outside of scheduled practice and game times. They find reasons to stay together like going to the movies, studying, hanging out, etc. This is not to say that every single player is a part of the group, but that a majority of players tend to socialize together. While it is not absolutely necessary, cohesion is a factor that often will help your team perform at a higher level.

“Respect is essential to building group cohesion… You don’t have to like each other. But you do have to respect your colleagues’ opinions and decsions, because your personal success depends on commitment to the overall plan and doing your part to make it work.”

Pat Summitt, Tennessee Women’s Basketball

7. Credible Coaching

Finally, it takes a credible coach to develop, orchestrate, and monitor all the other “C’s” of Championship Team Building. You as a coach play a critical role in helping the team arrive at a common goal, monitoring and maintaining your players’ commitment, assigning and appreciating roles, communicating with the team, keeping conflict under control, and promoting your team’s chemistry and cohesion. The team must have a leader who they believe in and has the skills necessary to get the most from the team. A credible coach creates an effective environment that allows the team to perform to their full potential.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are in football, real estate, or electronics, the people who work for you will be happier and more productive if they feel they have value to you beyond what they can do for you on the job. They want to feel that they are important on a personal level.”

Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego Chargers

Championship team building is a complex process which must be continually monitored and improved. Regardless of your talent level, invest some time and tap into the power of teamwork to help your team perform at a higher level. By recognizing and working on the Seven “C’s” of Championship Team Building you can create a more motivated, committed, and cohesive team.

Read Jeff Janssen’s take on the 7 C’s of teamwork and championship team building.  The following article is an adapted excerpt of Jeff’s book, “Championship Team Building: What Every Coach Needs to Know to Build a Motivated, Committed & Cohesive Team.” 1. Common goal Championship teams have a singular, common focus. Continual commitment to the team’s common goal is one of the toughest areas of team building.

Jeff Janssen helps coaches and athletes develop the team chemistry, mental toughness, and leadership skills necessary to win championships. For more information on Jeff’s programs and resources, visit or call toll free 1-888-721-TEAM.

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