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Success Article
February, 2001

Build a Team that Helps You Succeed

by Debra Pestrak

Business, like life, is a game. The question is how you choose to play it. Do you want to win, be your best, and make a difference? Or are you satisfied with where you currently are?

If you want to work to win and reach the top tier of your organizational chart, you need a strong team to get you there. Successful business people know they can’t go it alone. That’s why they surround themselves with qualified people who bring various strengths to the team.

The new book Playing with the Big Boys: Success Secrets of the Most Powerful Women in Business demonstrates the importance of team building. All the top Fortune 500® executives profiled found it was important to surround themselves with the best and the brightest. These executives had so much confidence in themselves that they weren’t concerned with whether their subordinates would outshine them or take their jobs. In fact, they found that having very able people beneath them made it easier to replace themselves as they advanced.

How Your Team Can Help You

Because you will undoubtedly have many responsibilities during your climb to the top, having a top quality team on your side can help lessen the burden so you can focus on what’s really important to you and your career. Ann Livermore, President, Business Customer Organizations at Hewlett-Packard, learned this lesson early in her career. She said, “I had a very thoughtful, very helpful boss—a man named Jim Arthur. One of the things that Jim said to me was, ‘Ann, you care about too many things!’ It was a really important message because there are so many things that you can work on, so many things that you can do in a business environment, but picking the right ones and letting other people handle the rest is a really important lesson.”

A carefully selected team can also help you see challenges in a new light and offer solutions you may never have thought of yourself. That’s why the key to choosing team members is not to choose people who are like you, but who have a basic philosophy or value system like you have.

Jean Hamilton, CEO, Prudential Institutional & Executive Vice President, Prudential Insurance Company of America, sees the importance of these values as well the importance of picking a varied team. “Things are moving and changing so quickly,” she says. “We are faced with opportunities and challenges—both in business and in our personal lives—related to an increasingly global economy and society. The Internet is really making that happen more easily. We need to have different perspectives and diversity of backgrounds and experiences. I’m confident that this will allow us to find much better solutions. So if you look at the team of people with whom I work, we share values, goals, and standards, but we also come from very different backgrounds, and we come at things in very different ways.”

Pick the Right Team Members

These top executives also found it is important to hire people who complemented their strengths and weaknesses. While they wanted subordinates who shared their same philosophies, values, goals and standards, they also needed a diverse team. When coming into a new organization, having a mix of new and experienced employees gave a mixture of perspectives.

Just how do they find the right people for their team? Anne Sweeney, President, Disney/ABC Cable Networks and President, Disney Channel, believes you “have to get out there. You have to do more than rely on the opinions of others. You have to join organizations.” That’s why Sweeney belongs to the American Women in Radio and Television and Women in Cable and Telecommunications organizations. By networking at the various organizational functions, she has been introduced to many talented people. Her goal is to hire people who are courageous and willing to say “Why not?” She wants people who will think outside of the box and who are willing to take risks.

Likewise, when it comes to finding the “right people” to place on your team, Shelley Broader, Senior Vice President, Hannaford Brothers, stresses the importance of seeing people for who they really are. She explains, “I see people as a pie and everybody has pieces that are filled on their plate. It’s being self-actualizing, really understanding what pieces of the pie you have on the plate and hiring people on your team who have different pieces than you have.” Broader understands the importance of interacting with people who are unlike herself, as she insists on finding people who can complement not only her strengths, but also her weaknesses in order to build a team.

Keep Your Team on Track

Simply hiring the right team of people is just the first step. Next you must continually motivate them and keep them focused on the goal. Part of the key to keeping people on track is to give them regular feedback on how they are performing in relationship to the goals of the organization. Also let them know how the organization is doing and how they can contribute to its success. Allow them to develop their own action plans.

Karen Garrison, President, Pitney Bowes Management Services, rates performance levels with an A, B, C, or D. By hiring the best, she says, you end up with A players on your team. Garrison talks about the fact that employees are not always A players, that sometimes they will fall to a B or even a C level. You need to know where people are in the stages of their lives, what their priorities are, and what personal issues they may be dealing with. When someone is a D player, they need to be given feedback about their performance and if it doesnít improve, that person should move on to someplace where they can perform better.

Recognizing people who do good work is a key to a motivated team. Even a simple gesture like a “thank you” or spending a little personal time with them can make a lot of difference. You can draw people to a team by recognizing them for what they do well and what they like to do, and then giving them the chance to do so.

Liz Fetter, President and Chief Executive Officer, QRS Corporation, takes recognition seriously. In addition to thanking her team for a job well done, she recognizes what people are good at and then matches them to that particular job. “I also promise them that they’ll be positioned for the next level shortly into their job tenure if the results are there,” she says. This practice helps build loyalty among her team members and exemplifies that their actions will be rewarded.

Build Your Team Today

If mastering the game of business and reaching the top tier of corporate America are your goals, then building a winning team is your first priority. By utilizing your teams’ talents and keeping your members continually motivated, you can help them advance not only your career aspirations, but theirs as well. With a top-notch team, everyone wins.

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Success Thought

Happiness comes in the joy of achievement,
in the thrill of the effort itself.
The human spirit needs to reach out,
to achieve, to triumph, to be happy.

Happiness does not come from doing easy work,
but from the satisfaction afterglow
that comes after the achievement of a difficult task
that demands you step up to be your best.

Your growth itself contains the seed of happiness.
There is no happiness except in the realization
that you have accomplished something.
Happiness does not happen by itself.

Happiness thrives in activity.
It is a running river, not a stagnant pond.
Happiness is something we create for ourselves
and within ourselves.

Great Quotations from Great Women

“Mistakes are dues one pays for a full life.”

— Sophia Loren

Available Now! 

The book Playing with the Big Boys: Success Secrets of the Most Powerful Women in Business is available at local bookstores or it can be ordered from the Products page or by calling toll free 888-SUN-3777 or 760-434-3343.  

The full candid audio and videos interviews with the Most Powerful Women are also available either at the telephone numbers above or the Products page.

Debra Pestrak has developed a two-day program focused on what it takes to be successful in your career. Contact her at 888- SUN-3777 for more information on this dynamic program.

About the Most Powerful Women Success Traits


If you want to learn which success traits you need to master to become a Most Powerful Women, contact Success Unleashed® at 888-786-3777 for the assessment and free consultation.


About the Author

Debra Pestrak is a peak performance expert, an award-winning motivational speaker, and author of Playing with the Big Boys: Success Secrets of the Most Powerful Women in Business and Playing with the Big Boys & Girls in Real Estate. Debra is founder and CEO of Success Unleashed, Inc.®, a company dedicated to developing powerful programs that impact the way people think and work. Pestrak was a player in corporate America for 26 years, working her way up the ranks from a telephone operator to managing a $20 million budget. She also has instituted and led sales organizations, and is the past president of the National Speakers Association – San Diego. To discover more performance advice, contact the author at 888 SUN-3777.


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