20 FEB 2024 6 MIN READ

How to build a winning team

Alex Inglethorpe, LFC Academy Director, gives his tips to build a winning team.

What makes a winning team?

Is it skill? Passion? Hard work? Team spirit? Or a mix of all these things and more? To find out what it takes to build a winning team, we thought we’d speak to the expert.

Alex Inglethorpe is the Academy Director at Liverpool Football Club, tasked with developing young players for LFC, creating an environment where players and staff can thrive, and establishing a style of play in the youth teams which mirrors that of the first team squad.

As the official training partner to Liverpool Football Club, AXA spoke to Alex to find out what your small business can learn from LFC and how he builds a winning team at the training academy.

How to build a strong team

“If you have a staff that can cover each other’s deficiencies, as well as supporting each other’s strengths, then in my experience that tends to be the most creative and most fruitful environment you can work in.”

“Teamwork makes the dream work” might sound like an obvious cliché, but in Alex’s experience it’s also true. To build a strong team, he believes you need a varied and complementary skillset, where one person’s strengths help cover another team member’s weaknesses, allowing them to excel in other areas.

Just like Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard helped improve each other’s long ball game because one wanted to run and the other wanted to pass, the teams in your small business can improve each other by playing to each person’s skills while being aware of and supporting one another’s deficiencies.

Further reading

To find out more about what makes a strong and varied team, read AXA’s guide to Finding and Hiring Staff for my Small Business.

How to deal with skills gaps

“In any team there’s a likelihood that you’re going to lose key members of staff and there’s going to be a bit of a skills gap. Don’t be frightened of that void – it presents an opportunity.”

Staff members leaving your business is always going to cause some skills gaps, and small businesses in particular can often feel an even greater impact when people decide to move on.

According to Alex, the key to successfully navigating this transition is all about mindset: don’t be afraid of the change, view it as an opportunity to try something new.

Another member of your team could step up to fill the void in an unexpected way. It could be a chance to reorganise your structure or reorder some responsibilities. Or if you do have to recruit someone new to fill the gap, it could be an opportunity to bring new talent and new ideas into your business.

Further reading

For more information about why staff leave their jobs and what you can do to fill the skills gaps, read our guide to employee retention for small businesses.

How to build a team culture

“One of the most important things is having the right type of person in the first instance. If you get good people in who care, really care… then in the end you’ll have the environment you want to create.”

Culture starts with having the right people, according to Alex. If you don’t have the right type of person in your team to begin with, you’re unlikely to be able to create the culture you want.

When hiring, ask yourself: are they passionate about what they do? Are they invested? Do they care about your business and their teammates? If you look for these qualities in your team when you’re hiring, you’ll be in a better position to create the type of culture you need to run a successful small business.

Further reading

Finding the right staff and bringing them up to speed can be one of the more difficult parts of the hiring process. Read AXA’s guide to onboarding new staff members to learn more.

Hiring is a two-way process

“When we hire people here, it’s a two-way process. As much as we want them, they’ve got to want to come to us. Your reputation precedes you. That’s often the difference between them signing or not signing for Liverpool Football Club.”

To make sure you’re hiring the right team, you need to attract the right talent. And making your business attractive to potential new recruits often comes down to your reputation.

If you asked someone what they thought of your business, what would they say? What do you hope they would say? Is your salary competitive in the market? Do your customers regularly recommend you? All of these things make up your business’ reputation and can be the difference between you hiring the best talent available, or having to watch that talent go to a competitor instead.

Further reading

Learn how to make your business an attractive prospect for new recruits with our guide to boosting your recruitment drive.

How to spot talent

“People can be talented in what they do, but ultimately I think it’s the character that supports the talent that becomes really important. Are they passionate? Is it all-consuming for them? Are they resilient? Do they communicate with others?”

When it comes to spotting the right talent to join your team, Alex believes it’s less about their skill level and more about their character.

You could hire the most skilled salesperson for your retail business, or the most talented bread maker to work in your bakery, and they might be successful in the short term, but if they don’t have the right character then in the long run it actually may be detrimental to the strong team you’re trying to build.

Instead of just focusing on skills, look for passion, resilience, good communicators, diversity, and people who care about what you’re trying to achieve. Skills will get you far, but it’s the character of your teammates which makes a winning team.

Further reading

Looking for more top tips for hiring employees? Visit our guide to finding staff.

So what does makes a winning team?

Really, it’s a combination of factors, and it won’t be the same in every organisation.

But for your small business, consider some of Alex’s advice when recruiting staff and setting your team’s vision. Hire people for their character as well as their skill level. Make sure your business has the right reputation in place so you can hire the best talent. And hire a diverse team with a varied but complementary skillset. Keep these tips in mind and your team could be as successful as Liverpool Football Club.

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