Educate January 2018

Book Review: “The Best Team Wins: The New Science of High Performance” Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Written By: Sharon Brown, Prospect strategy analyst, University of Florida Office of Advancement

In their new book, “The Best Team Wins: The New Science of High Performance,” co-authors and corporate culture experts Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton share the results of their research into high-performing teams. Based on 850,000 employee surveys and 50,000 motivation assessments, their data reveals the science behind effective team leadership distilled down into five disciplines. They successfully deliver an inspired approach to managing people that will work for any business.

Gostick and Elton’s five disciplines of team leaders are deceptively simple: to understand the many generations in the workplace; to manage “to the one;” to speed up the process of bringing a new team member on board with a focus on productivity; to seek out and embrace the critics and trouble-shooters on the team – making ‘Challenge Everything’ your new mantra. And finally, to never forget the customer.

Something that struck me as I read “The Best Team Wins” was the time commitment necessary to be an effective leader of a winning team. Gostick and Elton recommend scheduling time for regular reviews, acknowledgements and mentoring. They say effective managers spend on average one hour per week recognizing the accomplishments of their team. And if you ever worry that you’re showering too much attention on one employee and leaving others out? They don’t recommend tempering your praise because the underappreciated employee may decide to go, leaving you stuck with the employee that doesn’t stand out.

Still doubtful, because who has time for all these meetings and tasks? Check out this stat: “Employees who meet with managers weekly to discuss progress toward goals are 24 percent more likely to achieve their goals.” Just paying regular attention to something makes magical things happen.

“The Best Team Wins” is an engaging read, with a good balance of hard data and real-life stories. Suggestions and ideas abound – any team leader will find this a useful and inspiring guide. The first idea that struck me as genius was when a boss asked everyone on his team to email him a story about some other employee who helped them. He also asked that they copy the other employee on the email. As you can imagine, he received an incredibly positive response to this practice. Who wouldn’t appreciate this type of attention?

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

In the section called ‘Managing to the One,’ Gostick and Elton present their job sculpting concept. This brilliant advice is to allow employees to simply do a little more of what they like, and where their strengths lie, and a little less of what irritates them. Can you imagine how empowering and uplifting it would be to get permission to sculpt your job?

The discipline on speed productivity is all about getting new employees oriented as quickly as possible and allowing them to make a difference from the start. Contact with their manager on the first day is imperative for getting the relationship off to a good start. Mentoring and shadowing allow the new person to get a feel for the culture and helps to provide important context. And don’t forget the regular check-in meetings!

I gave a little cheer when I got to the fourth discipline: challenge everything. I have a reputation for being a trouble-shooter at work, and according to Gostick and Elton, having someone like me on a team is a good thing. Leaders should want team members who are unafraid to ask questions or throw out ideas. A secure team leader won’t be threatened by teammates who question everything.

The final discipline is all about the customer. I love their idea of creating cross-functional teams designed to do “microbattles.” These are customer-focused initiatives designed to improve results for specific problems or issues. Think of these as your company’s SWAT team who swoops in when needed to make things right.

In addition to all the five disciplines have to offer, Part II of “The Best Team Wins” is a leader’s toolkit with 101 ways to inspire your team. You will find more ideas than you have time for here – so dig in and prepare to elevate your team to new heights. 


SHARON BROWN is a Prospect Strategy Analyst with the University of Florida Office of Advancement. A graduate of UF’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, she is happy to have found a career that marries reading, writing and being curious. She and her husband, also a CLAS alum, live in Gainesville.

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