The Intersection

Building Winning Teams

There may be no "I" in team — but there's strategy behind keeping teams effective and happy. In this video, speaker Mel Robbins shares her tips for finding and retaining the best people for your business.

After speaker and CNN commentator Mel Robbins wrapped up her on-stage interview with Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson at PCMA Convening Leaders 2016 in Vancouver, she was struck, she says in the latest video in The Intersection by PSAV series, how the same theme ran through many of the social-media comments that appeared afterward: Sorenson seemed like a humble and authentic leader.

Having spent face-to-face time with him, Robbins wholeheartedly agreed. “Arne’s the kind of guy that demonstrates something really important: He’s not a CEO who thinks he matters more than anybody else in his organization.” Her evidence? After the interview, Sorenson collected their half-filled water bottles and Robbins’ note cards, which she’d accidentally left behind.”That’s the first time in my speaking career that I have seen a CEO of that magnitude, or a celebrity of that magnitude, pick up after themselves.”

After years spent coaching founders, CEOs, and executives, Robbins has firm ideas about what makes for an effective leader, which she shares in the video “Building Winning Teams.”  Most importantly, she said, effective leadership shows up in how team members are hired — and how they are treated. Leaders who seem frustrated with their company’s lack of growth “were the folks that didn’t know how to build teams, how to elevate teams, and how to focus on the strategic objectives instead of the BS in the weeds,” Robbins said. “The best way has always been the same, in terms of how you get the best out of people. It’s to empower them, not to demean them.”


Melissa Parish Boagey, the director of meetings and conferences at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), is coming face-to-face with team trust and empowerment this year: She’s in her third trimester of pregnancy, so she’ll miss AASLD’s largest annual event — The Liver Meeting, this Nov. 11–15 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston — for the first time since 2010, when she began running it. “My biggest fear is getting everything out of my head, and addressing it with [my team]. But I have complete confidence in them,” said Boagey. She’s mindful of who does what best on her team of five — and divvies responsibilities accordingly. “There’s a little bit of nervousness, but I’m empowering my team each day, saying ‘you guys are going to rock this show.'”

When it comes to hiring staff, Boagey deeply values flexibility. “In this industry, nothing ever goes as planned,” Boagey said. Especially at a large event such as The Liver Meeting, where attendance can top 10,000 people. “Sometimes there are gray areas. Our members and our attendees will require us to be flexible. Things are never black and white.”

Since much of meeting planning happens behind the scenes, Boagey makes a point to recognize individual contributions, and also compels her team members to feel empowered to make their own decisions. “Empowerment is very, very important. We’re all adults, and want to make sure we’re contributing something that matters. I have a weekly meeting with my team every Wednesday. I sit down with them to ask them, ‘do you have all of the tools you need to do your job? Are there any hurdles that I can assist you with?'”

When it comes to smart hiring, Robbins has one more criterion: An upbeat attitude. “You should focus on people who are optimistic,” Robbins said. “Only 25 percent of somebody’s success has to do with skills. The remaining 75 percent comes down to how optimistic they are and how resilient they are, and their social connections with other people — not personality, but their ability to connect with other people.”

Tips for Building Winning Teams

1. The empowerment that comes with knowledge through technology requires us to change how we engage people.

2. You have to figure out how to make people matter.

3. Learn to build, elevate, and focus teams.

4. Lead by being the coach, not the MVP.

5. Hire people who are optimistic.

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Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is associate editor of Convene.