Several years ago during Desert Storm, I was on active duty in the Air Force. The objective of our mission was simple and direct—to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. However, there were several obstacles to overcome before we could put the operational plans into action. These problems were considered critical and essential to overcome, since they centered around what is referred to as “command and control,” the execution of the mission.

A coalition of 34 countries led by the United States was to return Kuwait to the control of the Emir. It was a mission of good versus evil, and it seemed everyone wanted to be part of history. The United States already had its challenges; the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines all had their own unique and often conflicting procedures for executing an operation. To further complicate matters, the United Nations added in 33 other nations speaking broken English, all of which (except the French) wanted to be at the tip of the spear.

General Schwarzkoph, commander of the coalition, had a real leadership challenge. Everyone on the team was motivated to win, but very few wanted to follow the playbook. In addition, there were a lot of high-ranking officers fighting for control, as if they were protecting their page in history. Finally, during the last phases of mission planning, General Schwarzkoph had had enough, and in a brief tirade, he pounded his fist on the table and said, “Damn it! This is ONE team and there is ONE fight.”

He was the boss and we all got the message. “One Team, One Fight” became the coalition’s mantra throughout the war, and from that day forward, any time a platoon lieutenant, a squadron commander or even a Marine private lost their focus, we all reminded each other of our common focus, common goal and common mission—One Team, One Fight!

I am telling you this story because it epitomizes the need for leadership even when you have the most talented and dominating team in the world. Every team wants to win, and every team needs a leader. It takes leadership to formulate a plan, bring it to life, unify the team, and “make it happen.” Strong leaders focus their teams and make them believe victory is within their grasp. Strong leaders cultivate, teach and mentor their troops. Strong leaders also put their fist down from time to time to solidify the unity of the team. Strong leaders develop a culture that expects to win.

Having worked with hundreds of organizations during my career, during which I have trained, supported and developed leaders, I am aware that many “sales leaders,” particularly at car dealerships, were promoted into their role because they were top-performing sales people, not for their leadership skills. Now this does not mean they necessarily lack the skills required to lead; it just means it was not a prerequisite for the job. By the same token, just because a person can sell does not mean they can lead people.

I believe the future trend for producing world-class standards in sales depends on our ability to effectively develop and lead a team. True sales leadership will not be achieved until sales managers are equipped with the resources, competence and motivation to want to accept the responsibility for developing, training and leading their own sales teams. Until then, Saturday morning sales training sessions are likely to be off-course frustration sessions that are born out of desperation to “hit that target” using spiffs and bonuses rather than a sustainable, planned approach that can be woven seamlessly into the sales manager’s role as a leader.

The majority of sales leaders say they do not have enough time or resources to train and develop their sales teams effectively. In reality, it is because they are so focused on generating results and working the front line that they’ve overlooked their greatest power—the power to achieve high performance from a trained, focused and unified team. That’s an accomplishment that very few managers ever realize and one that takes time, effort, training and practice to achieve.

A high-performance team is one that includes everyone (no matter what role a person plays in the overall process); every team member is important to the success of the overall mission. It’s “One Team, One Fight.” The strength of the team is only as strong as the weakest member. The goal is always to get everyone working to their highest level of ability because the power of the team rests within its members, and the power of the members rests within the team.

7 Skills Required by a Team Member

1. Listening
Strong teams need candor, to the point that the members can be brutally honest with one another. Listening fosters trust, and trust fosters candor.

2. Respecting
Team members respect one another. That’s why I despise and teach against allowing “zingers.” These little jokes and jibes are funny in the moment, but they break down the bonds of a team.

3. Persuasion
Team members need to defend their ideas, while other times they may need to rethink them. The key to persuasion starts with the ability to listen and requires a confident approach and an open mind.

4. Questioning
Always question and interact with the other team members. Never take anything at face value. Ask questions and use your mind.

5. Communication
Team members must have the ability to communicate effectively with one another.

6. Participation
All members of a team must participate actively in order to gain the most value from teamwork. There is no room for standouts.

7. Find Solutions
Effective sales teams stop finding excuses for missing their goals. Instead, they identify and acknowledge problems and focus on finding solutions. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.