Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. - Henry Ford
Teams come in all shapes and sizes. Over the years I’ve been a member of many teams at work and in sport. Essentially, I’ve been involved in both high performing teams and teams who have struggled to function cohesively. I know that business and sporting teams cannot be treated the same way because there are particular aspects where they’re uniquely different ie. passion, a sense of belonging to a tribe etc. However, there are also principles that can apply to both.
The theme of teams is topical for me because for the past 2 weeks I’ve had the pleasure doing something very different to my normal day to day job. I’ve been in the USA as an Assistant Coach for a basketball team of 10 Australian boys who have aspirations of gaining scholarships with US colleges. The boys played 3 tournaments in front of college coaches and recruiters. While we played the games as a team, the players had to balance between team play and standing out individually. It was quite a tricky situation to manage and in a way it’s not all that dissimilar to what can happen with individuals in the work environment.
I observed the following 5 areas during this US adventure that are also relevant to a work environment:
Build an allowance into timeframes – If there were agreed times to meet in the hotel lobby, someone would find a way to be late. This can happen with deadlines at work. The short-term workaround is to plan for it, but the longer-term answer is to fix it by embedding a culture of accountability.
Adjust plans if necessary – Despite the best plans, situations can change beyond our control that we need to adjust for. Google maps with live traffic was an absolute time saver for us because we didn’t know Los Angeles freeways were congested. Where can you exploit technology or shortcuts at work?
Efficiency is important – Simply put the better basketball players are more efficient. They make fewer mistakes and convert a greater percentage of their field goal attempts. Efficient workers leverage efficiency by achieving outcomes in less time which flows onto margin expansion for businesses.
Keep an eye on the bigger picture – Setbacks can happen along the way. The players couldn’t let a great or poor performance in an individual game detract from performing at the next game. The goal of a college scholarship was unlikely to be determined by just 1 game. Workers can have days that don’t pan out the way they’d imagined and need to refocus on goals from time to time.
Enjoy the experience – The opportunity to play basketball in the USA was potentially a life changing experience for the boys. It wouldn’t have been as fulfilling if the boys didn’t enjoy themselves along the way. Work doesn’t have to be mundane. How we engage with it determines how we view it.
High performing teams consist of outstanding individuals who work well together and respect each other while sharing a common purpose. I know I won’t forget the experiences of the past 2 weeks and hope each of the boys get to realise their dreams.