I spent some time this month watching the IAAF World Track & Field Championships and was reminded about some key components of great teamwork. I was a runner and a pole vaulter back in my high school and college days, and occasionally would be asked to compete in a distance relay with three teammates during specific meets. I remember how hard we worked on exchanges of the baton before we would compete in those events. We had to be crisp with those exchanges because the hand-offs need to be perfect or you will drop the baton and lose all of your momentum, and will be unable to compete effectively.
Planning and Preparation – There is no substitute for developing a great practice routine to ensure that you are ready to compete and athletically fit. The same is true in the field of commerce. You owe it to your teammates to improve the collaboration, right? Of course, so, invest in advance to improve your performance. If you want to compete, you have to do your part to ensure that you are well-fed and well-rested to allow you the stamina and mental clarity to be at your best. Likewise, it helps to spend some time planning ahead for the challenges you are likely to face. Track teams that run relays practice their starts and their passing of the baton so that they reduce the chances that the baton pass will be dropped or force one of the runners to break stride (which almost certainly means a loss of a place or a loss of the race). Just like track teams, we need to be ready in the world of business and ensure that our hand-off of the baton is crisp and keeps us in the race.
Communication – Great teams must communicate about what is most important and share ‘need to know’ information with one another to ensure the team’s success, whether that is a track team in a relay or a commercial team in competition for a new client opportunity. Everything that happens for a team comes about because of conversations. Conversations provide the opportunity for teammates to get on the same page and to be prepared to handle whatever comes their way. Of course, conversations are an element of a strong relationship, and relationships are always based on trust. To be able to communicate effectively over the long term, you must conduct yourself in ways that will lead to your teammates trusting that you will do as you say and say as you will do. Be sure to communicate simply, briefly, and clearly, and be sure to listen actively and attentively, so that you don’t miss any of that important ‘need to know’ information. Conversations are especially vital when the competition starts, and you are on the field of battle. Talk to one another and minimize the risk of miscommunication or an error of omission. When in doubt, talk it out.
Be Realistic, But Be Positive – Everybody has probably been on a team with someone who is cynical, sarcastic, or negative. Some of us have probably suffered through being on a team with someone who was “all three at once” and tested their teammate’s optimism and resilience. It’s important that you be realistic when you’re working with a Team, but it is often more important that you be optimistic and positive. No team ever wants to be dragged down by pessimism or fatalism. We’ve all had the chance to see how believing in yourself pays off in athletics and we’ve all seen how it pays off in the world of business as well. Being positive beats being negative every time. It’s more hopeful, it’s more fun, and it allows us to be open to the magic of good fortune. I believe we attract what is happening in our minds, and I believe that having a positive thought in your mind will attract positive results to you and the team. Challenge your teammates and encourage them by letting them know that you believe in them. Then watch them compete and win.
Michael is an award-winning Business Advisor and Executive Development Coach who loves to help his business clients to lead Transformative Change in their organizations. Transformative changes leave an organization in a better place than where we started. If you would like to engage Michael to help you to drive Transformative Change in your organization, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael will be delighted to send you his Best Practices document that highlights 25 great Change Management concepts.