The last two weeks December and beginning week of January are an extravaganza of sports; I myself spent two days this past weekend at a college hockey tournament. The championship game came down to a shootout, exciting indeed. On the drive home, I thought back to my high school teaching days when I coached sports as well.
A few years ago, I happened to meet a former player, and in the course of conversation he mentioned to me that after more than 10 years in the business world, the only time in his life when he felt that he was a member of a real team was when he played on that team.
It’s unfortunate that often there is no real sense of team in a business. In reality, building a team in business is as challenging as building a sports team. One fundamental that is necessary in both arenas is instilling a sense of discipline in the team. There are five components to building a sense of discipline in a team: vision, mission, communication, performance and accountability.
An oft repeated saying is, “If you don’t know where you are going, that’s likely where you will end up.” A team without a vision is like a rudderless ship. A team vision clearly lays out where the team ought to go and what it should accomplish. While there is often collaboration on the development of vision, it is clearly the leader’s (coach’s) responsibility to be sure that the vision is properly articulated to the team. When each team members knows exactly where the team is going, the foundation for success is in place.
Mission, often confused with vision, is really the road map on how to achieve the vision. In a sports setting as in business, this includes both the strategy on how to achieve success, as well as the “playbook” for how the team will operate. As a coach, I often told my team that they were like a chain; only as strong as the weakest link. If each of them did not know exactly what to do, then the chain would break. As well, like the agile company, understanding what is happening around you enables you to adapt quickly to changing game situations.
Communication is key to any team; communication between the leader and the team as well as communication among team members. In larger team situations, such as football, the head coach cannot do it all alone. Therefore, the head coach must not only communicate well with the assistant coaches (read management), but must prepare them to communicate with the rest of the team. In the heat of the game, communication must be two ways; coaches helping players and players informing coaches on what is happening on the field of play. So it must be with a business team.
Performance and accountability are a mated pair. Each member of a team has a role to play and they must be well prepared to perform in that role. Once the game begins, each player must also be accountable for what they are doing in order to be successful. Feedback systems on performance should be in place so that each member of the team can be accountable.
Now, this is where I might part company from some of the accountability exercises I used a coach: running extra wind sprints might not work too well in a business setting, but clear feedback on a person’s responsibilities and how well they performed them, along with coaching and training in order to help people succeed can go a long way to improving performance.
My best wishes to all for success in 2010!