Silos, egos, chest beating, throwing under the bus, misalignment and blaming each other. These descriptors top the list when I am asked to work with dysfunctional leadership teams.
It’s far more rare to hear the following six statements in the business world, but these are what winning sports teams say about one another. We can learn a lot from the world of sports as to how we can and should function as winning leadership team members.
It’s not about me, but the team.
It’s fascinating to hear this statement come out of a star player’s mouth. Are they being humble, not trying to draw attention to themselves? Or do they really believe what they are saying?
When our focus and intention is around winning as a team, we actually have a better chance of doing so. When the team is my focus, I cross the silo, embrace what’s best for the organization (vs. my own P&L), and am not satisfied until we all win. My performance is always less than the team’s performance, and I am not satisfied until the collective team wins. The last thing we would ever do is let down our team members.
I have your back.
Isn’t it great when we hear this? It’s a statement of trust, confidence and safety. We don’t have to worry about the failure, blame or shame that are unfortunately part of many team members’ experiences when something goes wrong.
When I ask my executive coaching clients about their best team experiences, this trait always comes up. It was implicit in the best team they ever worked on. Champion team members know that not everyone will play their best game on every occasion. They raise their game when someone is having a rough game to get the winning result.
We presume the best intent.
Think of a recent ESPN post-game player interview. When was the last time the winning player stated, “I don’t think my teammates wanted to win”? It doesn’t happen. When something blows up at work, what’s the next thing that happens? The blame game quickly follows.
The starting point for great leadership teams is that they always presume that everyone on the team is well-intentioned. We want the same thing. We want the best for one another. No one ever intentionally sabotages their colleague or “throws them under the bus.”
We believe in one another.
I recently heard an Olympic game-winning soccer player say that they never stopped believing, both in the outcome and one another. It’s been a long time since I have heard that in a boardroom. When times get rough, many leaders lose their belief and confidence in one another, instead of rallying with one another through the tougher times. Why is it that so many leadership team members compete with one another than against the competition? Perhaps they have lost belief in their ability to win as a team.
They make me better.
One of the best compliments said of Michael Jordan by his teammates was that he made them all better. What if we could say that of the colleagues on our leadership team?
It requires high trust and candid feedback, and it requires honest assessments of our long and short attributes. Business management writer Patrick Lencioni notes that vulnerability can lead to increased trust in teams. When we trust one another, we tell the truth and the truth makes us better individually and as a team.
We disagree with one another.
The benefit of a great sports coaching staff is that everyone comes with varying approaches, ideas and strategies about how to win. A dissenting vote on any team is a sign of team health. We were born with and develop different points of view. That’s the benefit of having a team — we want to see business issues and opportunities from all sides. Strong teams have many views expressed, discussed, challenged and debated. The diversity of thought and opinion is sought after to gain the best result for the team.
When it’s not working with your leadership team, watch the next post-game interview from a winning sports team. You’ll be inspired to try these approaches that great teams exhibit to win the game.
By Evan Roth
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