Watching football has become a new activity for me and I love it for a few reasons. It gives my husband and I time to spend together routing for our favorite team, the Buffalo Bills, it gives me an excuse to drink wine on a Sunday afternoon 😊 and it piques my curiosity about leadership and teams.
Personally, I have never participated in a team sport other than a volleyball bar league. Not so sure that really counts when you start the game by shotgunning beers. Hey, don’t judge. Back in the late 1980s and I was young and fun. And maybe a little drunk LOL!!
Now that I am an adult and overly responsible I get excited about leadership and the performance of teams. Hence my recent interest in football and my spiked curiosity about the connection between winning sports teams and winning organizational teams. In my role as a leadership coach, I am always exploring new ways to be more effective in my work with my clients.
In my recent experience with sports teams, I can see there are many similarities to organizational teams.
Here is a list of ten things winning teams do to prepare for game day:
- Talent Development – developing people according to their strengths and natural-born talents.
- Coaching– which is fundamental to talent development. Working individually or with the team to coach players to achieve their greatest potential. Guiding, supporting, and giving candid feedback.
- Recruitment-spending time and resources to ensure the team/organization is bringing on the best talent to achieve the goal. Knowing with clarity who is the best fit players are and what skill sets will lead to the most wins.
- Use of a Playbook- in business it’s known as the organizational SOPs (standard operating procedures). A playbook provides a detailed account of how the “game” is played. When the playbook is studied and followed by the team expectations are clear, behaviors, actions, and outcomes are established. Each play knows how to contribute to the win.
- Practice– in sports this is an obvious part of preparing to win the game. But in business how much practice is happening? Is the organizational team, reading and studying “plays”, role-playing and preparing for all opportunities or obstacles, running drills practicing what to do, say, how to behave in every scenario?
- Execution – effective execution is the combination of effective coaching, use of the playbook, and practice. Vital to the achievement of any “win”.
- Accountability- on a sports team each player is accountable to participate on the team. The same should be true of an organizational team. Are all the individuals contributing to the results? Are they upholding their role and responsibility to the team to help the team win?
- Toughness and Determination- It happens in sports all the time, pain, losing games, trials, and tribulations. Sports teams lose all the time. But they rally together listen to the feedback and get their minds straight for the next game. Business is not easy! Toughness and resilience are two traits that are critical for becoming an A Player in both team sports and business.
- Discipline- Is all about focus and consistency. Sports teams practice for months in preparation to play. They are disciplined to continually improve their skills and knowledge making them stronger, faster, and smarter than the competition. Why should organizational teams be any different?
- Scorekeeping– In sports keeping score is how success is determined. In business, keeping score is about knowing what works to achieve a win. Leaders are responsible for paying attention to the activities and behaviors that lead to results. Keeping score is not a practice of managing by spreadsheets it’s a practice of knowing exactly what steps need to be taken to become a successful business.
As I reflected on this list, I began to ask myself first and foremost as a coach am I clear about the goal the team is trying to achieve? In sports the goal is obvious; to win the game with the winning score. In business, it’s not quite that simple. In business, winning is certainly a priority but it does not come in the form of a final score. When working with organizational teams it is essential that each player is clear about their role and responsibilities and how they contribute to the end goal.
Studying the success of sports teams and their leadership has enlightened me about a few things I can be doing better in my coaching practice. Starting at the end and ensuring everyone is clear about the goal. Then following through on all 10 things teams need to do to win.