What We Think
What sports taught me about teamwork
November 10, 2020
“If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”
Whether in sports or in business, the success of an organisation is always dependant on the team. Even in an ‘individual sport’, there is a whole team of coaches, nutritionists, doctor and many more individuals behind that one athlete – and his or her success is dependent on the team, and not solely on the athlete’s capabilities.
A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to play a team sport before focussing on my career. I use the word ‘lucky’ because there is no better feeling than being part of a unified team, particularly in terms of the comradery of the individuals on that team. You always know that, no matter what, your team mates always have your back, and you always have theirs. You also know that you can trust your team mates blindly, because you are constantly working on one, common goal, winning.
For some reason, we see workplace teams very differently to the way we see sports teams. We expect colleagues at work to be formal with one another, particularly with the employer – we expect decision making to take place at the top level, which is, in most cases, imposed on the less senior individuals. We don’t expect that an employee and employer should be friends, but a certain professional distance should be maintained. However, we expect the total opposite from sports team.
Whilst, during my playing career, I always had a boss, in terms of my coaches, I was always extremely close with every one of them – we always used to discuss different ways of playing depending on the opponent we were facing – we had a very close relationship. Win or lose, players and coaches used to meet up for a couple of beers – because being together, outside of the game or work, is also what being a team is all about.
The same is true of my teammates – I always knew they had my back, and we never used to question each other’s loyalty, because the obsession was one, winning. We would do anything it takes to get there. If I messed up, I always knew my teammates would make up for it, and there was never a question about whether this was part of their responsibilities. We, undoubtedly, became best of friends, and today, more than 10 years after I stopped playing, I still have very close relationships with most of them.
The relationship between colleagues at work should be the same. There should be this constant energy and drive to win, which in this case, would mean to achieve the goals and purpose of the organisation. There should be that comradery between colleagues, and knowing that everyone will have your back, at all times.
The same passion we expect to see within a sports team, should be seen between work colleagues. It is only that passion which will make teams achieve great things and change the world, whether in sports or in business.