Business Success and Failure is a Team Sport – The Art & Science of Managing Teams

The Image: Jacques, the manager of a huge large pipe manufacturing business describes team dynamics.

“A pipe, no matter how thick or long it is, is only as strong and reliable as its thinnest, weakest part. All our pipes come out looking great on the surface. It’s only when we put them through our scanners that we can see whether the pipe is fit for shipping. So, too, like our teams. We only know how competent, strong and functional they are under the stresses and strains of everyday manufacturing demands. Sometimes they just blow up!”

What A Team Is: A group of individuals working in sync, with competence and motivation to accomplish a common objective. A high performing team has a dynamic, sometimes conflicted, energy that propels it forward in the service of achieving its purposes.

A Group is Like: A bunch of people on a bus. All heading in the same direction. Driven by the bus driver. People don’t talk with each other. They get on and off as they please. The only commonality is the vehicle.

Key Action Words/Phrases of A Team: Accountability. Self-responsibility. Conflict. Problem-solving. Clear Objectives. Formal leader. Informal leaders. Celebration. Temporary. Individual roles are critical to and subordinate to team goals.

“I” is each of the parts that forms the “we” that pull together to make it about the bigger “us.”

Working Images of Teams: Cirque de Soleil. Top Gun. An aircraft carrier. A surgical team. A flash mob dance.

Dysfunctional Groups: The Senate. Detroit Lions Football Team.

Each individual on a team is responsible for the approach, achieving the assigned goals and the internal processes that helps or hinders progress.

Business is a team sport. Actually life is a team sport — a fact which many people ignore at their peril.

A team without a leader is like a child without a supervising adult. The best teams are self-governed and enforce their own peer-based discipline and they have a formal leader to guide them. The Miami dolphins without Don Shula would not have had a no-loss season. Microsoft with Bill Gates? Apple sans Steve jobs?

A team generates and regulates a sense of unity among its disparate individuals. It also leverages individual performances into team accountability and outcomes.

Without an effective management team a company will not likely be able to develop its teams.

Incompetence flows downhill.

Policies and corporate strategies do not a high performance team culture make.

Managers, as team leaders, have the tension-filled, opposing challenge of exercising the right authority and inclusiveness. That’s the art.

It is best when a team sets its own goals and processes based upon the inputs from its members. That’s the science.

A well-mixed team made up of individuals with differing style and skills, and who are committed to the team, can produce for the organization.

A high functioning team is flexible enough to shift – sometimes smoothly, sometimes with turbulence — leadership roles among the members to fit the situation.

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Top Ten Reasons Kids Should Play Team Sports in the Summer

As a father of a 5 year old and a 7 year old, this is my first summer watching my boys play team sports. They played T Ball earlier in the summer and they play flag football now. Its great that they are able to play on the same team for logistics, but I’m sure that ends in the next couple of years. I’ve watched our boys take a lot from their team sports experience and I’d like to share with other parents what I’ve seen:

10. Teaches kids to “be on time” – both coaching staffs were very adamant that practice started at a certain time and held all kids and parents accountable. As the seasons progress, I’ve noticed our boys getting themselves ready for practice at the appropriate time.

9. Builds friendships – This is an easy one as we’ve seen our boys make lots of new friends, attend birthday parties, and basically just smile when they see their friends outside of practice/games.

8. Hand/Eye Coordination – Too many children are perfecting their hand/eye coordination by means of video games. Simple activities such as throwing a ball, catching a ball, and hitting a baseball do wonders for motor skills.

7. Creates self pride – When our kids got their jerseys with their own name on the back, the smile on their face was unforgettable. They really felt important and it created confidence.

6. Teaches kids that bullying is unacceptable – In both football and baseball this season, there were a few cases of some of the “alpha players” trying to assert themselves at the expense of the younger/smaller players. Both coaching staffs immediately addressed this with both the kids and the parents and the problem went away. Bullying is a terrible problem in schools and the more kids that can be turned off this path at an early age, the better.

5. Coaches are more like teachers than parents are. – As much as we try, we always see our children in a different light as an outsider….and that’s a good thing. Coaches, like teachers tend to treat the kids equally and hold them all accountable for their actions and responsibilities.

4. Kids are learning Math and don’t even realize it! – For all of you former football players out there, you’ll likely remember that each “hole” (gap between lineman) is assigned a number telling the running back where to run the ball and the rest of the team how to block a play. As the kids learned this, I watched several kindergarten level students now able to count by 2’s as that is the way the football numbering system works. Also, when coaches teach defensive players to run at an angle where the player with the ball is going to be, not where he is at….kids are getting introduced to geometry. As per my earlier blog entry…physics is everywhere as well!

3. Respecting elders – Talking back and yelling at coaches and other parents is not tolerated in most team sport environments and at the young ages of the players, this tends to stick with them away from the game field.

2. Teamwork – Team sports are a great way to teach kids how to work together for a common goal. Specifically, our kid’s football coach requires all kids to run their laps as a group (emphasizing that this is not a race, but rather teaching them to do things together) and has them chant and do their warmups together as a group.

1. Exercise – Above all else, in the video game/tv dominated world we live in, I’m elated watching my kids get a couple hours of outside activity including cardio work, stretching, fun games, agility tasks, etc. Remember when we used to spend every summer day outside? This is a great way to show our kids what was great about our childhood and keep them in shape at the same time.

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