Lessons from the Pitch: What Business Leaders Can Learn from Sports Teamwork

Behind the triumphs of every successful club, there is usually a leader who knows exactly how to piece the perfect puzzle together. In this respect, business owners and managers have a similar task to sports coaches. They need to guide a team of employees towards one common goal with commitment, efficiency and a sense of unity.

Here, we take a look at some of the effective ways in which athletes and coaches boost team development while highlighting how this may benefit the world of business.

Confidence and trust in each other. In sports, teammates rely on each other and will go above and beyond to support their colleagues. This is because they are confident that when it’s their turn to face a challenge, their teammates will aid them too.

Therefore, instilling a sense of trust in a team can increase instances of mutual support which favor the squad or the business as a whole. Indeed, your people will be more likely to be open about their experiences and seek help when they need it.

As a manager, you act as your team’s coach. Keeping a high moral standard will secure the trust of your staff so they can rely on you to lead them out of tricky situations. In turn, they will do anything to always take your side and strive to make your business thrive.

Good communication and celebrating achievements. Any sports team in action will communicate constantly, signaling the presence of an opponent and advising on the next move. The coach acts as a motivator, offering instructions as the game unfolds.

Businesses should value communication as a vital tool too. Indeed, outlining tasks and purpose in a transparent manner has an array of advantages. For instance, it can increase employee engagement, improve productivity and boost people’s job satisfaction.

What’s more, a manager should not shy away from celebrating their team’s accomplishments. After the match, coaches often publicly gratify the best-performing players for their efforts. It is essential for business leaders to recognize employees’ hard work to boost morale and self-confidence.

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Make space for mistakes. A key ingredient that contributes to a team’s success is psychological safety. This refers to someone’s perception of taking a risky decision and, in turn, the response their teammates will have to taking that risk. In a psychologically safe environment, employees feel free to throw ideas and ask for help. Conversely, in a rigid workplace, they may provide little contribution in the fear of making mistakes.

In sports, coaches condone players’ errors, especially if made with good intentions. For example, if a tricky pass towards a free teammate doesn’t go to plan, the team could suffer a counter-attack and may even end up conceding. But if they succeed in their intent, it could give the squad a goal-scoring opportunity to win the game.

Likewise, business employees should be allowed to make mistakes. People can grow in a workplace where they have space to learn from their own errors rather than feeling uncertainty or shame. What’s more, an out-of-the-box idea could work wonders for the success of a specific project.

As a business manager, allow people to take a chance, and don’t blame them if the end result is not always ideal.

Embrace and adapt to change. Athletes change clubs on a regular basis. Equally, business employees are likely to move to a place offering career-changing opportunities. Based on new arrivals, the coach and their team may have to adapt to a slightly different style of play and shift responsibilities. This may be daunting at first but can lead to success in the long term.

A business leader should cherish changes and new possibilities. It is an opportunity for the company to explore new horizons and benefit from the knowledge of talented hires. In fact, with new knowledge and competencies within the team, you can start exploring different paths. Therefore, responding flexibly to diverse scenarios can truly benefit the business, allowing employees to leave a tangible mark.

There is no hiding that business leaders can learn from sports teamwork. From nurturing trust and making space for mistakes to embracing change and nailing your communication, there are several factors that managers should take into consideration.

Dominic Fitch

Dominic Fitch
Dominic Fitch is head of creative change at Impact International, an experiential learning company.

Dominic Fitch

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