Creating a culture where people can remain authentic to themselves while focusing on a team goal is one of the most significant challenges faced by business leaders. In professional sport, coaches and their support teams are tasked with taking athletes – often at the top of their game – and bringing them into a culture, not only of winning, but also of group cohesiveness.
To say sport is just about winning is a gross simplification of a complex management puzzle, which is also faced by senior executives and managers. The responsibility of coaches is not only to promote an attitude of success. If that were the case, all momentum would be destroyed in the event of failure. Here are our top five cultural lessons from sport that can be applied to business.
1. Note Areas for Improvement, Not Failures
Once the game is over, there is no need to berate players for missing tackles or for making bad judgement calls. After all, if we have the right players on the team; they already understand what they've done wrong, and reminding them would only serve to impact on their confidence, which is the last thing a coach would want to do. When sitting down with the team after a loss, we talk about areas for improvement, things the other team did well, and parts of the game that demonstrated our strengths. In this way, through patience, we will create a culture of constant improvement and an understanding that while there will always be something that didn't go perfectly, that's okay, as long as it's worked on for the next game. After all, that's what training is for.
In business, managers often make it their job to point out areas to improve, but frame it in such a way that the team member ends up feeling like they've failed. Just like on the sports field, a culture of attacking failure means that nobody will be prepared to take risks, and the confidence of individuals and, as a result, the team, will slump. Constant improvement is far less glamorous than instant success, but it's the only sure-fire way to sustainable achievement.