Whether in business, or sport, human beings are at the heart of productivity and success. For managers, leading their team and harnessing the support elements around them can be challenging, and as human beings are all different, with different motivations, skills and thought processes, there cannot be a 'one size fits all' when it comes to leading teams. But, we think that there are some vital lessons that can help develop people towards success through leadership, which can be shared through leaders in elite sport and business. So what do some of these look like...?
Those tough conversations
Successful teams follow shared values, and successful leaders recognise this, and guide individuals and teams through values and behaviours that are shared.
When people start to consciously challenge and dismiss these, disruption within teams can be caused. Both in an elite sports team, and within business, this can become toxic. A leader needs to recognise these, and understand that tough, often uncomfortable conversations need to take place to ensure individuals understand the dangers and effects this can have on a team. Leaders need to be prepared to hold and lead these conversations before any progress can be made. The context and style will vary from sport and business of course, but the fundamentals of being prepared to have these dialogues, if employees or athletes go against what are shared values and behaviours can and should be similar.
Values are at the heart of everything
In Mike Carson’s book – ‘The Manager,’ he talks about Arsene Wenger and the importance he puts on setting values that everyone can be accountable and responsible for, and these values should exemplified by the leader on a daily basis. Put simply, to lead an effective team, leaders must build credibility by setting an example of ‘living and dying’ by the values that a team share. Only then can you expect team members to follow them with you.
Inspire, don’t dictate
The best teams bring collective strengths together, and an environment of creativity is created. Set broad boundaries as a leader, make sure individuals know what is acceptable, and what is not, but give them the freedom to express themselves within broad boundaries, find their own path to success, and guide them, don’t tell them – there is a difference. And you will see a difference in the employee/player’s approach and response. Mistakes will be made – but making mistakes is the foundation of learning. Allow team members to make mistakes and learn from them. The fear of making a mistake can disrupt clear thinking, and retract from creativity and innovation.
Don’t jump the gun
As pressurised as work, or competition can be, and as much as instinctive decisions need to be made, try to remember as a leader that you need to set the example and make decisions that truly reflect a team. Only by thinking deeply can this be done. This is why leading a team can be very difficult, as direction requires taking responsibility, and putting yourself in the line of fire. If you search for the right decision, consult with your team, and be a trusted representative of their feelings, you are more likely to build a team that will back you. Making decisions without consultation or challenge from your team, can demotivate a team, and individuals can begin to question the value of their work.
Take them with you
Building a great team needs a leader. But also, don’t forget that a leader needs a team. So as a leader succeeds, the team does so. By sharing success, and recognising the teams’ involvement, you can create an environment that will build more success. Also, if your team knows you will recognise their contribution towards success, they will also understand their contributions to failure and are more likely to take responsibility. So you win and lose together, as one team. Taking the credit and limelight can contribute to team’s leaving you high and dry when it comes to failure, and with individuals shying away from accountability.
Of course there are endless traits and behaviours that leaders share between elite sport and business. If you’d like to make contributions or share your thoughts on this, please get in touch as we always want to hear and share diverse thinking.