“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
I coach a few teams for a local private school. These are junior high (middle school), junior varsity, and high school aged boys and girls. I absolutely love coaching them. The reality is that I have learned more from “coaching” than I have ever been able to “teach or have taught” them. When you goals are only about making sure someone else is successful then you gain a new perspective. Realize I do not need or want a small private league championship. I only want it because that is their goal. This perspective is one that I wanted to share and I believe it is revolutionary to many and is deeply rooted in whether a person is “successful” or not.
When we are talking about a team then we are obviously talking about more than one person. This team can be any number from that point on, anywhere from 2 – 50 or I guess infinity. Let’s make some common generalities or definitions stated so that we all make sure we are thinking the same way.
Teams, Players, Needed Responsibilities:
- Boss – Leader
- Co – Leader
- The Heart – The Hustle and the Inspiration
- The Hard Worker – The Specialist and Will Get Done What No One Else Likes
- The Role Players – Often Multiple Roles but Knows Their Strengths and Focuses on Completing / Competing in those
- In Season and Off Season….
The most important distinction about this perspective and blog post.
Before we break down my beliefs on each team member and the needs of the team let me first distinguish a few things to make sure I am clear. I am a great coach. I am a great coach not because of my abilities but because I will do anything possible to make sure the goals of the team are met. I put the players on the team and their needs above my own ego, pride, need for vanity, needs for acknowledgement, and hard headedness. I did not have “coaching experience” and I had a fairly good understanding of the sports that I was going to be coaching but that was from the perspective as a player.
I had never shown someone else how to play the game of basketball. I had never taught someone how to become a pitcher. I had never trained anyone else how to have the heart of a champion, the mentality of a winner, or the thirst for learning that all great players have. I was out of shape and had not “competed” in sports in over 10 years. I had no plaques, accreditation, or credibility that would make others call me to become a coach. I had a son and daughter participating but were not the start athletes of any of the teams. On paper there was no reason for my success as a coach.
The only thing that ended up mattering was the fact that I was willing to do whatever it took in order to gain the most from this experience. I did that with a total sacrificial heart. I was not getting paid to coach and I had to leave “work” early and miss family time in order to coach. In fact I started because I showed up. I showed up to watch and saw that the coach could use another person just to help. The base of everything that equaled success for this coaching was because they (the players) knew I cared about them. This was far more important than how much I knew.
“Until they know how much you care, they don’t care how much you know” ~ Rex Ryan
Getting Things Done – Reality of a Team
When you first look at a team, even the successful ones, you can see some characteristics of the individuals come through in the team and how those faults or attributes fit into the team.
The problem often, in my opinion, is that we believe that perfect synergy is needed in order to operate a great team. The reality is often though that you need something, someone, or a common enemy. When you have the best team and the most talent then they don’t realize how hard they need to be pushing themselves because everything comes easy… in practice. Then the competition, reality, comes crashing in.
Take a moment to look at a few examples of common enemies that the team can learn to try and overcome or be “against.” A few chances to push yourself because:
- The better team that everything seems to come easy for
- The competition that is equal or is trying hard to beat you
- Each other and roster spots (pecking order)
- Measuring points from previous best
- Ideas of where you should be or where you are going
I realize there are a lot more but let us say for now that this is a good list.
Teams that break down, the break-down of teams:
There are a lot of teams and different situations that teams have to “come together” and times when that moment passes and they “become toxic” to one another. We all remember the “Michael Jordan” moments when he took over the games. Most believe he is one of the best players to ever play basketball. Let’s look deeper and realize that he was a great practice player. He pushed his team and their standards. He raised what they believed “good enough” were for themselves. I remember this one particular video clip where they are running through offensive movements and the pass goes to another player. The player, without defense on the court, was going to dunk and out of nowhere came Michael Jordan to challenge the dunk. He immediately landed from jumping and said, “Great job. Let’s do it again.” Michael was pushing them in every way he could to always do better.
I know at times we have someone make us uncomfortable in team situations. Michael didn’t have to challenge that shot. They didn’t react negatively because they understood that is who is, that is who we need him to be, and that is great for us. Michael was doing this because they all had the same goal, they all wanted the same thing, and they were all willing to do more to gain that goal.
You have to look at the players and the breakdowns of those great teams that Michael was on in order to realize how this was possible. The ego, pride, and vanity that these all stars and future hall of famers had to have “in check” in order to play, compete, and grow in this team. Michael was the Leader but was not alone. He had a coach. That is right. Michael Jordan had a coach. Michael listened, learned, and grew because of his coach. Phil Jackson was a great coach as well but in the beginning it wasn’t Phil.
Michael and the Bulls had an enemy. That enemy changed faces over years but it was the very first one that Michael commented on pushing him and his team to take their training and practices to another level. The “bad boys” of the Detroit Pistons. They handed Chicago losses in the semi-finals and gave those Chicago Bulls a hard game every time they faced each other. They (Bulls) respected their enemy (Pistons) but that didn’t mean they didn’t think they could win. One of those “bad boys” later came to play with the Bulls and helped them go on to win more titles. Dennis “The Worm” Rodman was a great compliment to the needed toughness the Bulls had during Michaels second run of championships.
The Words I hate In Relation to Teams
Synergy. This word is really nerve racking. Highly ambiguous and we each have our own thoughts about what it means. It is catchy as it is newer and not anything we said to our teenage friends. I will use this one word but you can probably think of many more like this. Synergy defined:
The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
We read definitions like this and we think that it means there is no conflict. We skip over the word interaction. We don’t even think about reality of people working together. We get this “happy place” thought where someone really smart knows the perfect path and everyone just works as hard as they can to complete the upward spiral of this great team. This visualization often has all the team members equipped with the perfect tools, knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to complete the task in order to gain the “win.”
- The best teams are healthy. That means they have conflict. This conflict is what pushes each of them to get better.
- The best teams are healthy. That means they don’t have all the answers but are willing to drive themselves to finding them.
- The best teams are healthy. That means they focus on the goal at hand more than the feelings of the individual team members.
- The best teams are healthy. That means they are constant and consistent. That timing is irreplaceable and is more than a sometimes, or one day if.
- The best teams are healthy. That means they are not perfect and not one of them has everything needed in order to be a perfect team. Their differences are what makes them great together. This is often where the conflict come from or originates from.
- The best teams are healthy. That means they are passionate and caring. They care enough to mince words and they care enough to not mince words.
- The best teams are healthy. That means they communicate even when they are difficult conversations.
- The best teams are healthy. That means they have goals, enemies, checkpoints, measurements, and roles.
- The best teams are healthy. That means they have inspiration, motivation, and are not always at the top of their game as individuals.
Why this blog post?
Trust is the most difficult aspect of a team. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with the word. This trust means that even when you don’t like the other person on your team that you are willing to push through that emotional response you are having and do what is best for the team. This often means “having it out” and gaining a composure. You realize you are not complete and perfect and neither are your teammates.
I am writing this blog post today because of the complexity of a team. I see this as the ultimate sacrificial way of gaining momentum as a business. You have to put yourself aside and think of the team first.
Today is Easter. That ultimate sacrifice is inspiring me to write about what in my opinion is the most sacrificial point of business.
The Terrible Twos of a Team
Teams can often become toxic and need a new perspective in order to gain back composure. This is why team building events etc… are a big part of “corporate” outings. The reality is that most of the time you need a dinner or get together where everyone can clear the air. I often see teams that are toxic because not everyone is clear on the vision. They are caught in their own personal role or accomplishments within the team. It is difficult when earnings and a family is behind the team member. Their best interest is whatever helps their family the most. This becomes clouded because short term, financial lifts, become the stopping point of a team because the long term, wins and accomplishments of the team, are sacrificed for those individuals.
I hope you enjoyed this and I will expand on it more at a later date. Let me know your favorite teams, the sticking points of your teams, or any big wins for your teams!