I've been pondering what makes one team more efficient and effective than another team. By no means is this a scientific undertaking, It is very much my musings on observations I have made about teams I have been a part of in one capacity or another.
Mission. Goals. Standards.
Teams with a clearly defined mission tend to be successful. The mission statement defines who we are and what we are about. Separate from a mission statement are a team's goals. These can and should range from short term goals to long range goals. The goals can be viewed as stepping stones toward fulfilling the mission. Standards are how we are going to go about achieving our goals. What behaviors are acceptable and which are unacceptable.
Communication and Respect.
Among the standards successful teams share are effective communication and respect. All opinions are welcomed and valued. Beginning in the 1980's a cottage industry came to the fore that focuses on team bonding activities. Both the corporate world and the sports world has taken advantage of such activities to promote effective communication, conflict resolution, the organizational structure and decision making process. The underlying premise is every team member is acknowledged and valued for the contributions they make towards the team's goals and fulfilling the team's mission,
Cooperation and Teamwork
Together Everyone Achieves More. Effective teams have a spirit of cooperation and collaboration. All voices are heard in the decision making process. Team members who trust the decision-making process tend to cooperate even the when a decision is not entirely to their liking. When teamwork extends beyond the field and into every facet of the team buy-in to team philosophy, mission and goals comes much easier.
Appearance and Character
A former coach of mine was fond of saying, "If you want to be a champion, you need to look the part." At first I thought this meant we had to tuck in our shirts and pull up our socks. I came to realize the dress code was only a very small part of it. How our team was perceived and how the team perceived itself was the lesson being imparted to us. Team rules and standards of conduct. Conduct detrimental to the team mission, goals and standards cannot be tolerated. In short, the personal decision making process begins with, if your behavior or conduct would reflect negatively on the team, don't do it.
My high school coaching mentor addressed attendance in one brief sentence, Attendance is mandatory and will be punctual. One unexcused absence or tardiness resulted in suspension. A repeat offence resulted in dismissal from the team. This might sound strict, but Coach understood that disruptions to the team caused by unexcused absences and tardiness reduced productivity. Unexcused absences affect and impact the entire team in a negative sense. Being recognized as a dependable teammate is a prerequisite to earning trust. Dealing consistently with misconduct in a manner positive to the team's mission, goals and standards directly impacts trust, respect and productivity.
In many ways it is how a team structure is organized that determines its Attitude, Work Ethic and Productivity. If the organization is sub par, then productivity will likely be less efficient than it should be. Ownership is a shared responsibility. If the team is set up as a dictatorship with the coach in the lead role it will be difficult for team members to fully buy-in to his process because they will not view it as their process. It's difficult to fully enjoy an experience when it's not yours to enjoy. Ownership or lack thereof also impacts ones motivation. If you feel ownership of the team, you are much more likely to be self-motivated as team performance will reflect directly on you as a member of that team.
To end I will tell the story of Alex. I was coaching a club team comprised of the very best players in the area. I hand selected this team not only on talent, but on attitude, character and maturity. Still, early on the team was not performing at peak level. Then we faced a disciplinary issue involving a member of the team. We discussed the situation with the team captains. When an agreement was reached as to what the discipline would be our lead captain, Alex, took charge. The captains, led by Alex, met with the individual. They described the conduct detrimental to the team and informed the offender of his discipline. I thought we might lose the player, but we did not. He was not happy, but it came to be a turning point for both the player and the team as a whole. The team rose to new heights and went on to a tremendously successful season. The player who had committed the violation of team conduct became a very productive team member who contributed significantly to our success.
The team captains took responsibility and addressed the situation and individual on their own, but with full support of the coaching staff. I spoke with the individual in question after the captains had addressed him, but this was only necessary so that he understood I supported the captains decision. I had their backs on this.
If we had not upheld the teams mission and standards at that point in time our season might well have been lost. Thankfully we had an organizational structure in place that allowed us to address the issue with positivity and within the framework of expectations and the standards of how we wanted our team to be viewed and remembered.