Sports Teams and Winning Teams

I am writing this post after Spain beat Italy in Euro 2012. They are the first team to win three major international tournaments (Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup, and Euro 2012) in a row. They are also being talked about as one of the best of all time. It is always difficult to compare teams across eras. It has happened in cricket as well when Steve Waugh's Australian team was hailed as the greatest ever. What makes these teams click is interesting.
The first step towards building winning teams is to have the right players on the field of play. If we analyze a lot of the top sports teams from history we notice that all of them have a great set of players who complement each other. We should also keep in mind that it is not always the team full of superstars that wins. The most important point in the selection of a team is to ensure different skill sets which are required for ultimate victory. Once we have the right players on the field it makes the job of winning a lot easier.
The second step for a successful team is Team bonding which means everyone in the team has to feel part of the team. They should all have a common purpose towards the victory of the team rather than individual glory. This is true of any team not only sports. Every team member should know the others at an individual level. The true hallmark of a great leader is that he or she knows the strengths and weakness of each individual in the team. With that knowledge they then assign specific activities to align with the strengths of each individual which keeps everyone motivated and happy.
The third step is all team members should have excellent coordination and understanding within themselves. For example the one who scores the goal makes all the headlines but if it were not for the other players passing and getting him the scoring opportunity there would be no winners. So sacrificing for the team cause is an important factor. No player should shoot for individual glory and that’s why team sports like soccer are different from individual sports like tennis (Singles). Team sports require every individual to be committed to the cause and put their personal agenda on the back burner.
The fourth step is all winning teams possess an incredible work ethic and train harder than all the other teams. Only when teams practice together they can understand where they can improve. Designing practice sessions specifically targeting areas of improvement is a characteristic of all top teams. They also ensure that any dissent within the team is handled amicably off the cameras whereas teams which are losing tend to take their fights into the open.
The fifth step is all winning teams possess an incredible level of self-belief and have the capacity to be resilient in the toughest of situations. They don’t sulk in the face of adversity and always welcome opportunities to show their character. There is a reason why we have coaches for all sports teams because there is always a need for encouragement even if you are a top player. Each team should have a coach or mentor who can give positive reinforcement to each individual in the team.
The sixth step is to have a celebration routine where the team acknowledges each other after a goal or point is scored. This is an important part of developing team camaraderie and ensuring immediate recognition is available for the team to celebrate. This also ensures the same actions are repeated to get even more recognition. Celebration is the icing on the cake for a team to know that they have done something significant.
Finally winning teams are happy teams and relaxed. They ensure that they don’t lose their cool when things don’t go their way. Instead they focus on what is within their control. There is no team which is going to keep winning always. The only thing teams have in their control is their ability to give their best and then stay calm irrespective of the outcome.
I think the sporting analogy holds good for software teams as well. All the above points can apply to all work teams as well.


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