In Summary

What I find truly intriguing is how in those 90 minutes of every match the teams experience the dynamics that most teams in our institutions go through in years. The dynamics range from fatigue to discouragement, to confidence, back to self-doubt, then onto a bit of self-belief, to full on confidence and spot on execution.

There are numerous points of convergence and learning for institutions from sports. Our airwaves right now is fully captured by one of the most valued tournament in sporting history.

What I find truly intriguing is how in those 90 minutes of every match the teams experience the dynamics that most teams in our institutions go through in years. The dynamics range from fatigue to discouragement, to confidence, back to self-doubt, then onto a bit of self-belief, to full on confidence and spot on execution.

The psychological battle played out in each match is unbelievable, a monster roller coaster! It makes or breaks. Often it is surprising, almost surreal how little moments of success and pep talks turns around the performance of a team from lacklustre to amazing. That moment that teams are able or unable to turn a corner during the match almost dramatically, demonstrate the fact that belief and doubt are highly contagious. This being the case, how aware are we of these dynamics and their impact on our teams in our work environments?

How often do we see a team working on a critical project defeated even before they begin? When the pressure for delivery is at the highest are you the leader who invests everything in marshaling your team to believe that they can deliver what they have been prepared and equipped to do?

Do you remain the voice of reason that compels the team to ignore the doubters and negativity? Do you help the team to remain focused on what they need to deliver? Or are you the leader who falls apart and instinctively starts searching inwards for whom must carry the blame?

Sadly, the stories in most of our work environments are littered with leaders spending too much energy and time blame apportioning and creating negative situations that do not help the team progress when it matters the most. We all know of colleagues that are the first to ask for detailed write ups of who did what wrong, not for the purpose of debriefing and learning but to apportion blame for failure since they cannot tamper with their narrative that leaders are ‘never’ wrong!

How can we plant the seeds of belief and watch them multiply contagiously?

What if we were to take some lessons from some of the matches we are no doubt watching? What if we embraced those of our team members that made errors not by design by because to err is human? What if we treated them like the players who missed their penalty kicks despite having practised to no end, not because they are terrible footballers but because well, these things happen?

Some points to consider that can help us learn how to get our teams to excel and deliver even when the chips are down are;

1.Acknowledge that mistakes happen. Sometimes it is not because our teams members are not working as hard as they should but because they are human and mistakes happen.

2.Learn how to be the Hope- Dealer-in-Chief. To become the voice that picks up the ones that are struggling and help them believe that they have it in them to deliver. Be the voice that still says ‘yes we can’.

3.Master how to still your nerves. The last thing you need to do as a leader of the team is fall apart in anxiety. The team looks up to you and anxiety, as is, disbelief is contagious.

4.Have a robust narrative of success. Your team will not be served well by your succumbing to self-doubt. Though Winston Churchill knew that he would suffer massive casualties in the Second World War he had the presence of mind to understand that pushing such a narrative was not going to serve his people during that war. He recognised that his people were looking to him to provide the leadership, courage and faith needed to see them through the war. His way with words chiefly made him such a formidable wartime leader.

5.All for one and one for all. In difficult circumstances self-preservation can overwhelmingly prevail, everyone looks out for themselves. As the leader of the pack, resist this attitude at all costs and let your team observe you act in ways that communicate loudly that the team’s or institutional interests rise above individual interests.

6.Blow off steam. I am a huge advocate of building fun time into the institutional plans as part of strategy. There is little that laughter cannot cure. It is critical that opportunities for letting hair down and having fun are created to enhance the team’s performance.

Ultimately, at match point you want your team to convert every opportunity availed into a goal right?