The 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship reaches it’s finale this weekend in Prague and I for one can’t wait.
The knockout rounds are being streamed on YouTube
In order to be allowed to watch eight games of hockey over the next three days I banked some brownie points by taking the family away to Prague on a much deserved city break.
Unfortunately, for them, they didn’t go to the Czech capital to experience the city’s gothic charm or visit it’s world famous zoo. I managed to sneak off and speak on creating teams with purpose at the Amden Sports Convention during the preliminary rounds of the World Championships.
The audience was a mix of business leaders and sports coaches working at an elite level and in businesses such as Microsoft and the like, there to contemplate on how to build great teams in the sports and business arena, with speakers introducing new technologies, models and how to drive mind-set change.
I’ve long believed in the parallels in business and sports and how businesses can benefit from applying tools and techniques from sports psychology
However as I listened to the other speakers talking about their experience working with elite sports teams, I started to wonder whether there really is a strong link at a psychological and strategic level. Perhaps sports analogies and strategic models are not the be all and end all of performance improvement. Is coaching your organisation like an elite sports team really going to produce elite results?
Elite athletes sit in the top 10% of their sport and businesses want their people to think and act like that top 10%, but are they being realistic? Instead of concentrating on the similarities between business and sports teams should we start looking at the differences?
It is easy to measure success in sports. There’s an immediacy you don’t get when ranking performance in business. When you’re striving for a gold medal or a championship if you lose two or three races or games on the bounce you immediately know something is wrong and you can make adjustments, but in business it can take months, a quarter or even a year to know that something is wrong. Key performance indicators may play a role in measuring success, however KPI’s can also have a detrimental effect on motivation.
You’re also limited by the speed with which you can make tweaks to your team, whereas athletes tend to buy in to changes much quicker as they are emotionally engaged with the end result. Staying on the football pitch for an extra hour to work on shooting is very different to staying late at work to improve sales calls.
Furthermore an underperforming player on a sports team can be withdrawn at the blow of a whistle. When trying to identify if somebody is not a right fit for your organisation it could take you months to discover and even longer to remedy. Poorly performing players can be benched at half-time, poorly performing employees can take months to move on.
Then there’s the motivational tools that are deemed acceptable in the sports arena that will have you up before your HR department before you could say ‘sensitivity training’. Thankfully the hairdryer treatment isn’t seen as useful management tool in the modern workplace and less so in sports for that matter.
Generic strategic models have a place in both sports and business, but to create significant mind-set change in business, managing your sales team like you’d manage a sports team isn’t enough, there is another layer required.
Organisations want to find a way to help the majority outside the elite aspire to the achievements of the top 10%. Imagine the impact on the bottom line if you could turn the dial and create a pathway into the top 10%…but before people make the mind-shift to operate at the top, they must learn how to flip the switch on their own potential. Their attitude towards the elite level must change; they have to want to belong there first.
This requires a very different approach. The Strategic Team Coach looks to help teams and its members flip the switch on their potential and identify with resistance to change in a safe and rapid way.
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