Melvyn Payne Friday, August 12, 2022

Watching the Lionesses and England Ladies Hockey Teams win their respective trophies and gold medals has been a great addition to the summer sunshine this year.

Seeing successful sports teams in action always prompts me to think about what takeaways we can learn from when applied to business teams.

Of course, there are some similarities between successful sports teams and business teams – drive, the right expertise and skills, an effective plan, hard work, effort and leadership, to name but a few, are all key to team achievement in any environment. 

Elite athletes, similar to business people, are also often members of multiple teams and might play slightly different roles in each one.

What about the differences?

Although the recent wins on sports pitches have been great to keep the diversity and equality debates alive, it strikes me that there is often less diversity in a national sports team than in business teams.

Why do I say that? National teams usually are made up of individuals from a single gender and culture and, while there is still a lot of work to do, most leadership and business teams I engage with are made up of people from different backgrounds and genders.

However, there are two critical differences that always stand out for me:

  1. Sports teams spend significantly more time practising together, as well as individual training, compared to business teams. I do not know any business team that spends even 10% of their working time practising and training together – they are rarely not in action, save for strategic planning meetings or team workshops.


  1. Elite sports teams engage specialist coaches, measure multiple performance data points and receive constant feedback on their performance both in training and in competition. Most business teams have important KPI information but how much of this is focused on their ability to work effectively as a unit?  In some circles, support from a coach is seen as remedial training rather than elite performance training.

While it is not realistic for business teams to spend as much time practising together as elite sports teams, and the good news is that neither can the competition, it is possible to bridge the gap on point 2.

Making the best use of the limited time teams have together to reflect on and practise skills to be more effective is possible.  Using quality metrics such as SkillsPilot Exercises, Hogan Team Analysis, High Performing Team Assessment and, as a team, practising skills application with an accredited coach can all help to make a difference – and who does not want their team to be high performing in any setting?


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