Sports teams are good models for workplace teams


Studies from football, soccer, basketball, hockey and baseball have found a number of elements that successful sports teams have that can be extrapolated to successful work teams.

Successful teams integrate cooperation and competition. Effective team coaches get athletes to help one another but also push one another to perform at their best. Sports teams with the best win-loss record had coaches who promoted a strong spirit of cooperation and high level of healthy competition among their players.

Successful teams score early wins. Early success builds teammates’ faith in themselves and their capacity as a team. For instance, research on hockey teams of relatively equal ability found that 72% of the time the team that was ahead at the end of the first period went on to win the game. So managers should provide teams with early tasks that are simple and provide “easy wins.�

Successful teams avoid losing streaks. Losing can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A couple of failures can lead to a downward spiral if a team becomes demoralized and believes it is helpless to end its losing streak. Managers need to instill confidence in team members that they can turn things around when they encounter setbacks.

Practice makes perfect. Successful sports teams execute on game day learn from their mistakes in practice. Practice should be used to try new things and if they fail the failure should be used to correct the mistakes. A wise manager carves out time and space in which work teams can experiment and learn.

Successful teams use half-time breaks. The best coaches in basketball and football use half-time during a game to reassess what is working and what isn’t. Managers of work teams should similarly build in assessments at the approximate halfway point in a team project to evaluate what it can do to improve

Winning teams have a stable membership. Stability improves performance. For instance, studies of professional basketball teams have found that the more stable a team’s membership, the more likely the team is to win. The more time teammates have together, the more able they are to anticipate one another’s moves and the clearer they are about one another’s roles.

Successful teams debrief after failures and successes. The best sports study the game video. Similarly, work teams need to take time to routinely reflect on both their successes and failures and to learn from them.

This is also applicable to the most popular game in India that is cricket where the coach is akin to a manager at work place. It is his job to identify mistakes and suggest a suitable corrective action to individual team members and as well to the entire team. Likewise in the work environment the manager has to keep his team motivated by guiding them to success or overcome a particular problem.

Thus the similarity between sports teams and work teams and identical roles the manager and the coach has to play made us write this analogue.