Team Playing: Business and Sports

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Through wins and losses, make sure your team remains a team

If you watched the top-ranked tennis players playing doubles at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, earlier this month, you may have noticed something wonderful.

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After every point, no matter if the player partners had just won or lost the point, the teammates would slap hands or bump fists and smile at one another. Then they would prepare themselves for the next point.

How can that be? Aren’t they thinking about winning every moment? How can they lose a point and smile or, even more astounding, watch their teammate lose a point and smile?

Perhaps they aren’t thinking about winning. Andre Agassi, a retired American tennis player and former World No. 1, said, “Freed from the thoughts of winning, I instantly play better. I stop thinking; start feeling. My shots become a half-second quicker; my decisions become the product of instinct rather than logic.”

This mindset is part of their training. The top tennis coaches in the world with the most experience developing winning doubles teams, make sure, above all, that the team remains a team.

You don’t see one player blaming the other. You don’t see frustration between teammates. When one player on the team hits the ball out or misses a return shot, you see their eyes meet, both players smile, and then their fists or hands touch. “I’m with you,” they seem to be saying, “Let’s get the next one.” This happened 100% of the time while I watched.

After the game, players and their coaches analyzed what happened. This analysis does not happen during the game, but after. During the game, the players connect with their teammates and get ready for the next shot.

When small businesses lose a sale, miss a deadline, or don’t receive payment for completed work, it hurts! Owners have to strive to know why.

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In the post-game analysis, you may learn the product fell short against other bidders; the sales person missed clues about the client needs; the timeline broke down when a vendor was on vacation; or the client regularly doesn’t pay his/her bills. Of course, you have to work on solving the problem to make the next sale or deadline and sift out potential deadbeats who don’t pay their bills.

You’ll identify and solve the issue more quickly and easily if people on the team are working together to unearth the problem and fix it.

Imagine this: You gather your team every time you win or lose, whether its employees, contractors, consultants, vendors, or partners. Before you begin the post-game analysis, you first look them in the eye, smile and do your own brand of a fist pump. That’s easy when you win. Do it when you lose.

Image you tell them, “We are a team. We will win the next one!”

As Vince Lombardi, a former American football player and coach, said: “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Footnote & food for thought…

“The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as a wall.” – Mitch Hedberg, American comedian