What the World Cup Can Teach Your Organization About High Performing Teams

Image: What the World Cup Can Teach Your Organization About High Performing Teams

What it Takes to Have a High Performing Team

As I prepare to leave for Brazil next week to attend some World Cup soccer games, I started thinking about what makes some of the teams more high performing than others. With soccer teams, as with any team, there are some fundamental characteristics that must exist to be successful: technical expertise, individual star players, a desire to improve, commitment to a shared goal and lots of hard work.  So what can we learn from the best World Cup teams to ensure our organizations builds high performing teams?

Traits of Successful Teams

When I’m watching a great soccer match, a few things jump out at me about the best teams:

  • They are passionate about winning
  • They leverage their strengths and capitalize on their opponents’ weaknesses
  • They adjust their playing style in response to who they are competing against
  • They know where their team members are going to be
  • They feed off the energy of their fans
  • They don’t give up

I think there are several ways that we can mirror these traits in our own teams.  As a leader, consider if your team knows what success looks like?  Is everyone focused on achieving the same goal (winning)?  Are all team members vested in, and passionate about, getting to the finish line? If not, what needs to be done to ensure all team players are committed to success?  Sales teams provide a great example of the passion to achieve results – their sales targets are clear goals for everyone to strive for.  Think of ways you can create a defined outcome that everyone on your team can rally behind.

Determine the strengths that lie within your team and how you can maximize them to outperform.  You might be competing externally with another organization or internally to be the first team to achieve a company-wide goal.  By taking stock of your strengths and how to emphasize them, you can stay one step ahead of your competition.

As a leader you need to demonstrate situational leadership all the time – from managing differing personality styles, to generational differences, to geographic uniquenesses – so you need to be chameleon-like in your role  Your team members must also be quick to adapt, adjust and change based on operational and market needs.  A team that can do so will be more productive and high performing.

A team that works well together will develop its own rhythm and symbiotic nature.  Colleagues will know when others are having a good day or not.  They will know what to expect from their peers and will be able to predict with a high level of accuracy what their colleagues will be able to achieve.  By building a strong team bond, performance is enhanced because team members can trust each other and can leverage their individual strengths to complete projects faster, better and first.

Every team need a cheerleader.  We don’t all have fans cheering us on everyday nor do we have the positive energy of their desire for us to win.  But as a leader we can encourage our teams to reach great heights t by being a ‘super fan’.  Trust in their abilities.  Cheer the team on.  Celebrate their successes. When the going gets tough, don’t let them give up…let them know you believe in them.  A great fan is someone who is invested in the same outcome and believes that success if possible.  Your team will feel your positive energy and will push themselves to be even higher performing.

Finally, high performing teams don’t give up.  If they lose or fail at something, they lick their wounds, regroup to figure out what went wrong, and commit to doing better that next time.  A team that is quick to rebound and doesn’t abandon their goals when they face obstacles will be more successful and will feel a stronger sense of accomplishment than one that easily glides into success. Obstacles build resilience and can strengthen the team’s commitment to achieving success.

Winning the World Cup requires a series of wins that is predicated on months and years of training.  Becoming the best in the world is a well-executed plan that comes together on the field.  Having a high performing team in your organization requires the same level of commitment, focus, drive, ambition and planning.  Drawing inspiration from great teams, wherever they reside, helps your team realize we can always push ourselves more and continue to improve.

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that help clients target, motivate and engage employees in order to increase performance and productivity. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies across North America. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. With close to 20 years of experience in learning and development, she has devoted more than 13 years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance.

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