Team Lessons from the Buckeyes
I am not a football fanatic and I didn’t grow up in Ohio (although Sally McKenzie did). But I do love inspirational stories, and last week’s Inaugural National Championship was a great one! As Ohio State began the playoffs, the team faced questions about whether it belonged at all. The first-string quarterback suffered a shoulder injury and was sidelined, the back-up passer broke his ankle, and the reins were in the hands of a third-string sophomore. Not to mention breaking in four new starters on the offensive line. Yet Ohio State overwhelmed Oregon with a 42-20 upset. Equally impressive was the defense. They held the nation’s best offense and Heisman Trophy winner to 27 points below its season average. Pretty darn amazing!
You might attribute this miraculous performance to Urban Meyer. After all, he did have two other national titles to his name and leaders do drive the behavior that produces results. However, the real credit belongs to the players who meshed their talent into a cohesive team and maximized their ability to achieve victory. When asked what helped him to win, Meyer said, “This is a great team. We play for each other.”
If there’s a void of this kind of teamwork in your practice, it starts with you. You’re the boss. You can’t expect employees to step out of their comfort zone if you don’t. Set the tone for collaboration to achieve that synergy…a phenomenon that occurs when a group achieves greater results together than they could accomplish individually.
Create a positive bond between employees. Team chemistry comes from intense training and time together. It doesn’t mean that everyone is each other’s best friend. But if there is competition between team members, it’s healthy – not destructive. The competition pushes each to do better.
There is no ‘I’ in team. It’s ‘We’ over ‘Me’. The team’s goals are bigger than any personal discomfort or convenience. Strong team members play for their teammates, not for themselves. This starts with knowing the purpose of why WE have come together. It aligns people toward cooperative action.
Collaboration isn’t a matter of just getting along well. It’s taking into account the challenges that each person faces and working together to overcome those constraints. Your job is to challenge complexities and make it clear and simple. Inspire interest and enthusiasm by reminding your employees that no one can do it all alone. Enable each employee to see that what they do (and how they do it) affects everyone else in the practice.
The power of teamwork is about leadership, not just for the person at the top but for each and every member of the team. It’s about identifying strengths and competencies that lie within each person to make a difference. It’s not only technical skills, but a mindset. Mental toughness is a prerequisite to team success and it requires training. Anything that can happen will happen, and anything you never thought would happen eventually will. Help your employees to be prepared for setbacks. Engage them in finding solutions together. Keep them focused so they persevere in the face of obstacles, even in times of chaos and uncertainty. Talk through the scenarios your team faces so they are prepared to lead when the time comes. Help them realize their potential to be leaders and to know what to do when adversity happens.
Here’s a group exercise to strengthen the team mentality in your office. There is a YouTube video entitled, Together We Achieve More. I strongly recommend that you make time to watch it with your employees. Put it on the next staff meeting agenda and use it as a springboard for discussion.
After viewing it, facilitate a discussion. Begin with the positives – what is the current team doing well together? Then invite suggestions about how to improve collaboration in the office. If your employees are hesitant to participate, pair team members to interview each other. Then share and compare the results. This activity can also be done with large teams via groups of 4-6 people.
Commit to follow up in one month. In preparation for that next meeting, ask each person to be aware of how they are working together differently. Encourage them to jot down examples of successful teamwork to share with the group at the next meeting. Highlight the themes and elements that come out of these success stories and you’ll build more team engagement, energy, optimism and loyalty. And just like the Buckeyes, never give up!
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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