03 November, 2016

Seven Skills of a Great Team

Seven Skills of a Great Team

Emeralds Head Coach, Simone Wearne addresses her team

I am currently in Indonesia with members of the Australian Emeralds, who are the Australian Women’s Baseball Team. I love heading away with teams for a couple of reasons.

  1. It gives me time to reflect on the profession of coaching and sport leadership that I am in.
  2. It allows me to learn from others in the sports industry who have done and achieved great things.

The Australian Emeralds recently competed at the World Cup in South Korea, finishing 5th. This was a result that was two places lower than their previous result in 2014. But speaking with the Head Coach, Simone Wearne, she was happier with the team culture and the foundation of the team at this most recent World Cup than with the previous. She is on the way to having a championship team for the next World Cup.

Having been to Indonesia twice this year with the Australian Emeralds, doing our groundbreaking sports diplomacy program, Diamonds in the Rough, this has given me an opportunity to see firsthand what Simone is talking about.

Seven Skills of a Great Team

An amazing group of Australian Emeralds and the Indonesian Diamonds.

I also got an email from a fellow coach this week asking 'how do I get my players to commit and take them to the next level as a championship team?'

So what makes a great team and how does this relate to leadership. My previous blog titled the Perspiration of Leadership, talks about the seven skills of great leaders. If we have great leaders, then we are more likely to also have great teams.

But what does a championship team look like? What might the seven skills of a great team member be? Let’s have a look.

1. Understanding the team vision

A leader knows where they are going and the purpose of the journey they are on. A great team member understands the team purpose and knows not only where they fit into this, but also where they contribute to the team vision and areas of personal weakness that they need to work on.

2. Strengthening the team culture

Culture is king in teams. This underpins the team’s work towards achieving the vision. Emeralds Assistant Coach and former Professional Baseballer, Anthony Bennett, talks about being on time and in the moment. 

This is about being focused as one team unit about what is important and about the small things that matter. As an individual, working with the rest of the team, not against it and working on the small fundamentals of the game that matter. 

One person out of time or not focused in the moment, disrupts the cadence of the team. Once out of cadence, then those around this person become disrupted and frustrated. A degradation of team culture is the result.

3. Following team decisions

Decisions have to be made for the benefit of the team. This, at times, may inconvenience certain team members. But if all team members are focused on the vision and the decision is made for the right reasons around progressing towards the vision, then there needs to be a united front.

When one person doesn’t follow a team decision, this person is out of time with the rest of the team. The cadence is disrupted and team culture is degraded.

4. Do the right thing, always

The standards we walk past are the standards we accept.

Achieving excellence is not easy, only one team can be a World Champion. It takes extra ordinary effort to be the best. This means that taking the easy route doesn’t lead to the podium.

As a great team member this means doing your program as your coach has set out, even if you ‘can’t be bothered’. It means pulling other team members up if the standards they are displaying are not the standards expected by the team.

Anthony also talks about doing the extras. Where he would climb mountains in Switzerland when he was playing in Europe, with his bat. Why? Because he knew that when he got to the top there wouldn’t be any pitchers there doing the extras, but if there were, he was ready to hit!

This is a mental state. Knowing that your competitors might be taking short cuts, but you won’t be and that might be the difference between 1st and 2nd.

5. Being inclusive

Being in Indonesia with the Emeralds shows me how diverse an Australian team can be. This diversity is in age, background, experience, country of origin and many other ways. Indonesia is also a place that is vastly different to what many of the team members have experienced before. It places you in a position where you are challenged every day with language, culture and the environment.

It is through this diversity that enables each person to bring a different perspective to the tour. They are able to help each other out in challenging situations and solve the problems or help each other through stages of ‘I don’t think I can do this’.

If we didn’t have such diversity in our team, then problems would be insurmountable and challenging environments would get the better of our team.

6. Knowing your team members

This fits with being inclusive. Through knowing each other then we are able to draw on each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses.

This learning can only occur when we are challenged as a team. This tour provides the coaches and team members with an amazing opportunity to learn about each other. The time spent on buses helps (traffic in Indonesia is terrible!), but so does placing people outside of their comfort zone.

Another favourite saying the team has is, be comfortable being uncomfortable. By knowing your team mates and being comfortable around them will make those times where comfort is not available, more bearable.

Be comfortable being uncomfortable

Whether this lack of comfort is due to the weather, the scoreline, the umpires, the crowd or the environment in general. Knowing your team mates and that they have your back is critical.

7. Being a great team member

Successful teams are made up of team members who know their place in the team. They contribute to the team culture and they do the right thing, always. This requires each team member to take ownership of their journey towards the team vision and work everyday to better themselves.

Team members that don’t display and live these seven skills are not being great team members. They are being a team member on their own terms, for their personal benefit. Team members like this, need great leaders to hold them to account.

If you build a team of successful team members, then a championship team is within your sights. 

Seven Skills of a Great Team

Playing Baseball in Jakarta with the backdrop of the city! 

© 2019 Paul Mead