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Be a Great Team Player – Get Inspired by Sport

Business is a team sport and behind every Richard Branson-shaped front man is a group of talented coworkers.

So, with the Rugby World Cup finals not that long time ago, we thought what better time to focus in on teamwork.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”
– Babe Ruth, US baseball legend

You might be what recruitment consultants call ‘talent’ but your supersonic skills won’t be much use to any business if you can’t get down and play ball with your workmates.

Yes, recruiters and businesses want people who can work on their own initiative but that doesn’t mean at the expense of the team. Remember – there’s no I in team!

“His football does not seem to suffer by all of this going on around him. You look at his passing and he makes it look so simple.”
– Former England football coach Graham Taylor on David Beckham

That said, every individual has been picked to join a team because of the unique set of skills (USPs) they’ve got to offer. READ MORE

Keep your eye on the ball and remember to retain what it is that makes you and your place on the team important.

“Being a good teammate is when you try to sprint down a ball that everyone thinks is going out of bounds. But you go after it anyways and you get it.”
– Mia Hamm, former US women’s footballer

Taking one for the team is a pretty common notion, often when an individual takes the rap for something the team, or one of their teammates may have done, but doing it in real life, not just in movies, is quite a thing.

One example might be when you’re under fire from a customer over something you have no control over. You might well feel indignant, but in cases like these it’s often best to realise to them you’re simply the face of the organisation, and it’s not actually the real life you they’re attacking.

“It’s not always a bed of roses, but the blend of characters makes the strength of a team.”
– Sir Steve Redgrave, Olympic rower

From essential but incomprehensible IT support to the over ambitious line manager, or the maverick salesperson who can sell anything to anyone the workplace is made up of a host of characters who might be essential to the business but you wouldn’t necessarily choose to socialise with.

The truth is it’s in everyone’s interest to get along. In fact if a recruiter ever asks you if you’ve found someone difficult to work with it’s not time to say, “Yeah, Geoff in accounts was really anal.” Because, ultimately, it says far more about your inability to gel with the team than Geoff in accounts’ nitpicking.

“When I was playing the game we never had the benefit of TV or video to analyse our technique or look at our faults, we depended on other cricketers to watch us and then tell us what they thought we were doing wrong.”
– Geoffrey Boycott, cricketer (not be confused with Geoff in accounts)

While working with others can sometimes send you dreaming of working all alone on an island far far away actually it’s a great way to get real feedback on your performance.

From formal appraisals to the ad hoc responses in meetings or solicited feedback in presentations all this information can really help you hone your game.

People find your pitches confusing? Cut down on the information. You’re scaring people when they come to reception? Relax and smile a bit more. That sort of thing.

“We came very close to blowing it. Every decision seemed to go against them, and yet they still won, and that is the sign of a champion team.”
– Clive Woodward, former England rugby Coach

When the chips are down it can be hard to see the wood for the trees and actually remember you’re still a team.

Whatever pressures your team are facing remember great teams are expected to exhibit grace under fire.

Sporting tournaments are not just dependant on the players and their coaches, but also the decisions of various linesmen and referees.

While difference of opinion may prevail putting your team’s chances of winning in jeopardy because you dispute a foul or think the ball was in just isn’t, err, cricket.

Know what your team mission is and stick to it.

“Being a competitive athlete taught me the importance of always believing in myself, how to be a team player, and that success comes from perseverance.”
– Megan Jendrick, Olympic Gold Medalist

Whether you think you’re lacking in team skills or want to improve your CV playing a sport can be a great way to show what you’re made of.

Indeed the aforementioned Richard Branson once said:

“I captained the football and cricket teams at school, but a knee injury curtailed my athletic aspirations, and so I focused on business. I soon set up Student magazine, then Virgin Records, and the rest is history.”

Next Steps: How are your teamwork skills looking?

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