Must read: Key lessons from professional sports coaches

The world of sport can provide a template of how to get the best out of a team, argue the authors of Leading Teams

Leading Teams: Tools and Techniques for Successful Team Leadership from the Sports World
Paolo Guenzi and Dino Ruta
£24.99, Jossey-Bass

Leading teams often presents the ultimate challenge in most organisations, but what lessons can business executives learn from professional sports coaches?

The first key lesson is that effective sports coaches build credibility with multiple stakeholders at different levels.

The legitimacy derived from stakeholders outside the team typically gives the coach more credibility both with the team as a whole and with individual team members.

As stated by basketball coach Sasha Djordjevic: “If you want to win, you always have to keep five things under control: the owner; the fans; the press; staff; and the players and their technical preparation. If you want to succeed on the court, you have to earn your reputation with the others.”

Similarly, in the world of business, being respected by external parties will make the team leader more credible in front of their team members.

The second key message from our study is that, to improve team performance, team leaders should create the conditions for all members to engage in behaviour that supports their teammates, building up their skills and strengthening their motivation.

As stated by Italy’s national football team coach Cesare Prandelli: “The team is here to help individual players to do their best. All players go through hard times. So, when a teammate plays badly, if the team is pursuing a common goal all the other members will help him.”

Successful teams are characterised by a collaborative spirit, which stimulates learning and continuous improvement, and, ultimately, task accomplishment.

As rugby union coach John Kirwan told us: “Teams, even the best of them, make small mistakes. But, if they make many of these mistakes over and over again, that can compromise a season. To understand the reasons behind losses it’s important to work in a positive context. All the most successful teams call themselves a family. This means that you can have a row, but the next day you’re all fighting together again on the same side, because there’s love.”

Read our feature “Making sport pay” here.

Photo: Getty Images

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