In watching an interview with the US Women’s gold-medal winning gymnastics team recently, I marveled not so much at their skills as gymnasts (although those are ridiculously impressive), but at their skills in supporting each other as teammates.
Consistently these young women spoke of:
- understanding each other,
- being supportive of each other in achieving their goals,
- the importance of moving on from personal disappointment in support of the whole team effort, and
- understanding the purpose of their work and what it takes to succeed.
Most of us will never be in the pressure cooker of the Olympics, but the issues for performing effectively as a team still apply to our work. The team’s focus and alignment was superb and their goals clear. Their relaxed interactions with each other and their coaches, coupled with a red-hot focus on their responsibilities and tasks produced a culture of high performance. Their willingness to speak plainly and openly assured understanding and consistency in their communication and subsequent actions. Their support of each other even included moments of personal coaching to ensure they minimized potential distractions and maintained perspective on the bigger issues at hand. I couldn’t help but wonder what might be the outcome if a business team was this focused on satisfying their customer.
What I found most interesting is that this kind of easy and open interaction was not done via a formal process of meetings, policy statements, procedures, etc., but as in- the-moment opportunities. Clearly, the team members trusted each other to have each other’s best interests at heart. The outcome, of course, was a gold medal performance. But these activities weren’t really about the gold medal; they were about ensuring that the gold medal was a real possibility.
This was about doing all the little things to be at your best when the moment to perform arrives. In summary:
- The team focused on what they could control – and did their absolute best at those activities.
- This was about passion, discipline, being prepared and having no excuses.
- This was about having a culture of high performance, not as a nice concept, but as a commitment to action by the entire team.
As organizations assess their team and leadership culture for performance, we can learn from this special team, and apply the same fundamental supportive skills, practices, and culture of high performance within our teams.