Welcome back football – we can learn a lot from you!

Forget the controversy – the stories of binge drinking and undignified behaviour.

The return of the football season is a blessing for those of us who value team performance.

Elite football teams, of any code, rise and fall on their ability to work together effectively. True interdependence.

And the best part is that it’s all on show for us to examine. Their team dynamics play out on stage, in conditions of hyperbole, willing us to analyse and learn from them.

Here’s 4 simple lessons we can take from professional football that will enhance our performance in the workplace:


1. Commit to Team Goals

Sure, every footballer that we see run around on the weekend is concerned about their own career – their place in the team, their next contract, their representative aspirations. But they know all of those concerns will be taken care of if they commit to the team goal and play their role in achieving it.

You hear it time after time. When a player is interviewed before or after the game, they largely brush off individual accolades and bring the focus of the conversation back to the team.

They are not playing lip service to a fashionable notion. They truly believe in the concept of team.

Few players make it to the top level of any football code without understanding that the best thing they can do for their career is to buy into the principle of interdependence.

For this to work, the team must have a clear mission.

This is easy for a football team. Their mission is to win today’s game. They get very direct feedback on their performance – the scoreboard.

If they win enough games they make it to the final series – where they will have the opportunity to fulfil their ultimate goal.

Pat Howard – former Wallaby, CFO and current GM of Team Performance for Cricket Australia – offered some wonderful insight into the parallels of goal setting in sporting and corporate teams when we spoke for the Team Guru Podcast last year.


What about your workplace? Has everyone on your team has bought in to the team goals. Do they set personal rewards and aspirations to the side, knowing that achieving team objectives will take care of all those things…and more?

Does your team even have clear goals? Have you established a set of unambiguous, tangible objectives that raise the sights of every team member?


2. Know their Role – and Execute

We look at top-level footballers and admire their skill. We might assume that they each perform at such a high level that they have something approaching free reign to operate as they see fit.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, at the highest level of competition, players are given ‘tight, detailed role descriptions.’

The clarity of those role descriptions is testament to the faith they put in each other to deliver complementary skills.

With a narrow and crystal clear role description for each player designed to compliment the skills of their teammates, the emphasis then moves to execution.

Individual players are expected to deliver within their skill-set and role description every time. The cost of not delivering on that promise is being cut from the team.

Steve Hooper – trainer with the Brisbane Broncos – spoke effusively about Wayne Bennett’s ability to create role descriptions for every player that allows them to concentrate on delivering within their strengths. It is, said Steve, what separates Wayne from the rest.



Is everyone on your team clear on the precise way they are expected to contribute to team performance?

Is there a strong culture of expectation – that every member will deliver on their skills, every time?


3. Respect their Teammates

We see lots of hugging, high-fives and bum-pats when a team scores a try.

We’d be forgiven for thinking they are all best of mates.

But that is not necessarily the case.

When I spoke with former Wallaby Brendan Cannon for the Team Guru Podcast he was very honest about the fact that he was not friendly with everyone he played with. In some cases ‘they just weren’t my type of gravy.’

But he respected every one of them for what they contributed to the team’s performance.

To be in a high performing team environment we don’t have to be best friends – but we do have to respect the contribution of everyone in the team and feel glad they are there to make that contribution.

High Performing Teams have learned to make adjustments for each other – to give each other the opportunity to execute on their skills without letting personalities get in the way of team contributions.



How well does your team look past differences in personality to focus on contribution to team performance?


4. Celebrate Success

Professional football teams are fabulous at celebrating success.

Whether it’s a single tackle, a try scored, a game won or an entire season – they celebrate together with passion.

Each achievement is meaningful.

When Brendan Cannon moved from professional rugby into the corporate world he lamented the loss of being part of a deeply rewarding team culture.

He feels that corporate teams miss a huge opportunity to develop collaborative team environments by ignoring opportunities to celebrate together.

Making budget, winning a proposal, nailing a presentation…they should all be reasons for taking time to enjoy success together.

In the world of professional football the victories, big and small, are often more obvious than they are in a professional setting – so we have to go looking for them.

Reasons to celebrate are there if we look hard enough – and taking the time to acknowledge them makes the effort and sacrifices worthwhile and much more palatable next time.

Does your team take time out to celebrate victories big and small? Do you even know when you’ve had a victory?


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