I attended The Sport Performance Summit in London at the Emirates Stadium last week and over the two days there were many pieces of information that have stimulated new thought and action as well as information that consolidated our current thought and action.
Many of the attendees and content presenters were members of the ‘team behind the team’ across elite sporting clubs and organisations from around the world. One of the themes was how leaders get their teams to work together to create successful performance. It was not only a consistent theme, but also one with consistent messages that were shared by the professionals leading high performing teams.
There were professionals from a variety of performance domains – sport, hospitality, military, aviation, and performing arts. Despite the obvious differences between these industries there was an overwhelming common approach to creating high performing teams. Values and the associated behaviours were the starting point in the pursuit of excellence for all types of team performance.
Simply put, teams need to decide on the values that are important to them in delivering performance, and then decide on the specific behaviours that will bring these values to life. This means that the behaviours are described so that all concerned are clear what these behaviours look like, such that the team knows if people are or are not displaying these behaviours.
Each of the elite leaders that shared their approach to embedding the values and behaviours highlighted that their team members needed to own and drive these behaviours. In the sport context, the values are player-driven not coach-driven. Players set them, live, and refer to them on a constant basis such that everyone is kept accountable to these behaviours.
Further to these points, Arsène Wenger talked about how the game must always be put above personal ego… I understood this to mean that teams must always respect the game and serve the game as the higher purpose rather than solely having personal goals that meet their own purposes. It’s easy to see how professional athletes, particularly in a sport such as football, can be built up to a level that competes with the status of the game. However, in each of the leaders’ addresses it quite clear that this was detrimental to team performance.
When working with teams in setting values and behaviours the articulation of the behaviours is crucial if these are going to be easy to recognise. There is no doubt that this can be a rather pedantic and microscopic aspect of our work with athletes however it when done thoroughly at the start of a team’s season then it makes for clarity throughout the season and contributes to successful on and off pitch performance.
A question I often ask is, “What behaviours would I see you doing if I was to follow you around or video you during your week?” This helps to get superb clarification of the real behaviours rather than concepts or words that are vague and difficult to know if they are actually happening.
Consistent behaviours breed habits and these habits form the lifeline of a team when pursuing a common goal.
Andrea Furst PhD | Sport & Exercise Psychologist CPsychol HCPC Registered
Get in contact with Andrea – firstname.lastname@example.org – to develop your teams value-driven behaviours. Andrea is based in London and provides both face-to-face and virtual sport psychology services to high performing teams worldwide.