With England riding high in The Ashes, a collective sense of pride seems to be sweeping through the nation. Even people whose knowledge of cricket extends no further than knowing it is played in whites on village greens have been caught up in following our team’s success, even if only in passing. At the same time we learned the disappointing news that Britain had failed to be chosen to host the football world cup in 2018.
Both events offer lessons about building pride and commitment at work.
With The Ashes, sports commentators convey the news enthusiastically on every medium – television, radio, print, the Internet – praising individual cricketers’ achievements and the team’s approach. There is no doubt that the team is pulling together and praise is being given to all as well as to each team player separately.
With the world cup announcement, all three leaders (prime minister David Cameron, HRH Prince William, David Beckham) spoke separately, but similarly, about the decision – praising the team who had put together an exemplary bid, criticising no one for their efforts. The overall message was everyone had done more than their bit; no one person was to blame; everyone was in this together.
These leadership approaches – giving praise where praise is due, shouldering the responsibility when things go wrong, communicating clearly to team members and beyond – specifically to build morale, commitment, loyalty, dedication and pride are typical in sport. They are less typical in organisations and businesses though they are needed there just as much.
When morale is low, commitment, loyalty, dedication and pride plummet; absenteeism increases. Productivity and profits fall which puts jobs at risk, further depressing morale. Meanwhile, managers may be forced to focus on short-term targets, leaving staff to manage on their own, often in a communication vacuum.
This is when businesses need to adopt tactics used routinely in the sporting world – using experts (the equivalent of a team coach) not only to help devise ways of rebuilding individual morale and a collective team spirit but also to provide the hands-on effort needed to work with the team’s members and communicate with staff. We regularly act as team coach for the businesses we work with, rebuilding morale so staff and managers find it easier to work at peak performance.