What Pro Sports Can Teach Us About Culture and Collaboration

What Pro Sports Can Teach Us About Culture and Collaboration

It is hard to talk about the topic of motivation or leadership without using a quote from a famous athlete or coach. Long has the corporate world taken inspiration from professional sports to drive employee motivation and teach leadership lessons. However, many overlook the critical lessons that can be learned from a professional team’s deep-rooted collaboration and culture.

Members of a sports team embrace their franchise and feel a sense of belonging and ownership that is largely unrivaled in a modern day corporation. Professional athletes are acutely aware of the shared goals and objectives of the team and consistently demonstrate their ability to be collective leaders in order to reach them. Each team member holds themselves accountable for effective collaboration and positive outcomes.

Perhaps most notable about the player’s inherent accountability and dedication is the fact that it seems to come naturally, without excessive coaching. That powerful mentality is embedded in the culture that they adopted when they joined the team. If an entire team accepts the culture and understands the common goals, coaches are able to spend more time analyzing specific aspects to develop talent and improve performance.

These characteristics, inherited so naturally in professional sports, are illusive in the business world. Executive teams have developed the expertise needed to act as individual leaders to their respective departments. Still, some lack the ability to break down departmental silos and practice the collective leadership demonstrated by sports teams vying for a championship. As organizational processes grow more complex, we have seen that silos can be the demise of an organization while the removal of them can streamline collaboration and information-sharing to increase productivity holistically.

“Talent wins games, teamwork wins championships” – Michael Jordan

As Gillian Tett writes in The Silo Effect, “the first step to mastering silos is the most basic of all, to notice that they exist.” Recently, there has been a widespread movement toward specialization in the workplace. Employees are eager to hone their own unique skills and increase the efficiency of their business function with the use of new technological tools. Although this strategy generally pays off in the short term, this type of segmented environment can lead to convoluted goal management, internal competition, and blind spots in analytics.

Professional teams show us that each player can have a specialty- point guard, goalie, running back- and yet, still work consistently towards a common goal as a unified team. The discrepancy occurs in the corporate world when the company culture does not adequately communicate the core values, vision, and goals in a easy-to-adopt, cohesive way. A common culture and shared goals are the glue that holds any group together. As a company, if you fail at cross-departmental collaboration, you don’t always get another chance to play the game. In business, there is no instant replay and there are no time-outs. In order to succeed and grow, executive teams need to act fast to strategically break down silos at their organizations and focus on creating and communicating a championship culture.

This DATIS Blog was written by MJ Craig, DATIS, on September 16th, 2015 and may not be re-posted without permission.

Written by MJ Craig