Teams rock

French poet Gérard de Nerval once said "The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile." Ahh, the good-old cliché. Perhaps de Nerval was a bit harsh. Clichés are often maligned as timeworn, hackneyed and unworthy phrases but sometimes only a cliché will do.


Clichés certainly have their use in modern discourse. My kids will tell you I am the queen of clichés. They roll their eyes in amusement, and often times annoyance, when I launch into one or more of my favourite sayings. Sometimes the boys volley my own clichés back at me when I'm least suspecting. I'm not sure if they do that to demonstrate that they listen from time to time, or if they actually want me to think about what I am doing or saying. I imagine it is a combination of both.

Good clichés catch on because they have an essential truth and are often pithy, clever and make people think. Sports broadcasters use them all the time and I have heard many sports clichés while watching the 2014 Winter Olympic games.

Watching the Olympics really brings the value of teamwork into perspective. While many of the sports are individual, every athlete who represents Canada is also on the Canadian team (so are the coaches, trainers, nutritionists and managers, to name a few). They all have worked hard to contribute to their team and they are all in ... heart and soul.

Strong teams in the workplace are essential to the success of any organization no matter what size. A stronger team means more wins and better outcomes, whether they be higher profits, improved customer satisfaction or happy employees. You get the drill.

Building a team culture is essential to a positive workplace. And like the folks who support the Canadian Olympic team, not everyone has to be an athlete. Everyone on a team has a role. The key is for everyone to have common goals and a plan to attain them.
Various sports clichés translate well into the workplace.
Following are some of my favourites:

"There is no 'I' in team". Teams are not about the "I" -- individuals. When planning a project and allocating resources, aim to be as balanced as possible and to play on each team member's strengths.

"Win as a team, lose as a team". It is always fun to win, but winning every time is unrealistic. It is well documented that we learn more from failure, so be sure to use losses as learning opportunities. Take the time to debrief as a team and discuss what you would do differently the next time.

"A team is as strong as its weakest link". The strongest team members need to help support the weaker members. Those who are weak in one area can usually provide strength in others. Managers and coaches should be highly sensitive to the strengths and weaknesses of various team members so when executing or planning a project the weaker can be paired up with the stronger.

"They always step up to the plate". Strong team members always show up, no matter the circumstances. Some will strike out and some will hit home runs. Regardless of the outcome, they come to play. They come to win and they "bring it" every time.

"If you are going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk". Talk is cheap. Let's see action. One of the worst things a management team can do is talk about all of the initiatives they are committed to and then not follow through. Unfortunately it happens all the time. Actions, not words, are what build teams.

The Olympics are an incredible celebration of sport, world peace and competition. If we can build on that spirit in our own organizations we will succeed no matter what the result. But boy, it sure feels good to win.

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