As a Partner Growth Manager at TTI Success Insights, I've gained valuable insights into building and retaining strong teams in the business world. What I didn’t realize was that my experience playing collegiate soccer in the late 90s would inform my future in business, specifically when it comes to teamwork.
Here’s what my athletic experiences have taught me about the principles of teamwork, talent acquisition, leadership, and supportive environments that contribute to a thriving workforce.
Finding the Right Talent
Finding the right talent is crucial for organizational success. Just as my talent earned me a spot on the soccer team, businesses must identify and recruit individuals with the skills and abilities that align with their needs. Recognizing and rewarding employee contributions through raises, performance reviews, and promotions fosters a culture of appreciation and drives motivation, as highlighted by Gallup’s 2023 research.
This happened to me on the team when I was recognized for my hard work by being appointed Team Captain as a sophomore (where it usually goes to a senior) and acknowledged as an All American player nomination. That experience has felt similar to promotions in my business career— earning that recognition lets me take pride in my hard work.
Leading With Empathy and Perspective
Effective leadership plays a pivotal role in team cohesion. In a 2019 motivational talk by Simon Sinek states that great leaders need to have empathy and perspective—-they can understand and connect with their team members on a deeper level. This is similar to my college coaches, who offered varying perspectives on motivation beyond just winning. Business leaders who empathize with their workers and provide the right perspective can assemble and guide high-performing teams.
Cultivating Support and Trust
Support and trust within a team are essential, even when facing challenges. When I think about my college team, we were surely in last place in our division my first two years but still showed up to every game with a winning attitude. Every time we lost a game, we would think about how we can make each other better for next time by analyzing game tape or reviewing missed opportunities.
In the business world, a strong team possesses a similar mindset when projects or products fail. They take responsibility, examine what went wrong, and support each other to learn from mistakes and strive for continuous improvement.
Moving Past Failure
You can’t win every game! I didn’t score every time I aimed for the goal, but I knew I was supported when I tried. That’s what matters.
If a project or product fails in business, a strong team needs the mindset to look into what went wrong and improve it. They should have each other’s backs, take responsibility for their contributions, and feel safe within the team.
Organizations need to remember that making mistakes is crucial for growth. What matters is how mistakes are handled after the fact— can the team come together and find a solution and a lesson to learn from the experience? A winning attitude and resilience in the face of failure will make all the difference.
Finding a Future Path for Success
I didn’t pursue a professional career in soccer, but I carried the lessons I learned on the field with me into the rest of my life. Building and retaining strong teams in both sports and business require essential elements such as support, trust, a winning attitude, and a clear future path.
Just as my college soccer team demonstrated resilience and camaraderie despite challenges, strong business teams must support and trust each other even when things go wrong. By prioritizing support, trust, a winning attitude, and a clear future path, organizations can cultivate a culture of collaboration, growth, and excellence in their pursuit of collective goals.