I am not the only one to get a tear in my eye when I see young athletes standing on the podium receiving medals at the Rio Olympics. Go on admit it. It is an incredible achievement. For many a lifetime of hard work, effort, tears and joy have gone in to the success we now see before us as the flag raised myself. As a business coach, mentor and leader in an aspirational sporting pathway it is warming to see others succeed.
The athlete is the standard bearer for the team. There sits behind every athlete a coach, a mentor, a sports scientist, mothers, fathers, guardians, sisters, brothers, sponsors, lovers and extended family and friends all supporting that one athlete achieve an ambition.
Yesterday on the water I saw the women’s and men’s 8 GB rowing team claim Silver and Gold. Behind these 18 athletes sat more athletes in reserve, coaches and a whole network of support to get these men and woman to Olympic medals. However one man stands out the UK national coach Jürgen Grobler. (Pictured above) A German coach who since the 1972, with the exception of 1984 when the East Germans boycotted the games has won gold medals as a coach at every games. Outstanding achievement but what makes Jürgen different than you?
Listening to commentary Jürgen says one thing to his crews as he pushes them off into the water “have a good row” Jürgen knows that his job is not to tell his crews what to do, that work has been done in training but to watch his work unfold on the course and leave those with the skills, training and will to get on with the job. Every rower said exactly the same thing, we “trust” that man to get us right, and the rest is up to us. He trust’s them they trust him. Simple eh?
Replicating that to the business world the creation and maintaining of trust is key to a successful team. However in business we seem to have missed that basic human team trait. Ask yourself the question would any of your members of your team say “I would die for these girls” as one of the GB 9 rowers did yesterday as they were asked to explain their team esprit de corps.
Who is your team would die for you? The development of this team spirit where everyone is equal except the coach who because of trust and loyalty and not fear, holds a unique place is alas unique to sport and not business.
If only this spirit were true in business. The transferable lesson of coach, mentor and train your team should be every leader, directors and managers day job. I was talking to a close friend of mine over the Summer, a National Rugby coach whose exact words were to me, “Nigel if we coach the backside out of our players and tell them what to do in every scenario, what happens when the ball bounces three times, not twice as we trained them to do…. these are professionals they are paid to make decisions, if we trust them to play and earn their keep then we will get better”
In performance sport we recognize that to build that trust we need to ensure:
In 19 years this week as an interim and consultant I have seen many organisations and managers. I have yet to meet the business equivalent to Jorgen Grobler. In business we still control and not lead. In the digital age the need to control has grown to a level I have never known before.
In this analytical age we have created a need for data, reports and knowing everything and this climate has created a climate of over detailed management and fear amongst the workforce. As a leader you role is to train, coach and mentor your team yes evidence based decision-making is key, but do you really to over audit and mange it? Why not trust those you employ?
The key factor to this is trust and openness. In sport there is no place for replacing trust and honesty. If you have had a bad game then be honest with yourself and team mates, pick yourself up and learn from it.
Trust is the key to a successful relationship whether in sport. business or a relationship, without you are doomed. There is a strange term in Soccer called “The manager has lost the dressing room” It is where the players have lost all respect for the manager but turn up each week and in essence do their own thing just to ensure the pay packet at the end of the week. Alas I have seen organisations in this place, it is unhelpful and sad to see teams operating and performing in this way. Invariably the one consistent factor being trust and leadership.
The Olympics have shown that trust is a hard won battle between coach, leader and athlete. It cannot be bought but needs to be nurtured, developed and earned from all parties.
It is a kick up the backside for all of us. If the Olympics does one thing and that being it ensures that we as leaders develop that level of trust in our team that we all row together in the same direction then what a result that would be.
The positive journey can start today, ask yourself the question “who in my boat would die for me at the 1750m mark”
Nigel Gooding MCMI is managing partner at Fifth Consultancy and a leading business transformation professional who lists the National Rail Enquiry Service, the new MPs Expenses Scheme amongst his impressive CV.