“A successful team is a group of many hands but of one mind” Bill Bethel.
When we’re facing ‘tough times’ as a team or alone, it is frequently those around us that we turn to for help. Contradictory to our need for another person’s support, it can still prove challenging to encourage individuals to work effectively together as a team. And yet, it is one of the three, road-tested Performance Principles our Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? co-founder, Ben Hunt-Davis credits for his Olympic gold medal in the Rowing Eight, Sydney 2000. Time, and time again the importance of team building, good habits and the successful application of Performance Principles has proven invaluable to teams performing under the most immense pressure.
Performance Principles & Accelerators
Focus on what’s important
Razor sharp prioritization
Focus on performance, in order to get results
Getting curious about the recipe
Useful habit building
Work effectively together
Telling it how you see it
Exciting others to high performance
Working together to put the Performance Principles into practice
Working together effectively is a key player on the path to success, it’s as much a skill to learn, improve and define as sporting performance or business practice. You may have discovered your goal, and detailed what the performance to achieve that goal looks like, but until you can work together effectively, in large, you’ll find yourself falling short of your ambitions.
Therefore, the art of inspiring unity amongst your comrades or guiding your team toward a common goal is a talent, a skill to be admired and an essential for success. John Noonan, Performance Coach for Huddersfield Giants knows only too well what it takes to achieve that success.
Earlier this year, Huddersfield Giants had been subject to a more than difficult season. Having not won an away game in nine months, things were not looking good for the rugby team. Better late than never, following the removal of coach, Paul Anderson, in June the Giants staged a dramatic fightback with their first win at an away game against Salford Red Devils. It wasn’t an easy win, with late Salford tries from players, Josh Jones and Daniel Vidot. It proved a somewhat frantic finish, but they were fighting to the end. The well-deserved win followed a minute’s applause at the start of the match after the death of The Giants’ Academy player, Ronan Costello, aged 17.
Given the circumstances, a win for The Giants might have looked unlikely, but with the power of team work and the ability to apply the Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? accelerator, ‘useful habit building’ the team pulled through. Noonan explains the team building principles used to unite Huddersfield Giants and smile in the face adversity:
John Noonan, Performance Coach Huddersfield Giants
A common goal
“Managing a group of diverse, strong set of characters is a big challenge, and the key phrase to mention is establishing a “common goal.” Achieving a healthy, high performing environment is built upon a group of people that are willing and passionate about achieving the common goal.
It’s imperative that our priority is having the right people/players who are willing to “buy into” the teams objectives. For us this is critical toward the achievement of desired performance outcomes, i.e. winning games. Firstly, I believe you must evaluate a groups intrinsic motivations, individual’s drivers for wanting to play and perform in a Huddersfield Giants jersey.”
Agreed team behaviours & team building
“Once a goal is identified, the second task is based around having the group decide upon on a set of tangible and ecologically valid set of process goals, the group feel will contribute to improved performance. Thirdly, to ensure that the group are continually moving closer toward the agreed process, we ensure that our rugby training encourages players to critically evaluate their individual and team performance regularly. We will complete this on a weekly basis through team review meetings, and further individual meetings daily.
Often team performance goals are established at team meetings in the pre-season (the period of time leading into competition). Often these meetings are lead by senior coaches and the rugby playing staff. We recognise the importance of defining a set of agreeable goals and objectives to make the team accountable to a performance standard. We regulate a standard of performance each week in training and reflect upon our success rate by utilising game-based performance stats and subjective evaluations. Each week process goals are designed relative to teams performance and are manipulated accordingly.”
Dealing with team challenges
“Often adversity can force individuals and teams to achieve the un-expected and extraordinary in tough situations. Based on recent performances we were not the fans favourite to win against the Salford Red Devils. However, a combination of a recent bereavement to one of our academy players, and some personnel change in the rugby coaching staff brings sobering perspective. On the evening of the game it was clear that the team felt it was time to produce a better performance under difficult circumstances, for the greater good of the cause. Whilst this was a rather extreme set of circumstances, it demonstrates that even under extreme pressure focusing upon completion of process goals can help you achieve a worthy performance. On the day of this win and others, I believe the team’s success and achievements are based upon the repetition of effective, performance contributing habits. Put simply, “good habits” performed daily.
To quote Aristotle; “We are what we repeatedly do.” Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. In the world of rugby, the dynamics of an environment can be vulnerable to change and instability from; games lost and player injuries. So for us, we emphasise the importance of maintaining stability within our environment to enable growth and performance improvement. This is done by amalgamating “good days” in each weeks preparation, where the act of good habits contribute specifically to planned outcomes.”
In business, as in sport and our everyday lives we have the power to introduce process to unite our teams toward a common goal. Essential to working toward a common goal are the mutual desires, reliance and measures of the individuals who make up that team. But, like the Huddersfield Giants, once united in their goal, process, soon to be habit can be introduced to build toward success and face any challenges that occur.