Team Dynamics

Has your ‘A Team’ got it right?

As I reflect on my recent netball club trials and the age-old dilemma of who should be in the A Team, I’m reminded how critical the right combination of players is to the success of a team.  This not only applies in team sports but in the corporate workplace where the impact of getting it wrong in leadership teams can have far-reaching consequences.

Having a group of skilled individuals does not necessarily make for a successful team if those skills are all focused in one area, leaving others unrepresented.  Likewise, talent alone is unlikely to be enough if motivations, goals and responsibilities are not clearly defined or understood within the group.

Diversity – not just diversity of talent but diversity of styles, roles and personality types – is a key factor in getting the dynamics right and in my experience, you’ll always need the following ‘players’:

The leader – every good team has one. Not necessarily the most talented or the most popular, but someone who sees the bigger picture, recognises when strategies need to change and is not afraid to make tough decisions.  A good CEO will drive the vision but is not afraid to delegate, is prepared to listen but ultimately decides the course.  A poor netball captain usually lacks game awareness, refuses to sub themselves or their friends and makes little or no tactical changes.

The prima donna – the hugely talented one who might not naturally be a team player but whose skills make their inclusion in the team seemingly a no-brainer. Be wary, these characters need the freedom to excel at what they do best, but at the same time need clear set boundaries as to what’s acceptable. I’ve only ever once told someone to ‘zip-it’ on court but this hot-head was arguably our most dynamic player and, at times, a real game changer.

The difficult one – that person on the team you find tricky. This may stem from having different values, interests, sense of humour or someone who is just simply ‘not your type’. Yet this can be the person who challenges you to look at things differently and can see past your own blind spots.  As a shooter, I find it’s someone who regularly doesn’t feed the ball exactly where I want it. What they’re actually doing is putting it into the space I can’t see, closer to the post, allowing a higher percentage shot at goal.  I am learning to trust their judgement.

So, as individuals we must all take responsibility for our own behaviours and be prepared to work with our teammates’ idiosyncrasies as well as the challenges in front of us.  I used to be a ‘holding’ shooter and my team would sail in huge overhead balls which nine times out of ten would evade my defender. Now, the competition is taller, stronger, faster and more agile and I have to work much harder to create the opportunities for them. This may require more passes, more patience and undoubtedly more fancy footwork but is ultimately the right strategy for the team.

As a team, we may need to rally around those who are below par on a given day. Anything from a work dilemma, personal issue, undisclosed injury or poorly disguised hangover can lead to us being off our game but nevertheless good teammates will go the extra mile to fill the gaps or, at the very least, make allowances until we’re back on form.

If you’ve got the mix right, a high performing ‘A Team’ should not then be threatened but inspired by the ‘B Team’ snapping at their heels.  Leading by example, sharing knowledge and positive encouragement are key to enabling the next generation to develop, whilst at the same time driving us to perform at our best.

As for my club, I’ll be fighting tooth and (suitably filed) nail to maintain my place in the A Team but, wherever I end up, I hope the combination of players turns out to be a winning one.

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