Communication between team members is critical in any business. On the soccer field, it is just another part of success. Kristine Lilly of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team remembers that at times in her career when games weren't going so well, one of the key reasons was a lack of communication; players weren't talking on the field. It wasn't necessarily that the players weren't telling each other what to do or how to do it; instead, they weren't "getting" the words of support and encouragement that built togetherness.
Communicate to encourage
One of the loneliest times on the field is when you don't know if you have support behind you or next to you. However, when you hear, "Keep them outside," or "I'm here, win it," you don't feel as isolated or alone. Words of encouragement fire you up throughout a game. Nonverbal communication works too, such as the high fives or thumbs up that let your teammate know they are OK. An assist, which is passing the ball to another player so that person can score a goal, is the ultimate representation of teamwork. When a player chooses to pass the ball to a teammate who has a better opportunity to score, it is not only unselfish but smart. Anson Dorrance, University of North Carolina women's soccer coach, always told his players, "If you are in the attacking third of the field, do not pass the ball unless the person you are passing to will score a goal." You have to know where your teammates are and what the best choice is to make in that moment. Being aware of all these aspects as you are getting closer to your goal is vital to the success of your team. Over the course of her career, Lilly had 103 career assists, second only to Mia Hamm. For her, an assist was just as important as scoring a goal.
In the business world, high-performing teams are required to work in new, agile ways. Fast-moving, cross-functional teams rely on efficient communication and effective collaboration, not simple, cordial conversation. This communication builds inclusive teams that can explain ideas and opinions, share critical information, solicit feedback and resolve conflicts. These teams know their common objectives, goals and strategy. They know that if the team is successful, they will accomplish more than the sum of their individual achievements. Leaders are in charge of ensuring that messages are delivered consistently to their stakeholders. Information needs to be shared as soon as it is available. Timely delivery is important, because even a good message needs the recipient to be ready to receive it. The dialogue should be consistent, constant and complete. In addition, you should choose the appropriate method or channel to deliver the message. Your team won't complain about you over-communicating. If work tasks require greater interactivity, the communication should increase. For example, imagine a scenario where an enterprise software sales team called on Fortune 500 accounts to understand what solution each company was looking for over the next three years. The team would need a core account manager to serve as the point of contact with the prospect and to "quarterback" the sales strategy. This role would identify who they need to get buy-in from to get a "yes" from the decision makers. They could then assign sales specialists to each of these stakeholders and work the account together. At weekly calls, they could determine the prospect's pain points and how the company could measure success so that all members of the sales team can align and position their solution with one overall campaign message. They could provide case studies that prove their proposed point of success. Essentially, they collaborate effectively to accomplish their team goal. Unfortunately, this kind of collaboration is not common. Many sales departments are more like the Tower of Babel, where people don't speak the same language, if they speak at all. Under-communicating leads to confusion among the team, resulting in guessing, gossip and disconnects. This often creates tension. Instead, a "powerhouse" communicates effectively by listening, networking and collaborating.
John Gillis Jr.
John Gillis Jr., Ph.D., is the co-author of the best-selling book Powerhouse: 13 Teamwork Tactics that Build Excellence and Unrivaled Success, and an acclaimed business facilitator who founded the pioneering leadership development consultancy LeadershipX.