When U.S. Olympian Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for the individual all-around gymnastic competition in London last week, she was devastated. A heavy favorite to take home the gold, Wieber’s years of dedication and training fell apart in front of the entire world, and she left the competition in tears.
Two days earlier, one of the most famous Olympians of all time was fighting his own demons. That’s when swimmer Michael Phelps began the Games by nearly bombing out on his first qualifying race.
But within a few days, both of the athletes would be standing on that podium collecting sports’ highest honor. Their secret? They were not alone. Both Wieber and Phelps were members of incredibly unified teams that stood behind them despite their performances.
What’s so cool about this story (besides the coolness of it) is that you, too, can have your own Olympic moments every day. As Dave teaches in EntreLeadership Master Series, when you intentionally create and maintain team unity, you can strike gold. Here are a few ways how.
Waiting for the final score of the evening that would reveal the winner, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team stood as one, holding hands and staring at the scoreboard. When they were named champions of the world, they celebrated the same way—as a group, with more hugs and tears than a Miss America pageant. They had gelled as a team, and it showed all over their faces. And the major reason they were so unified? They shared a goal of bringing home the Olympic gymnastics gold, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by Americans since 1996.
Does your team have a common goal? It’s your job to not only make sure they do, but continually remind them of it. And remember, goals on a team can only be shared when your team develops them together. Why? Because a goal that is dictated is a quota. And quotas create employees, not team members.
Ask any coach the key to success and you’ll hear the same answer. Talent is huge, but communication is even more important. It’s what helps transform a group from a collection of individuals to a team that wins.
Share your dreams, tell your story, and let your team know what’s happening in good times and bad. As Dave says, “Don’t be a mushroom communicator with your team members, leaving them in the dark and feeding them manure.”
Just before the Olympics began, Phelps teammate Tyler Clary, who trained with the superstar swimmer, publically knocked Phelps for his lack of preparation for the Games. Before you could say, “Swimmers, take your mark,” it made headlines worldwide. But instead of a big blowout, the two athletes resolved their differences, with Clary publicly apologizing and Phelps accepting it. “We are teammates,” Phelps says. “And we always have to come into competition as one and leave as one."
The pair realized that unresolved disagreements can hurt their team. And it can kill your business too. As a leader, teach your team to either solve their problems together or talk about the issues with leadership. Work hard at making sure everyone on your team gets along. “Some days I have felt like I am running a beauty parlor with enough drama for an Academy Award,” Dave says. “But it must be dealt with if you want a quality culture that is unity-based.”
Throughout the history of the modern Olympics, there have been amazing stories of teams that have won despite overwhelming odds. You, too, can win by intentionally creating unity in your culture. Before you know it, you and your team will be earning medals of your own.
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