I had the opportunity recently to attend the state track championships for my son and daughter’s high school. My daughter was running the anchor leg for the girls 4 x 100 meter relay team. As you might imagine, I was there as a very proud dad!
But what I witnessed during the track meet had a significant message that applied as much to business as it did to the high school track team. There were 2 specific learnings I took from the track meet. Let me explain.
My daughter’s team had just barely qualified for the state finals. In the district qualifying race, they finished 4th to grab the last spot for regionals. Their time was not particularly impressive, but they were moving on. The coaches made a few adjustments – changing the order the girls ran in, their position in the exchange zones, etc. At the regional meet, they improved their time and again finished 4th. They did better than expected and were heading to the state meet.
They were seeded 6th out of 8 state finalists, so not expected to be on the podium. But the girls practiced hard, worked together, made some minor adjustments, and in their big race ran their best race of the season – got off to a great start, had perfect handoffs, ran very good individual legs, and my daughter brought them across the finish line in 3rd place! What a thrill for them (and for me!)
Their performance demonstrated that there is ALWAYS room for improvement if you just work on the small details that lead to success!
But the bigger lesson of the day came from the boys 4 x 100 relay team from our high school. They came into the state meet with the fastest qualifying time. They had not been beaten all year and were the favorites to win the race. Not cocky, but confident, they were prepared for the race.
But during the warm-ups, one of the runners decided that he was going to run even faster than in past meets. He talked with the team mate who he would be handing the baton off to and had him adjust his position in the exchange zone by just a couple of feet because he was confident he was going to be coming in “hot” (meaning fast).
So, without talking with the other team mates, without talking with the coaches, they made the decision to make the adjustment. As the race started, the boys got off to their usual fast start. The first hand-off was flawless. The “hot” runner was on his way to the next exchange zone. He was moving fast, but as he approached his team mate, he began to run out of gas. Rather than come in “hot” he came is as normal – exhausted from an all-out effort.
But the third runner, having adjusted his starting position in the exchange zone, took off expecting a “hot” team mate to arrive. But he didn’t. As he approached the end of the exchange zone, the third runner realized he had gone out too quickly and had to put on the brakes to get the baton before he crossed the exchange zone line. He nearly came to a complete stop – a disaster for any relay team!
Having lost momentum, he went quickly from in the lead to 4th or 5th place. Panicked, he ran like never before trying best he could to make up for their mistake. He handed the baton to their last runner in 4th place, and only by sheer grit and determination was he able to close the gap and take first place right at the wire!
The result was a victory – but not without more drama, frustration, worry, panic and heroic effort than should have been required. All because one person on the team decided to change a winning formula without communicating with others.
It made me think about how many times this happens in our business world. We know that to be successful in business, you must have great team work. Everyone must know their role, how it links with others in the business, what the expectations are and how they must communicate well together. But how often does one person on the team drop the ball, come in late, make changes without communicating them or think they can do it alone?
Has this ever happened in your business? I’ll bet we all have examples we could share.
Teamwork is Powerful! It can lead us to victory, or it can strip the win right away from us. As a business owner, it is critical that you make sure everyone on the team knows their role, does their part, communicates well with others, and follows the playbook.
Don’t let individuals in your business rob your team of the victory they have
been working hard to achieve!