Sports often mimics business. In my 12th year with a team that has turned over 55% of its roster, everyone’s unique adaptation to change has been vital to our success. Twelve years ago, I survived a try-out and joined an adult recreational soccer team. Despite numerous transformations, the team wins consistently. From season to season, because of age, injury or life’s priorities, the membership changes while the team philosophy, norms and goals remain constant. Today, only eight of the eighteen original members remain actively involved on the squad. Each of these eight old-timers has made a distinct adjustment to their game in order to remain vibrant in their contribution to the team. In the absence of speed is now finesse. As strength has declined, wisdom has increased. Previous starters are now substitutes and former subs now play the most minutes.
Speaking with a few teammates following a recent game, it seems most of us have experienced parallel transformations in our career paths. Although some have long professional tenures with their organizations, they join a largely different set of teammates at work each day than they did a decade ago. Yet the product of their employment continues to be shipped. An informal poll of workplace dynamics revealed some common themes and patterns.
The organization’s investment in a consensus foundation of mission, values, philosophy and vision is activated in team norms and anchored in the way conflict and differences get managed. Teammates are accountable to each other for their unique role and contribution. This accountability breeds trust and closeness. The platform built from this investment and trust supports the ability to take smart risks and be innovative. This innovation generates change which forces everyone to adapt. Ultimately, resilient adaptation empowers a reinvestment in whatever the next iteration of the team or product happens to be. Something new is created that contains the essential elements of the original investment.
Why are my friends leaving me? Because that’s what people do on healthy, effective teams.