You’re in the Big Leagues Now

Published: January 29, 2013

Professional sports teams kick off each season with a fan fest where loyal supporters mob a local hotel for a chance to shake hands or get an autograph from a hero. Optimism always reigns. Each new season is filled with hope and dreams of a playoff appearance. Behind the scenes, executives collaborate to put the best product on the field.

Those drafting the players, making the trades, and investing in talent development to better the team have seen every variety of success and failure. Some years, it is the unsung rookie who comes out of nowhere, wins a spot on the roster, and sets the world on fire with his skills. Other times, it’s the proven veteran who grew complacent and stopped evolving his gifts. The magic chemistry of the season is concocted from an accumulation of these stories.

Every campaign has surprises and disappointments. These results are not random. The rhyme and reason to professional sports team success is the same as it is in business. The teams that elevate their goals, exceed expectations, and reward shareholders have the following things in common:

Every single member of the organization buys into a culture of accountability to a particular way of doing things that reflects the team’s philosophy, mission, values, and vision on a daily basis.

The integrity of commitment is practiced and modeled without supervision. Teammates collaborate towards a common goal for the intrinsic reward and devotion to each other.

Continuous improvement arises from the courage to be creative and experiment with something new. It’s easy to do what you’ve always done when it brings satisfactory results. Stretching to the next level requires the willingness to assume risk. These are usually the team leaders regardless of rank or status.

Adapting to the natural cycles of wins and losses takes poise and flexibility. Staying cool under pressure allows teammates to stay in a zone of peak performance while opponents and competitors are misdirecting their energy. Rebooting solves many problems.

As the new seasons unfold, our roles will either add or subtract from the performance of each of the teams in our circles. What an opportune time to decide what your contribution will be.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.