The 2019 soccer season is in the books! It was a rough season for our household. Luckily, we ended on a high note with our first win in the last game of play of the tournament weekend. Yep, it was a long season of practices, rainouts, near wins, total defeats, and bruised egos. But that last game…oh, it felt good!
Let me paint you a picture. It was a beautiful morning with big white clouds in the sky and low humidity. The players, all 11- and 12-year old boys, were alert, having fun without a care in the world. The parents were enjoying the beautiful scenery and grateful to be there to support our kids. We had nothing to lose. Then play started. The boys were passing, talking to each other, and following through on their shots. Most importantly, they were actually taking shots on goal! We parents on the sidelines started to freak out because, after a long season, “they got it!” They finally got what it meant to play together as a team, and it was working. When they scored their first goal, I believe our cheers bordered a bit more on the obnoxious side than today’s PC-appropriate sideline support. It felt good! After two long halves against a very good team, they won. Or, if you will indulge me, WE won!
As someone who takes pride in building teams and enjoys the synergy that comes from a cohesive unit, it was hard to sit on the sidelines, cheer, and just be supportive.
I believe there are a few critical aspects that must be addressed to have a strong team, whether it be on the soccer field, in a nonprofit, or in business:
Vision: When building a team, it should start with your vision. Where are you going? What will success look like? Do you have a plan? All of this directs what resources are needed to get there. Normally the largest investment you make with your budget is in human resources. To ensure that you are being the best steward of this investment, your structure should align with your vision. Your vision is also a beautiful rallying point for your team. When a person can see how they impact your vision, powerful things happen!
Skills: To reach your vision, you will need a team with diverse strengths and skills. Know what you need to complete your team. I am a firm believer in the Good to Great model. Recruit good people to your team and then help them find the right seat on the bus. Never be afraid to adapt or reposition your team as natural changes occur. Get feedback from the team. You never know what hidden skills people might have if you don’t ask. This also helps staff grow. If you can’t afford to add to your team, do not forget about volunteers. Some of my favorite teams were filled out by volunteers who wanted to keep a system rolling or help to build a new one using their expertise.
Expectations and Communication: It always comes down to expectations and communication. Take the time to come up with annual performance goals for each team member. This can also be done for volunteers - the best example is the board. Connect those goals to the strategic plan or vision. This helps each team member see their impact. It can also identify holes not currently filled by the team. Then talk about it A LOT! Team meetings are important but can also be a drain on energy and time. Make sure they are goal-oriented, removing barriers, celebrating successes, and including follow-up with accountability. Is there a dashboard that can track progress? Don’t forget your individual meetings with your direct reports. Annual goals should not just be reviewed annually. Try meeting every other month to have those in-depth conversations and get ahead of issues before the end of year.
Culture: Nothing drives productivity or dysfunction more than culture. Those involved can name it even if you have not defined it. Many try to avoid it, but it’s there. If you have core values, let that drive your culture. Hold each other accountable to live into your values just like you do performance goals. Challenge your systems and norms against your values or the culture you want to build to see if you are who you want to be in action. If not, talk about what needs to change. Culture building can be the hardest work you do but can lead to great success.
Many of you assume I would not put all this on my kid’s soccer team, but that is only those who don’t know me well! These simple concepts can help your nonprofit, team, family, and even soccer team. So, let’s all team up and #DoGreatThings!