Blog Posts

Winning as a Team

One of the most important things you can do for your team is to define what a “win” really looks like.  Winning has to be more than just a score.  It has to be birthed in the right spirit with the right attitude.  Successful teams have learned to simplify and verbalize what a win really looks like and how to measure it.

STORY ALERT:  My freshman year of high school I joined the softball team with many of my friends.  We had all played slow pitch ball previously and thought this would be fun!  Only to learn that slow pitch softball had just been replaced with fast pitch softball one week earlier in the state of Florida.  This virtual overnight change sent havoc through the whole lot of us freshman ladies particularly since we had grown up playing slow pitch.  

A week later we began our reformed softball practices.  Our coach, clearly slow pitch trained, desperately sought the fastest answers on how to take this team of “slow pitch” players and transform us into “fast pitch superstars”.  She had to recalibrate her practices and our team quickly. Most practice days were filled with our coach buried in a rulebook verifying plays while we ran bases.  It was dreadful.

Slow pitch softball and fast pitch softball are not that similar.  The speed of the game is different and the agility of the player is different.  So when our first game finally arrived we looked more like the “Bad News Bears” than the “Fighting Tigers” (our school slogan).  Our plays were sloppy, our pitching was slothful, and our knowledge of the game limited.  Obviously, winning the game was something no one believed was truly possible.  And they were right…we lost that first game tragically.  The final score was 64-2. 

As an adult, I now realize neither team must have understood the 10 run rule! The game went so long it was only called because the sun went down on the field and there was no accommodating overhead lights.  It was very discouraging, to say the least.  The only win that day was that our final score began a 25-year tenure as the best “worse” actual score in competitive sports in our school history!  Who knew?

Sometimes we, as leaders, get hit with similar circumstances.  The game changes and what we were once use to now no longer works.  The rules of the game have shifted and it is demanding a new us to shift with it.  These times are painful and often despised but they are bound to happen.  The greatest test in the midst of this time is how we set our team up around us.  If we are not careful our lack of knowledge in this new place will weaken our leadership “mojo” and cause us to restrict others rather than release them.

Winning in what we do is not all about a scoreboard.  If it was just one game- maybe it would be, but honestly I still think it wouldn’t be.  Winning concisely put is about clear, measurable goals being met or exceeded by a team consistently.  

Using my softball experience as our guide for this post, I would like to go on record we ended up winning only 1 game during that entire first season BUT at each game we narrowed the opposing runs and lost by less. By the end of the season, we lost our last game only by 1 run.  Though many saw that softball season as insignificant, wasteful, and all of us as a team of losers, in the end we may have lost the games but we learned to win 63 runs back.

Here is 3 thoughts to consider when identifying what a WIN may look like for you or your organization. 

Winning has to be more than a score.  Winning has to account for greater dynamics than that.  Comparisons are good for challenging us to grow but not measuring our worth or potential.  For our high school softball team we had to consider that we had NEVER played fast pitch softball though 80% of our opponents had.  In comparison, there was no way to truly know if we were worse players than they were or if they had just had more “practice” time together than we had. If we measure our progress against a more seasoned team we end up selling our team short.  Leading us to irrational, misplaced disappointment.  We end up believing our team is not “as good of players” as another team when in reality our players may be much better but need more time together with their teammates on the practice field.  Often it is not the quality of the players that is missing but the quality of the practice time that is missing.

Improvement should be a win.  Assessing your team and positioning them for personal and team improvement is a win for any leader.  Improved players far outweigh just talented players.  Improved players rely on their ability to continue to learn rather than their ability to simply perform.  For us, winning became about improving.  Every practice we worked to improve our game and every game we worked to find out how to improve our practices.  Soon we learned we might not have beaten the more seasoned teams that year but we did end the season as a “fast pitch softball team”.  Focusing on improvements reduces discouragement among the team and enhances the buy in. 

A win is often simply teaching our team to focus on something not everything.  There is always something to do and something to improve.  Helping guide your team into what is the most important personal goal and team goal teaches focus.  It’s like eating with a fork- you can only fit so much on the fork at a time.  We intentionally force our focus to be on something on the plate rather than everything on the plate. You will be surprised that when you focus on “one” of something you tend to improve faster overall than when trying to spread thin and improve everything at the same time. 

Finally and, without discrediting scores, numbers can not be the only measurement for success on a team Numbers are important and necessary but the numbers on a scoreboard can never really tell the whole story of a game even furthermore the depth of a team. The scoreboard may have kept up with touchdowns, home runs, and plays but it can never articulate the guts, heart, or true quality of a play.   Teach your team to care about the scoreboard because measurements are real and imperative but never teach them that the scoreboard decides the win entirely.  A win is so much more.  A win must take into account the emotional stamina of the players, the hard working environment that produced it, and the on-going voices needed to continue to do it.  Besides, I have seen some win on the field but loss the heart of the game. 

So I leave you with these four simple things to glean from when determining your win. 

  1. Don’t compare yourself or your team to another person or team who may be further down the road than you in practices and games.  It is not fair to you or your teammates and only breed’s unhealthy discouragement.  
  2. Define a Win for your team outside of the scoreboard alone.  Look for important heart and hand metrics necessary to constitute what a real win looks like.  Remember even if the scoreboard ends up with you on top in the numbers game it does not always mean you are winning.
  3. Be willing to invest your energy on the practice field as well as the game field.  Learning the ebb and flow of your teammates happens on the practice field first.  Teams that only play games together rarely end up great.  Because greatness is born from the loins of inspired relationships. 
  4. If you are going to work, work smarter not harder.  For my softball team improving became the goal and that became our work focus.  Sure we could have got out on the field each day with grit determination that we would understand mentally and actualize physically everything there was to know about fast pitch softball before our next game but the truth was no amount of unrefined, unfocused work would have made us better.  We needed to see improvements in the right areas and work smarter on the things that would get us closer to being the team we knew we could be.  We chose to master the basics first.  Those who understand the basics and executed them consistently win games.