“I’ve played with better players, but I’ve never played with a better team” bespeaks a level of team confidence few attain. This quote was uttered years ago by a teammate in a recreational softball league. He was the one player on our team that had played in competitive leagues.
Memory of this quote was triggered as I watched the NFL games in which this year’s playoff teams were decided. I saw teams who were having a blast and winning. I also observed a big-contract quarterback railing at his best receiver as their team moved closer and closer to an agonizing loss and exclusion from post-season play.
This dichotomy caused me to wonder “Why are some teams more confident than others?” I looked to my experience with the recreational softball team for answers. We typically enjoyed winning seasons and once went undefeated. Here’s what I discovered.
This was a recreational league. Our purpose was to get together with friends and enjoy playing a sport we had enjoyed in our youth. Whether we won or lost was irrelevant. Of course we preferred winning, but a loss in no way diminished the fun we had.
Now I’m sure that some of you are thinking “But that doesn’t work for professional sports teams, they are expected to win.” Let’s see if that’s true. We’re going to explore two professional teams, team A and team B, to see if the key to their success is different from my experience in the recreational league.
Team A characteristics
- Loves to win
- Encourages each other to higher levels of success
- Enjoy each others’ company and have fun pursuing a mutual dream
Team B Characteristics
- Psychologically need to win
- Push one another to excel
- Experience friction during pursuit of a mutual dream
Which of these teams do you think is more likely to enjoy success? Let me ask that another way “On which team do you think you’d be most likely to excel?”
Most of us have experience in both environments so it should be an easy question to answer.
One of the things that still amazes me as I think of that softball team is that if anyone messed up, it was as if everyone else was out to lunch when it happened. I never heard one teammate criticize another over a botched play. On the flip side of the coin, if someone made a good play it was as if that person had won the olympics. Congratulations were enthusiastic and genuine which made the recipient feel special. Can you think of a greater motivation to do your best for your teammates?
Here are two more reasons why you should make the outcome irrelevant:
- It’s folly to imagine that we’re always going to get the outcome we desire, that’s simply not how life works.
- If things don’t go as planned, but you learned something, you still win.
Let’s explore each of these in more detail.
Those of us who are paying attention quickly realize that things don’t always go as planned. Indeed, they rarely go as planned. Get used to it. It’s life!
When things don’t go according to plan, and we quickly remind ourselves of that reality, we experience less disappointment and view the experience for what it is…a learning opportunity.
This combination of realism and rapid learning propels us forward toward achievement of our goal. Conversely, wallowing in self-pity, wondering “Why me?,” getting angry, being down or questioning our own abilities slows our progress.
In other words, being real is liberating.
Winning every time
When we realize that, regardless of the outcome, we will learn something that will enable us to enjoy greater success in the future, we no longer experience protracted periods of anxiety and disappointment. Instead we enjoy the fact that we’ve learned a valuable lesson and relish our ability to move forward more quickly and confidently.
Realize that you don’t have to be the designated leader to be the team leader, that by simply helping others see that an unanticipated outcome, and the lesson it affords, moves your team closer to its desired outcome.
Congratulate others on the things they do well. Instead of being critical of others, or allowing others to criticize, shift the conversation to lessons learned and how these lessons accelerate goal achievement.
Finally, most importantly, insert fun and levity into the conversations. Remind everyone that the more fun you have making the effort, the greater the success you’ll all enjoy.
For our kids
First and foremost, help you kids understand that regardless of the outcome, they will win every time. They’ll either get the outcome they desire or learn a valuable lesson that help them achieve their desired goal more quickly.
Teach them that they dictate the energy in any environment in which they find themselves. You’ve observed situations, as have they, where an individual entering a room brought fun and excitement with them. You’ve also seen people dampen a group’s enthusiasm with their negativity.
When your kids understand that they have the power to control the energy in the situations they face, they’ll opt for the positive over the negative.