I was watching one of my daughter's volleyball tournaments this weekend and I made a few observations that I think will apply to our work teams:
- Know (and play) your position: In volleyball, everyone expects that their teammates will play their position and know where they should be on the court. When this doesn't happen, it results in a lot of dropped balls. The same is true in our work teams - people expect you to know your position and not drop any of the balls you're responsible for.
- Talk to each other: One of the key attributes of a successful volleyball team is that they are constantly talking to each other on the court. If there is any doubt who should grab a ball, one of the players yells, "Mine!" and everyone else on the team backs off and lets them handle it. At work, if there is any doubt about who owns what, someone needs to overtly take responsibility for the commitment in question and everyone else needs to back off and let them handle it.
- Celebrate the "aces": When the server on the volleyball team serves the ball and the other team is unable to return it, the "ace" gets celebrated immediately. And not just by the players on the field - the ones on the bench celebrate, too. In our work teams, we should recognize wins as they happen and everyone on the team should have the chance to celebrate - even if they weren't directly involved in the win.
- Reassure and support each other: When someone screws up, let them know it's OK and move on to the next point (if it's appropriate, tell them what they could've done differently in a constructive way). In our work teams, the same concepts apply - remember, it shouldn't be personal - it should be about how to recover and learn from mistakes.
- Ask for help when you need it: On a volleyball team, the setter works really hard - they have to move all over the court and their job is to set up the ball so the "hitters" can make a big play and get a point. However, sometimes, they just can't get to the ball in time. The moment they notice that this is the case, a good setter yells, "Help!" or something similar, signaling to their teammates that they need someone to cover their responsibility. In a team, this kind of behavior is also necessary. The moment you realize you can't meet your commitment, you need to ask for help - it's much better than a dropped ball with no warning.
- Don't let your attitude wreck the team's attitude: I've seen huge performance variations between one game and the next in volleyball. The pivotal difference is often the attitude or confidence of one or two girls on the team - if they are "on," they bring the team up; if they are "off," they bring the team down. In work teams, never underestimate the impact your attitude and confidence have on the others on your team. Don't let your negative outlook spoil the team's chances for success.
These are just some of the parallels I drew from watching volleyball. Hopefully, they will get your juices flowing and help you be a better contributor to your team.