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The Formula for Creating a Winning Team


In July I wrote about how sport can inform business, inspired by the nation’s passion for the sporting events happening at that time, and by my new experience training for a tug-of-war competition. On Saturday the big day arrived and it was brilliant! The parallels between forming our ‘Drag Queens’ team and creating successful teams in business are so evident that I wanted to share some of our strategies from the last 8 weeks.



Having been asked to take part in the Great Milton ladies team and then to be captain of it was a challenge I relished. But I had no idea about the sport (my understanding that it was simply yanking on a rope as hard as possible couldn’t have been further from the reality). And I was very open about having no knowledge or experience. As a leader it is important to have a clear sense of purpose and enthusiasm for achieving the goal without the need for hierarchy or status that so many people seek in the workplace. We were all equals.


Input & Feedback

As a result of my ignorance, I sought ideas from everyone involved. I wanted to hear the views of every team member. For some, they communicated more honestly via text whereas others were happy to discuss their thoughts face-to-face. We put some ideas to a vote; others I made the call based on all the information to hand. I also asked for feedback about how people felt, what they wanted and what we could do better. I like my friend Jen’s use of ‘What went well?’ and ‘Even better if…’


Expert Advice

We decided that we didn’t know enough (anything) about what we were doing and so we asked another local team to help us. Thank you Lorna! That was a real eye-opener and was critical to the outcome. I always think it’s interesting how we tend to muddle on through challenges without making use of experts around us who can offer a few pointers and make the world of difference. I’ve been in that situation with work, thinking I can do what I need for my business. As I progress, it’s becoming very clear that I need experts to help me with areas that I know little about, such as marketing. I wonder how many companies think about all their areas for development including people, teams and leaders, and put a strategy into place for their progression?


Challenge Stereotypes

Every tug-of-war team needs an anchor at the back. They are usually big, heavy and strong. It turned out that no one on the team fitted these criteria and so, short of asking anyone to consume extra calories, we experimented with different people taking on the role. It turns out that Gill, being 6 foot and a size 10 did an outstanding job. If you’d asked anyone to identify our anchor when we’re not in position, I doubt anyone would have suggested her. It can be surprising what hidden talents people have.



We came up with a team name, were supplied with tops courtesy of Cubiquity Media via our Taylor Wimpey team member, and we applied war paint to our faces and chalk to our hands. The difference? We felt a real connection to each other. It showed everyone else that we were united and confirmed our identity as a team, rather than a group of individuals forming a group. It’s interesting to see how different organisations achieve this without uniform. Sometimes it’s as simple as a thermal cup with the company logo. For others, it’s about the values and purpose that we identify with.



So much of what drives our behaviour is our beliefs. Having the confidence that we would succeed, resulting from our journey outlined here, made a significant difference. We knew that we were all committed to the same goal and that we were all going to give 100%. Team talks during the pulls to highlight our successes and how we achieved them helped us stay on top of the game. Importantly, we were open to the plan changing after each pull. The idea that there is one plan and it stays the same during periods of feedback is short-sighted. We also focused on our strengths so that we weren’t intimidated by the opposition.

And the winner is….

So, against all the odds, pulling uphill in the final (yes, our village green is on a slope and I lost the toss of the coin), we won the trophy. The last pull of the day and we didn’t get off to the best start. The grass had worn through to dirt, gravity was against us and Great Haseley pulled us to within inches of their victory. But our team were so determined, shared such a passionate sense of purpose and had invested jointly into the challenge that to everyone’s amazement, we pulled it back, up the hill, until we were flat on our backs grinning from ear to ear. Between us we’re physically bruised, have rope burns, sore muscles and injured ribs but it was all completely worth it. The team gave everything because they were completely invested. I am an incredibly proud team leader!

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