Firstly: if you don’t know about the Ryder Cup it is a biannual golf match played between the professional golfers of Europe and those of the USA. As with many international sporting events it is used by many commentators as a barometer of what is good or bad about the state of the particular sport, and much more, in the competing countries.
This year’s event was different because, after Europe won the event for the 8th time in 10 attempts, it raised different questions.
What was difference in the level of management between the two teams and what was the role of the two team managers in helping their teams to win/lose?
At the post match press conference and in the aftermath of a significant defeat the US team started to turn on their manager. In contrast the European team had nothing but glowing praise for theirs.
In this context golf is a great metaphor for business because of the way it requires individuals to perform at their best individually but within a team context. There is no hiding place; your result as a player affects the team performance and the ultimate result – this is especially true for smaller businesses where there is very little spare capacity to cover any underperformance.
Below are four significant lessons from the Ryder Cup that can be applied to any business.
Lesson 1. Inclusion
In every team there are established experienced players and “green” newbies. The European Manager travelled extensively to watch his team members play and to talk with them so that he could build a relationship with them. He paid particular attention to those who would be making their debut and those who were less experienced. He made sure that every player was aware of their importance to the team and the role they would play; he didn’t limit himself to the “stars”, he included the backroom members of the team and the other stakeholders who would contribute to his players’ performance. He even visited the grounds men at the golf course to persuade them of the set up that would best suit his team.
Do you really include everyone in your team? Does everyone know their role and why they are important and, most importantly, how they can contribute successfully to your goals?
Lesson 2. Motivation
As a top sportsperson it is often assumed that playing for your country is the pinnacle of recognition but for professional players this may not be the case. They have other opportunities to shine and be recognised. Understanding this, the European manager brought his team together by using a range of motivational techniques: setting up and decorating the team changing room in a way that emphasised the team nature of the event, showing trust in his players by involving them in every stage of the process, understanding that even stars can need a helping hand he posted motivational quotes and used imagery that brought the team together in the common cause.
Do you recognise that for some people you work with, their job will not be as important to them as yours is to you; they will have different priorities. To get them to give you their best you have to motivate them to want to do it.
Lesson 3. Don’t be too proud to ask for help
You cannot do everything yourself and in some areas you will not be the best person to do the job. The European manager recognised this at an early stage and he brought the expert help and support he needed to help him get his team to the peak of readiness to perform. He enlisted the help of previously successful managers and people with experience outside the sphere of golf. This included asking Sir Alex Ferguson to come and talk to his team about what it takes to win in high stakes matches.
Do you feel comfortable asking for help or do you see it as a sign of weakness?
4. Attention to detail
Almost in unison the European team have praised their captain’s attention to detail. What this means is that every member of the team felt the preparation was right for them. Are they all the same? Do they have the same needs? No. The manager recognised this and ensured that each member of the team had what they needed to perform at their best.
Are you prepared to go to this level for your team? Or do you see yourself as the big picture person who leaves the detail to someone else? There is a big difference in attending to detail and doing it yourself (see above re: asking for help). Success comes in the detail.
If you are a sole trader who has to work with other people or the owner of a business with many employees you have to understand team management and leadership. These 4 lessons from one of the biggest winning teams in the modern history of the Ryder Cup can help you to be more effective and achieve better results from the teams you work with.
American management techniques have been at the heart of business teaching for many years is this the time when Europe really taught the Americans a lesson in great team management?