There’s no “I” in Team

I’m recently back from competing at Cowes week, perhaps one of the most famous and longest running sailing regattas in the world. Often there are up to 8,000 professional and amateur race crew competing in over 1,000 sailing boats. It’s quite a spectacle to watch and feels pretty special to take part in. This year we were just beaten overall and came 2nd in our class. We’ve had a couple of 1st places in previous years, but the reason I’m writing about coming 2nd is because another valuable observation from this regatta experience became apparent that I think is relevant to the SaaS/business world.


The fact is that our team dynamic was phenomenal. OK we did not win overall but the fact remains that a group of people came together to deliver on what was a pretty challenging project (It was a super windy week and we had some decent competition). We had a relative newcomer to the team (who is just an all round great human being – credits to Freddy!)  and the rest of us had not competitively raced together for a long time or sailed that boat for many years. We all got on like the best of friends and performed really well together. I don’t recall a more enjoyable time when yacht racing.


As I get more focussed on competitive sport outside of my work both on and off the water, it never ceases to amaze me just what can be achieved when a team of like-minded people get together to try and achieve something amazing. As so often the case, my mind wanders back to work and the parallels with my business life.


That camaraderie of doing whatever you can do to support the others, revelling in the great bits whilst analysing the elements that need improvement. Sharing all the tasks collectively knowing that however menial that task is, it supports the greater good. Living together, laughing together, talking though your aspirations and concerns, cooking, eating and drinking (one or two only mind you, we are athletes after all) together all supported that cohesion that is prevalent in the best teams.


Whilst different to competitive sailing or any other sport, the same dynamic applies in our business groups and teams. Creating a team that shares the same values and is supportive in a collaborative manner is key. Individuals that care about the greater good as opposed to purely individual glory is critical when building a high performing team. One bad egg can cause serious determent to any team environment be that on the water or on the land. I’ve seen this on both land and at sea. However,  at sea, you can’t easily walk away to take a deep breath, in fact at sea it can be dangerous…but that’s another story for another time!


In writing this post, I came across an interesting article that resonated with my recent Cowes Week experience and I shall share the headlines here. A well-known tech firm recently conducted a 5-year study aimed at understanding what the secret was in maximising team effectiveness. Here is a really brief overview of the findings. A lot of it makes common sense reading but perhaps consider the notes below and see how much resonates in your own team.


Dependability – Dependency on each other with open transparency on responsibilities and duties. Team members understand their own requirements for delivery are but also their co-workers too. With clear goals and a roadmap, it is clear to see progress and meet expectations.

Impact – Reflection and focus on the longer-term greater goal is critical. How easy is it sometimes to for us not to look above the desk level? A reminder that the individual effort of one, combined with the overall effort of all truly makes a difference to everyone. Taking some time to consider our efforts helps to remind us of the true impact of what we do.

Meaning – Positive thanks and appreciation to your co-workers is important. Even a small demonstration of gratitude or appreciation goes a very long way and enhances the way an individual or team feels about their work environment, no matter how small. Don’t take people for granted. So much easier to be polite and thoughtful.

Structure & Clarity – Goals need to be clear and well communicated with clear updates and deliverables. Meetings should have an agenda to ensure focus. At the conclusion of the meeting, team members will know what to do in order to be successful.

Psychological Safety – Judgment free environments where people can share ideas and thoughts and feel able to contribute and feel valued. People in these environments are less likely to leave and more likely to succeed.

Please feel free to share your ideas on great team cohesion or other thoughts on this topic!

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