Going for gold: what kind of team are you?Lauren Heaven • 18th August
As Rio 2016 draws to a close, we’re thinking about the ins and outs of teamwork and how to get the most out of a team, in sport or through communications.
A weak-link team is as strong as its weakest players. Rugby Sevens is a great example of this. In the 15-player format, if you miss a tackle there are one or two team members waiting to step in and avert disaster. When there are only seven of you, everybody counts. When Fiji won Olympic gold in the men’s event, and Australia in the women’s, it was down to weak-link teamwork. Every player put his or her body on the line for the win.
Weak link sounds negative, but it’s anything but. As explained by Malcolm Gladwell in Episode 6 My Little Hundred Million of his Revisionist History series, a weak-link team works together – it’s the sum of its parts. (He goes on to talk about educational philanthropy and why donors insist on giving to thebig US universities instead of tiny schools; it’s well worth a listen.)
On the other hand, a strong-link team relies on the strongest individual. Take basketball, for example. One player can dribble the ball from one end of the court to the other, score a basket and that’s that. The other five players fade into the background as surplus to requirement.
But what matters most of all is for a team to identify which kind it is and to tailor its approach accordingly.
Football is a weak-link team sport that often gets treated like a strong-link one. With Premier League teams breaking transfer records left, right and centre, it shows the emphasis put on individual players. But no one player can dribble the ball down the entire length of the pitch. Instead, strikers rely on a series of small gains – multiple pinpoint passes possibly followed by a cross into the box. Star players need their teammates, otherwise Messi – the four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner – would have won an international cup for his country by now.
So, when it comes to your team, what do you do? Do you rely on the strongest link? Or enhance the weaker ones? At Words&Pictures, we identify as a weak-link team – and we’re proud of it. Every piece of work that goes through our studio relies on someone from each department playing their part, so we need everyone operating at the same level to produce the best possible work. And we believe we do!
To achieve the best employee engagement, organisations should identify as weak-link teams, investing in every individual and recognising their contribution towards the end goal.
The same applies to identifying content for your communications. Take a bottom-up approach by searching for stories from and about the people on the shop floor, not those on the board of directors, or at least not exclusively. Give every level of your company the same degree of exposure and treat the stories equally, from apprentices to executives. They all deserve to shine.
Learning and development also comes to the fore. Equip everyone with the tools needed to meet their potential in their role, and your company will reap the benefits of the weaker links getting stronger. Colleagues who feel invested in, are more engaged, and will work harder for the company. It’s win-win.
This weak-link ideology highlights exactly why your colleague communications have a real part to play in your company’s external success. Give your colleagues the investment they need to grow and then produce content that excites them as part of your team. Aspire to be a weak-link team, with links that are always getting stronger – rugby sevens, not basketball.