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Creating World-Class Business Teams Using Sports Insights

Imagine the Indian Cricket team, that is supposed to play the world cup is selected by recruiters using headhunting portals like Naukri, Monster, IIMJobs, AngelList etc. Can you imagine the massive levels of Hara-kiri it will cause in the country? The question we’re asking you is this.

Why would you select your functional leaders through a recruiter who hasn’t been in your business, when you wouldn’t select a player for the national team by that method?

There is much we can learn from Sports, that we fail to implement in our ‘Talent-Management’, much that keeps us away from world-class success, and much that can transform our businesses if implemented properly.

Here are some key insights:

1. Does your HR even know what your people do?

Unless you know what tasks, need to be done, how will you determine who can do these tasks? You need leaders who can get things done – things that will make you the industry leader. However, you need to first know what things need to be done in order to achieve that leadership position. Do your support functions, get involved in your business actively, rather than sitting in their cushy offices?

2. Who selects your people? A random head-hunter, or someone who has done the job?

Is there a selection panel of people who have been in the role, have done the job, know what it takes? Or are you simply giving the HR a requirement, who then either outsource it to a head-hunter, or identify people simply on the basis of CVs that they source from online platforms?

3. Do you train your people, or simply expect them to perform?

Do your people train together, regularly, on the field? All sports teams train together, every single day, whether there’s championship or not. They have a coach that binds them together. Who keeps your team together? Does this person have experience in mentorship and coaching, or do they merely have accreditations? Has your business invested itself into crafting a learning environment for people? If not, how do you expect them to perform in the business world out there?

4. Are your people driven by petty, selfish motive, or a larger vision?

In fact, are you passionate? What drives your people to come to work? What do your people consider as rewards. In sports, teams get rewards, adulation, recognition, not individual talent. In sports, there is no other way to function but for all players to respect each other and collaborate constructively. Do your people do that?

5. Does your team reflect your leader and make multiple, small wins?

Is your team empowered? Do they have high sense of self-worth? In sports, every team reflects what their captain is like. Does your team do the same? Does your system match strengths with opportunities right on the playing field? What kind of feedback exists in your organization?

If your world cup is a 20-year-long vision, that doesn’t need anyone to play hard, play now and accomplish now, there will be no momentum. Sportspeople play to their strengths, not their weaknesses. Does your system play the same way, or are you focussed more on people’s weaknesses and shortcomings?

6. Is your leadership engaging with the clients?

When was the last time you met someone from your team at the client site? When was the last time someone from one of your support departments visited the plant? If people from your support functions have never met your clients, your team is missing from the field, and hence the vague JDs, and fancy titles and headhunting, rather than selections of people.

To close the loop, here are the key insights for your HR teams from the world of sports:

  • Your people have to be chosen for what they do, selected by a professional selection panel and should be handed over to the team, where the coach binds the team together.

  • The people you choose have to be driven and passionate as a team. There has to be a passion strategy, and the rewards are for the team, not individual brilliance. The people have to be able to respect each other.

  • The team and the captain have to be in sync and start winning, small or big doesn’t matter. The captain drives the pace, the mood, the emotions, the drive for the team.

  • Define your world cup and give your team the means to achieve it. Your team has to be capable of dealing with the last ball sixer. For that you need to be hiring enough weird people.

It boils down to an HR model that is based on minimum interference, and maximum interface on the other side. Their action has to be enablement and the uniqueness of action, of people professionally, and methodologically. It is essentially a social department with two objectives – player enablement and player joy.