In the words of that renowned management thinker, Tina Turner, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’
I think quite a lot potentially.
I watched the final of the cricket T20 World Cup last month. After the match, a TV interviewer asked the victorious Australian batter, Marcus Stoinis what he felt was the key to the team’s success.
The response was interesting,
“This group of boys, we absolutely, actually love each other. It is beautiful”.
Later, fast bowler, Mitchell Starc was asked to explain how a team coming into the tournament on such a poor run of form, could end up winning the whole thing.
Again, his take on it was revealing,
“It’s not been an ideal lead-up, but I think it’s the closeness of the group. We’ve had a great time being together – albeit locked up. We’ve had some great times off the field, getting around each other and I think that’s shown in the way we’ve played our cricket. The closeness of the group is what got us through this tournament.”
Isn’t this just sporting machismo and Aussie matey-ness taken to an extreme?
I’m not so sure.
I remember the confused looks on the faces of an all-male and 50-something leadership team, when I started an offsite workshop, with the words, “I want to talk about love”.
No one would accuse me of being ‘new age’ or a hippy, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that teams thrive on the back of a little love.
Sometimes, in the very early stages of working with a team, I’ll ask each individual a simple, fairly harmless question, for them to answer in front of their colleagues – things like, ‘Who is a person you admire?’, ‘What makes you laugh?’, ‘When were you happiest?’ etc What quickly becomes clear, even in teams that have worked together for years, is how little the team members really know about each other.
The more we know each other, the bigger reserves of trust we build.
Really getting to know our colleagues requires us to be interested in them. That’s a sign that we care. Enough to be curious. When someone is genuinely interested in us, we’re usually flattered and respond positively. As trust builds, we’re likely to disclose more about ourselves, building deeper bonds. When we reciprocate the curiosity, more sharing will likely happen in return and so on in a virtuous cycle of trust.
And there’s good evidence to show that high trust teams perform better, suffer less stress, make better, quicker decisions and are more engaged.
What I also notice in the early stages of working with teams, is often how unsure team members are about showing and sharing their emotions. There’s this sense of uncertainty about being judged or appearing ‘improper’.
A lot of this sits at the heart of psychological safety and that comfort with taking interpersonal risk. In the macho and often aggressive world of elite sport, Marcus Stoinis is part of a team, where it’s clearly ok to say they ‘absolutely love each other’.
And what does that mean for performance?
Team members know that all of their colleagues have their backs. There’s a trust which breeds confidence. It’s ok to take risks and it’s ok to fail. Everyone in the team has a voice and has helped to shape the purpose, objectives and direction of the team, so there’s skin in the game and a collective sense of belonging. And when there’s a foundation of care, it’s so much easier to give and receive powerful feedback, so that individual and team performance is kept on track.
I’m not sure I buy that love means never having to say you’re sorry, but I am certain that when it comes to team success, a little love goes a very long way.