This summer my daughter made the transition from recreational to competitive soccer.  Up to now, she’s always been the fastest kid on the field (speed’s a gene she inherited from her mother!).  She created scoring opportunities on offence and was the first person back to stop an opponent.  Wherever the ball went she was there first.

    At the competitive level, my daughter is playing with more capable teammates against much stronger competitors. She’s still often the fastest but chasing the ball doesn’t work anymore.  She’s had to learn to play her position and trust her teammates to do their jobs. This ‘role clarity’ has helped her become a better team player.

    Games look a lot different from the sidelines now.  At the recreational level players scrambled like mice chasing cheese, with a few stronger players dominating. At the competitive level, players work together to make plays and achieve better results as a team.

    It’s the same in the workplace, isn’t it?  Organizations performing at the “recreational level” are often staffed with average and below-average players. There tends to be confusion about roles and responsibilities. Employees scramble to “chase the ball” as they put out fires. Managers don’t really trust their staff’s capabilities so they call on the most capable people to help with everything, or they take over tasks themselves. This burns out the top performers and frustrates the rest of the employees who never get to ‘handle the ball’ and develop their own game.

    In contrast, high performing organizations, like competitive sports teams, recruit and retain the best players possible. They identify the skills required for success in each role then assign talent accordingly. Employees have well-defined roles with clearly articulated responsibilities so people know what is expected. Managers provide coaching and training as needed but otherwise trust employees to get their jobs done.

    Is your team playing at the competitive or recreational level?  Here are some questions for your “coaching staff” to consider:

    • Is your roster full of the best players possible or do you settle for ‘whoever signed up’?
    • Do you put the ‘right players in the right position’ by understanding what is required to be successful in a role and matching the right employees to the right jobs?
    • Do your employees have clarity of role and responsibilities or are they chasing the ball around the field, getting in each other’s way and taking the ball from each other?
    • Are you coaching employees and letting them learn through mistakes or do you take over at the first sign of trouble or get a star player to ‘grab the ball’?

    You might be surprised at how your team will come together if you approach things more like a competitive sports team.  I bet you’ll start winning more games too!


    This article was published more than 1 year ago. Some information may no longer be current.