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Fostering Team Harmony

This is an excerpt from In Pursuit of Excellence 5th Edition by Terry Orlick.

One of the most satisfying experiences in sport or any other domain is being a member of a team that gets along well and works as a cohesive, collaborative unit. When you live, work, and play together in harmony, the chances of enjoying the journey and achieving mutually beneficial goals increase significantly. By committing yourself to interact in simple, positive ways that make teammates feel valued, appreciated, respected, and supported, you go a long way toward improving team spirit, harmony, and performance. Team spirit grows when all team members feel that they have a meaningful role to play, are challenged to be what they can be, and experience something positive and have some fun in the process of getting where they want to go. Help your teammates to believe in each other and genuinely encourage each other to become whatever you have the potential to be, individually and as a team. Working and playing together can create a positive atmosphere, a feeling of acceptance, and a sense of unity. Direct your individual and collective focus toward helping each other to accomplish your collective mission. This will help you to have better practices or workout sessions and consistently move you toward higher-quality performances.

Rugby is just one example of many team sports where having a strong team spirit and sense of unity can help the team perform better as a team.
Rugby is just one example of many team sports where having a strong team spirit and sense of unity can help the team perform better as a team.
Bob Martin/BPI/DPPI/Icon Sportswire

Harmony grows when you look for the good qualities in teammates and they look for yours, when you take the time to listen to others and they listen to you, when you respect their feelings and contributions and they respect yours, when you accept their differences and they accept yours, and when you choose to help them and they choose to help you. Harmony and improved team performance are rooted in positive focus, a commitment to excellence, and ongoing mutual trust and respect.

When you know that someone needs you, cares about you, appreciates you, respects you, believes in you, values you, and accepts you - with all your imperfections - trust, harmony, and best performances are nurtured. When you help others and they help you, you begin to appreciate and respect each other. When you move beyond the surface and begin to understand other athletes' or performers' problems, feelings, challenges, or perspectives in a more intimate way, you begin to feel closer or more connected to them. Opening the door to real feelings, as difficult as this may be for some people to do, creates more intimate or real connections.

When Olympic and professional team performance enhancement consultant Cal Botterill studied the link between mood and performance in highly skilled team athletes, he discovered that team harmony was a key factor in performance. Each athlete's mood had a direct effect on his or her performance, and athletes on the road often cited positive interaction with their coaches, roommates, and teammates as having a positive influence on their mood and performance.

Some of the Olympic and professional teams I have worked with have had more than their fair share of disharmony and interpersonal conflicts. Some team members felt ignored or left out, some athletes believed that the coach did not respect them or believe in them, some athletes refused to room with others, and some team members withdrew emotionally or physically from the group. In one case, I witnessed firsthand two Olympic athletes physically fighting on-site just before an important international competition. Fortunately we were able to help them refocus to get back on a positive track in time for their event. Rarely do teammates or coaches intentionally try to create conflict or resentment or set out to hurt their teammates' feelings or performance before races or competitions. No one gains from that process. Both parties go through unnecessary and unpleasant turmoil and experience stress and distractions that can ultimately hinder their focus and team performance. The root of many interpersonal conflicts within team contexts is a lack of commitment to the overriding team mission, a lack of awareness of other people's feelings, or sometimes a misinterpretation of the actions or intentions of a teammate, colleague, or coach.

Merely being together at meetings, work, practices, training camps, games, competitions, or team parties does not necessarily increase mutual liking or performance harmony among team members. For a genuine positive team spirit to develop and grow, individuals must commit to a common mission or goal and be linked in some positive interdependent way so they know that they have to rely on and help one another to have a chance of achieving their individual and collective goals.

Harmony or compatibility sometimes flows or grows naturally among members of a team. When this ideal circumstance is not present, it is important to discuss the commitment required from everyone on the team to put the bigger mission above any conflict or disharmony so that everyone gives his or her best and supports one another to achieve a worthy, higher-level goal. When all team members make a decision to be supportive, remain flexible, be their best, find good qualities in their teammates, and work together to accomplish mutually beneficial goals, collectively they put their team on the path to harmony and excellence.

Open communication is an important step in preventing and solving conflicts or problems among team members. Respecting another person's needs, feelings, and perspective is difficult when you do not know or understand what they are. It is never too early or too late to move along a more positive path, turn a negative into a positive, transform a wrong into a right, or turn an error into a positive lesson. The best time to begin this performance- and life-enhancing process is right now.


Learn more about In Pursuit of Excellence, Fifth Edition.

More Excerpts From In Pursuit of Excellence 5th Edition