Like many of you, I have lost 2 weeks of my life watching the Rio Olympics. Never have I sat down for so long! Along with cheering team mates, nervous friends and family and millions across the nation, I have screamed at Team GB cycling squad – cheering as everyone won a medal; held my breath at pommel, bars and triple twists as the gymnasts and divers held firm; and more than anything, rejoiced with the women’s hockey team as they won gold after a series of 8 gruelling matches.

Here surely is an example of how Common Purpose, set up well, and held true with team discipline over 2 years has paid off to achieve their single aim over 8 hours of intense, fast-paced and brutal hockey.

The team’s best performance to date had been a bronze in 2012, but in 2014 they were at a low after finishing 11th in the world. At that point, with their coach rejoining them, and experienced players being persuaded to come back from retirement for Rio, they collected around a common purpose and a goal of achieving gold. That purpose was:

“Be the Difference, Create History and Inspire the Future”.

In order to deliver that, as a team of 31 along with their coaching team and support staff they looked at how they worked and, as was clearly demonstrated over the 2 weeks of play, put the following in place:

1. Strategy: every player knew the strategy to achieve their goal and executed it;

2. Expectations: every player knew what their role was and played it for the good of the team;

3. Leadership: every player acted as a leader, never looking for permission from the captain, making decisions when they needed to, on the team’s behalf;

4. Team Rules: as a team they created team rules, and stuck to them – as was seen by their self-imposed social media ban during the games

5. Belief: in the purpose and goal. They knew they had the strategy and could achieve the goal, “1 of 8”, “2 of 8” being the summary as they progressed through those 8 games, to “8 of 8” as they won.

So why does business often come back to elite sport to look for examples of great team performances? Are they creating new ways of working that can be transferred into business and do we have lessons to learn?

Not really – actually, they’ve taken the ideas from business, applied them, created great success stories, and now we in business are taking note and copying that example. Many of the methods used in elite sport and described above come from Katzenbach and Smith (amongst others), who worked for Mckinsey & Co Inc. and laid this out in 1993 in their seminal work. And they pulled on work from TuckmanSengeand Herzberg (to name a few) going back to the 1960s, 70s & 80s – so this isn’t new. Many businesses just haven’t paid that much attention, or employed the lessons with the discipline and commitment found in our elite sports teams.

And let’s remember – these teams don’t work with each other day in, day out. They have other lives, other clubs they play for and come together for brief periods to train and perform as a team. But when they do, they believe in why they do what they do, and they apply their rules and strategies consistently, they measure and monitor their performances and they commit: to the goal, the process and each other!

So what would happen if we in business started to do this, if we took these lessons and applied them to a team who work together every day? A team…..

-Who had that discipline

-Who understood their roles

-Who stepped up as leaders, everyone, when they needed to

-Who truly believed they could and would achieve their goal, united by that common purpose……..

How powerful would that team, your team be? What could they achieve?

So…..Think about it, believe it, and apply it to your teams! Inspire the future!