The Rugby World Cup is currently being contested in England at the moment. Over five weeks, many teams have already been eliminated, including England.
It has made me wonder whether you have noticed what people say – and probably, what you say if you play sport – after they have just played a game?
The first factor, understandably, is whether they were successful, and won; or whether they were unsuccessful, and lost.
But, what do they say after that – this is where it gets interesting and the conclusions can be applied to teams at work.
What team members say next depends on their degree of realism about their performance and how honest they are in analysing what needs to be done next.
If you put these two concepts together, win/lose and degree of realism, you create a four box model which helps analyse the situation:
Whingers or complainers are losers who do not accept responsibility for their poor performance. They apportion blame and refuse to acknowledge their own shortcomings.
Whingers apply false rationalisation such as it was too early in the morning, the referee was against us, the sun was in our eyes, we never got going. Reality is buried under clichés – rub of the green, bounce of the ball, the dice were loaded against us from the start, so near yet so far….
Teams in organisations that are whingers, blame other teams or suppliers or customers for their shortcomings, never themselves. In doing so, they erect a wall to separate them from the rest of the world.
Or, worse still, they point the finger at other team members, which leads to low loyalty, dissension and a further deterioration in performance.
Improvers acknowledge defeat but they analyse the reasons and explore how to raise their performance. They say: We didn’t like that result – let’s look at what we have to do different so that next time we perform better.
A team of improvers has a constructive discussion and faces up to unpopular decisions. They acknowledge what went wrong and search for a different approach to improve performance.
When complacents win, they see it as an end result, an arrival. They look to the past. They say: That worked, so more of the same is the order of the day.…never change a winning team….if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
A team of complacents may rely on a few performers and will find it hard to recover when things go wrong. They fail to realise that success and a high standard of performance will be temporary unless more focus is applied.
World class performers recognise that, when they win, they need to improve still further and that winning is only a start. They look to the future – the next game is the most important one. They recognise that others may catch up with them.
They focus on delivering high performance and accept individual and collective responsibility in achieving that.
Teams in business, indeed whole organisations, behave in a similar way. Teams that whinge blame the customer or the economy for the poor situation. Improvers use problems as a means to improve their service. Complacents stick to traditional methods and refuse to accept change. World class performers develop themselves and the whole team, on a path of continuous improvement.