MRO Magazine

Making Teams Work

oyalty rolls on a two-way street. This truth is evident in every human relationship that grows. From childhood through job changes, to the selection of a spouse and all the choices we make that involv...


June 1, 2003
By MRO Magazine

oyalty rolls on a two-way street. This truth is evident in every human relationship that grows. From childhood through job changes, to the selection of a spouse and all the choices we make that involve forming a team, trust arises as the most important issue when we hope the relationship will endure. Without trust, there is no incentive to invest our emotions and we become vulnerable to the goodwill and constancy of another.

The relationship between management and its athletes is no different than other relationships that have a superior-subordinate component — parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee. In order for the inevitable issue of position power not to become divisive, both sides must bring to the association a feeling of trust. They must sense an atmosphere of fairness and respect. There can be no feeling of “bad,” but that only “good” will come of a discussion of how to achieve our goals. The spirit of “win-win” must prevail.

This requires self-confidence and flexibility. If either side enters the relationship with a feeling of arrogance — a sense of “I am more powerful than you” or “You need me more than I need you” — not only will the needed flexibility become arthritic, but arrogance may cause the other person to take a defensive posture. Zap, there goes the chance for loyalty and trust to strengthen.

Trust is one of the strongest emotions in humans if both sides respect its value and strive to provide the emotional atmosphere that allows it to grow. Trust is also brittle. It is tough, but can be broken fast with a strong shock at the right angle. When trust breaks, it is difficult to mend. The repairs almost always show. All collaborative effort, whether in team sports, marriage, parenting, schools, or making a movie, is premised on trust.

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When thinking about how to correct self-defeating patterns, it helps to ask yourself: “What would I think of the choices I have been making if a teenager I loved were making the same ones?”

We don’t allow our children to adopt habits that are damaging to themselves or others. All too often, though, we are more lenient with ourselves than we would be with our children. Perhaps this is because we have the mistaken idea that self-defeat is a victimless crime.

One lesson we learn from football is that the more self-discipline you apply to yourself, the better you will be and the better off those around you (crewmates, teammates, etc.) will be. That interaction works in life as well.

It is especially paradoxical that self-destructive behaviour hits even in sports where fitness and mental control count for so much. One would think that the discipline and patience necessary to make it into the NFL would provide insurance against the easy-out decision. Yet, the NFL doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Drugs are a problem in sports because they are a problem in society. There’s no way to keep them out of NFL locker rooms any more than you can keep them out of the schools.

It is a modern tragedy that a wide receiver, say, who uses his God-given talents to out-distance a defensive back and catch a touchdown pass with the screams of 77,000 fans in the air, might then go out after the game and resort to drugs to “take the pressure off.” That says, if nothing else, that adulation and money aren’t enough. Sometimes, only self-respect and self-esteem will do.

There’s no rational explanation for a person seeking cocaine instead of self-esteem, for downing liquor instead of learning to love, or for gorging instead of running an extra mile. Self-abuse develops in many different personalities and for a variety of reasons. Self-abuse isn’t the only way man is irrational, but it is in vogue. Still, self-abuse is no excuse.

I suggest we go back to the basics and remember the athlete’s maxim: “The harder you are on yourself (that is, the more self-discipline you apply to yourself), the easier the game (or life) will be on you.”MRO

Jim Tunney had an exemplary career as an NFL referee (1960-1991). The first official to be named to the “All-Madden Team,” Tunney also won top honours from the National Association of Sports Officials, the Gold Whistle Award (1992), and is in the National Football League Hall of Fame. He spoke at the BSA convention about his work with Fortune 500 companies and international organizations, teaching the skills needed for achieving goals and effective action.

One lesson we learn from football is that the more self-discipline you apply to yourself, the better you will be and the better off those around you — crewmates, teammates, etc. — will be.