Handball: 8 lessons for corporate teams

Sport is one of the best analogies to work with in coaching, when discussing how to manage teams successfully. Let’s get some tips from handball!

I grew up with handball – played for 8 years, sometimes in 2-3 teams at the same time. I have also worked in teams within different contexts, industries and cultures. I am convinced that being part of a team can be tough!

So, what can we learn from handball teams?

  1. Make a promise to each other out loud before the game begins Handball players decide on their intention as a team and shout it out from the top of their voices in unison which is generally followed with goose bumps all over your body. The commitment and the promise they make to each other, empowers them as they walk towards the field. What is the common purpose of your team? What do you promise each other when you are heading towards your team objectives?
  2. See the opportunities and create space for other team members to “dive in” If some team members are stronger than others in certain areas, you need to create space for them to carry us forward, faster and stronger. In handball, the tactics are designed around this principle. For example, if a player has the ball, a teammate comes and blocks the defence for the shooter to have the space to dive in and make the goal. One of them creates the opportunity, the other one finishes the job – for everyone. If a team member is better at closing a deal, do you hand over the task to them when you do your successful planning?
  3. Plan and execute – together No actions are meaningful without a plan. You cannot rely on being lucky every time. In handball, there are often plans and strategies that are designed according to the weaknesses of your opponent. Just as it should be in business. How do you plan your strategy as a team?
  4. Fill in the gaps for the missing member, with no resentment In handball, if you make a serious fault the referee can kick you out for 2 minutes – the longest 2 minutes of each handball player’s game. The rest of the team shuffles and fills in the gap for those 2 minutes and they focus on where they need to go and what they need to do, without wasting time with resentments. Unfortunately, resentment is becoming a contagious illness in organisations which has a huge negative impact on people’s performance and level of fulfilment at work. How do you react when a member is missing in the team?
  5. Be your best whilst fighting for the team Every handball player would like to be the best – why wouldn’t they? It’s a real ego booster when you hear the fans calling your name over and over again, when heading for a goal. However, no player is bigger than the team otherwise polarisation starts and the team spirit is broken. We should all work hard to be our best – we owe it to ourselves – as we invest time and effort in our careers. You need to decide in advance if you are there to win as an individual or as a team. Intention is always reflected in behaviours and can rarely be hidden. What is your intention?
  6. Have the same attitude you have with your teammates, towards your competitor Generally there is unity in the attitude of teams. Each team has a culture and reflects the same energy. Have you ever noticed that energies can be different in different parts of your office? When you meet the members of the same team separately you will notice that they all have a similar approach towards their competitor, if not the same! – daring, respectful, observant etc. Having unity in your attitude comes from and feeds back, into the culture and spirit of your team. What is the culture of your team?
  7. Apologise for your mistakes When a handball player misses an opportunity or does something wrong, their hand raises as a reflex to say ‘sorry’ and they have eye contact with the person they’ve let down. The other person nods to receive the apology. No matter whoever makes the mistake, the team needs to bounce back as a team to keep its unity. Laughing at these mistakes afterwards is another virtue handball players have. They laugh as a team, tease each other but do not make fun of each other. That’s how they remain a team. How are mistakes received in your team?
  8. Celebrate success I guess this is obvious but not always done from the heart in organisations. Someone organises something for the team because that’s how it is done. Handball players look forward to the final whistle to run for a group hug and a get together after a game. Then it is time for that ‘cheers’ moment with big smiles in the pub and the first synchronised sip as a team. Does your team do that from the heart?

This is a lot to do for others – you might be thinking. Yes, it is! Who would it be worth doing it for? The ones you share the same purpose with. Each professional can choose to invest in themselves and others to become more like handball players and live that team spirit! What are you choosing every day?

Melda Ekmen is a People Effectiveness Coach at Mira Consulting & Coaching https://www.linkedin.com/in/meldaekmen/

 

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