There’s no ‘i’ in Ryder Cup – more team lessons from sport

It’s one of those trite old phrases that always rocks up at team building events and courses: There’s no ‘i’ in team. Well I think there are lots of ‘i’s in a team – 

  • Individuals who submit to the team
  • Inspiration
  • Inclusiveness
  • Interdependence

As the three musketeers said: One for all and all for one!


ryder-cupThe Ryder Cup Example

Well Europe won the bi-annual Ryder Cup at Gleneagles last weekend. We were the bookies favourites as they have learned the value of the team over a group of individuals.

Let me tell you a bit about the Ryder Cup and how this demonstrates this point perfectly. Yep, I know many of you will have no interest in golf, but you’d do well to pay attention here.

Twelve top golfers from Europe take on twelve top golfers from the US and they battle it out over three days for the uber-prestigious Ryder Cup title and trophy. On paper, the US team are ranked collectively higher (the sum of the US team’s rankings was 195 vs 239 for Europe). But, as the European golf team has proved time and time and time again, collective team effort invariably beats a group of super-talented individuals. Europe invariably accrues a massive lead over their rivals in two days of two-on-two competition making them virtually unassailable on the final ‘individuals’ day. Europe has now won an impressive 8 times in the last 11 competitions, usually against expectations.

The fact is, you can’t deliver a major project all on your own. And it’s a valuable lesson recognising the enormous power that lies in building a brilliant team around you.


The captain’s role

And that is what European captain Paul McGinley did. Here’s some of the points world no1 Rory McIlroy made about Paul McGinley’s captaincy:

  • Meticulous planning.
  • No stone un-turned.
  • The team room imagery,
  • The people brought in for team talks.

A good leader does the hard work of preparation to make the leading easy. McGinley planned and plotted for nearly two years doing just that. Soldiers follow leaders into battle because the leader has earned their respect and commitment over months, if not years, of putting the welfare of their troops first, not because they gave an order.


No way to deliver feedback

Contrast this with what happened in the US press conference after their defeat. Phil Mickleson’s comments about US captain Tom Watson were ill-judged and definitely badly timed. Now maybe, Tom wasn’t the best captain the US has had but they’ve lost 8 out of 11 so it’s not just his fault. Maybe some of Phil’s feedback was fair. But it should have been delivered in private, preferably 1-2-1 but at worst, in the team room. Mickelson was the wrong type of ‘i’ in the team. The reactions of every commentator I’ve seen or heard on Mickelson’s comments reinforce the point.


More sporting examples

Over the years we’ve seen numerous sporting examples of team efforts:

  • In this year’s world cup Costa Rica were supposed to be the whipping boys of their group. No one told them though and two wins and a draw saw them top the table. They played for each other, for their team and their country with all their hearts.
  • Team Murray at Wimbledon in 2013. Andy would be the first to admit he couldn’t have done it without the team around him
  • Team Sky – their collective organisation and the unselfish riding of the whole team has delivered two Tour De France winners in Frome and Wiggins
  • Ben Hunt Davies and the British eight won Gold against all the odds at the Sydney Olympics. Their team ethos looked at everything they did and asked the question –‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ If the answer was no, they didn’t do it. They had that all for one attitude.

And don’t think that sport can’t be translated in to business or projects – Ben Hunt Davies has built a business around ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ helping companies grow and business to deliver more effective and successful projects.


Key messages

There are three key messages from this year’s Ryder cup:

  1. Good leaders earn the respect of their team by their actions and not just their words.
  2. The attitude of those you have in your team matters a lot
  3. If you have some criticism or feedback, deliver it in private


What have you done today to earn the respect of your team? Leave a comment or reply below.

Tagged with: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *