‘Team play is all about common goals and trust’
Success is often an interplay of at least four factors: teamplay, strategy, data and impact. This is as true for major digital transformations as it is within top-level sports. In this series of articles, management consultants from Anderson MacGyver talk with multiple rowing champion Lisa Bruijnincx. In this second installment, Edwin Wieringa, Guild Lead Organization and Management Consultant, talks to her about the value of good team spirit.
In the double scull, Lisa Bruijnincx invariably rowed with Fien van Westreenen, with whom she won gold at the 2019 World Championships. When her regular rowing buddy started doing something else this year, she switched to the quad scull: new in terms of setting and in terms of team with diverse experiences, backgrounds and characters. The challenge is to bring this all together in an optimal and result-oriented way. Teamplay plays a fundamental role in this, as it does within organizations.
“Practically from the beginning, I rowed with Fien,” Laura says. “We are reasonable opposites, so we complemented each other well. At first, I found it awkward that she wasn’t there. For example, during a training I could already tell by her shoulders how she was feeling. In a new team that takes some time to develop. The mutual match takes some time, but it worked out.” The foursome finished first this summer at the World Under 23 Championships in Varese, Italy.
Edwin Wieringa: “One question about your old rowing mate: in what respect did you differ so much and how did you deal with that?” Bruijnincx: “Fien and I started rowing together as 17-year-olds and at that age you deal with problems differently than when you are 21. Initially I was more shy and reserved. We both handled a bad training day differently, for example.”
“In the beginning we mainly looked for our similarities and tried to grow towards each other in various aspects. A good coach taught us to accept that no one’s approach is the same. He showed us when one of us needed space, or when it is wise to do something together. With that, you empower each other.”
“When we stressed before a game, for example, I want to talk. No matter about what, I have to get rid of the tension. While Fien and many other people dive into themselves. That doesn’t match at that moment and you have to acknowledge that. I then have to find someone else to talk to and she looks for a quiet place.”
Anderson MacGyver consultant Edwin Wieringa wants to know if she will take this experience with her to the quad scull, in which she and stroke rower Femke Paulis are the experienced forces, and Vera Sneijders and Willemijn Mulder are younger and newer. All of this while there wasn’t much time to train.
“We had just under two months: a short and intense period, in which we got to know each other very well very quickly. Here, all of us also dealt with tension differently. I myself have become more outspoken since and also strongly solution-oriented. Because we are not all the same, you have to give each other space and trust that in the end everyone gives the required 110 percent effort.”
Is it an advantage for balance to have two less experienced people in the boat? “Definitely. We also had a good mix in terms of uninhibitedness. On the one hand dreaming about things that are possible, on the other hand realism and result orientation. In terms of balance, that worked perfectly. Now of course that was taken into consideration with the composition: whether it all fit in terms of rowing performance and characters.”
With Anderson MacGyver, it works broadly the same way. It starts with the question: is it a question around strategy, technology, data or something organizational? “We have different disciplines for that. Certainly the more senior employees really have their specialism; they transfer that to the less experienced people. Together they form the optimal mix. That’s a clear parallel with top sports.”
Optimal division of roles
In addition, according to Edwin Wieringa, it’s all about complementary characters: you put a fact-oriented person next to someone who looks at the big picture. An analyst is a good complement to a relationship-oriented man or woman. “For that role assignment and match with the client, we have useful tools internally, such as the Myers-Briggs type indicator. But tell me: what other people play a role on your team?”
Lisa Bruijnincx: “The quad scull has two coaches. One focuses mainly on feeling, the other on tangible aspects and analysis. Together these coaches make the final decision on when to train or rest and what needed to be done during training. Who is in the boat is determined by the national coach.”
She refers to this division as a ‘secure ring’ and ‘safe team environment’. After all, when one coach or manager has to combine the roles of coordinator, coach and evaluator, insecurity can arise. “You may then be judged for what you share, inhibiting you from expressing yourself. Or, on the contrary, you may be judged more leniently because the coach knows you well. When you involve multiple people, and you also use data; conclusions and judgments become more objective.”
Wieringa wonders if she would recommend this to organizations: clarity about role assignment and influence. Bruijnincx: “Hierarchy is not really my thing, but that security is very important. Those who were very tired could have a confidential conversation with one of the coaches, who could then adjust the schedule together. Because there was room to take a step back sometimes, we all had top fitness levels at the start.”
Anderson MacGyver holds regular evaluations with clients to gauge how everyone is doing. Wieringa: “With Agile working, you invest responsibilities as low as possible in the organization: ownership, involvement and supported decisions within teams. This has been proven to work better, although it is more difficult in larger organizations because individual levels of influence are sometimes less clear. Then you have to make sure the organization works as a whole. Do you see that too, do you have any tips?”
“Responsibilities are best invested as low down in the organization as possible.“Edwin Wieringa – Guild lead Organization and Management Consultant by Anderson MacGyver
“When teams and organizations get too big, sometimes people stop communicating,” Bruijnincx replies. “Then all the individual dreams are no longer shared. If the goal is a medal, and everyone is thinking of a different color, then there is no shared focus. My advice is to always make everyone’s dreams explicit, even if that leads to a little suspense. What matters is that at the end of the day, everyone gives those mentioned 110 percent to achieve the shared goal.”
In consulting practice, one record or statement often visualizes where we want to be in concrete terms at a certain point in time. Edwin Wieringa: “Then you create instant bonding.” Lisa Bruijnincx agrees: “The goal ‘out in the open’ is a great way to create a bond. Then you can make each other accountable or express your doubts. You then literally are in the same boat.
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