Building Teams with Swing

When people talk about sports analogies in business, no one ever talks about crew teams. And the term that never gets talked about in great teams is “swing”.

Swing is the invisible force that separates good teams from great teams. It is a feeling, it is a spirit. The same feeling you get when you walk into a room and see a tight knit group of people, passionately working towards something they KNOW is the most important thing. It is indescribable, yet everyone wants it.

The recent best-seller Boys in the Boat, tells the story of the underdog US Crew Team that astonished Hitler and the world by winning the 1936 Olympic Gold in Germany. Their coach describes “swing” this way!

“There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it…It’s called “swing.” It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others… Only then will the boat continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between the pulls of the oars. Only then will it feel as if the boat is part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain give way to exultation. Rowing then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that’s what a good swing feels like.”

Swing is the same in business as it is in crew.

Swing is the near-perfect synchronization of talented people plowing ahead to achieve something no one else has, can, or ever will.

It’s not just talented people hitting their numbers; not just smart, motivated workers beating deadlines. It’s a team doing something with an exponent over it; creating something that is greater than any one or two of them could ever do alone.

All too often what are described as “teams” of people in an organization are really just pools or silos of individuals working in a “check the box” manner that fails to come even close to harnessing the power of swing.

Great teams—Teams with swing—are identifiable by their forward progress. They continuously raise the bar, move forward, innovate on the run, achieve their goals, set new objectives and exceed benchmarks and expectations as they morph and adjust to leverage the opportunities that arise, as well as to tackle the challenges that may seek to halt their progress. They are truly People In Motion.

Increase Your Team’s Swing: Learn How >

Mission Critical Thinking: Winning teams do not think of their work as work. They view what they do as a mission. The difference is profound. Think of the NASA teams who put men and shuttles into space. They weren’t working for the company—they were committed to the country, to science, to the mission of exploring new frontiers. If you think that’s the private reserve of space travel or the search for a cancer cure, look at the teams constantly driving Amazon and Apple to turn missions into miracles.

Greater Than The Sum of Its Parts: Too often, team members don’t communicate well. They don’t offer feedback or ask for what they need (or don’t need) or understand/leverage other members’ unique talents. These teams operate at a deficit—equal to or less than the sum of its parts. To be truly exceptional, a team must be greater than that sum: it must have an exponent over its name.

Aspirational Ambitions: Team-Less companies—or those with mediocre people—are generally focused on performing a set of carefully prescribed functions and getting compensated for doing so. But those that raise the bar to exceptional heights are energized to move forward by aspirational goals established by leaders who develop pride of achievement and a determination to prevail over all expectations. This fusion of great leadership and superior people is a classic case of one plus one equals three.

A Mind of Its Own: All teams must be accountable to their managers. But Teams of Distinction do not sit around awaiting orders at every turn. Based on their mission critical thinking, they develop a virtual mind of their own that serves as a compass for what to do as they encounter unforeseen opportunities and challenges. If you have never had the privilege of seeing such a team in motion, you will be thrilled by its dynamism as you watch it in action.

Internal Combustion: Teams of Distinction do not need to be threatened, cajoled or bribed to outperform. The espirit de corps that elevates them to their position of superiority is injected into their DNA by the leaders who inspire them.

Increase Your Team's Swing: Learn How >