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.