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The SOUL of a Team

A few years ago a friend told me about a program he started at his kids school called All Pro Dad - a program for dads and kids in creating a stronger bond.  Tony Dungy (ex-NFL coach for the Indianapolis Colts that won the Super Bowl while Peyton Manning was there) is the face of the program.  I started the program at my kids school about 3 years ago, and we meet once a month for 30 minutes with our kids and discuss certain life principles.  A key component is at the beginning of every meeting, we go around the room and each dad shares something their child has done this past month that has made them proud.  It's a fantastic organization, and I have absorbed as much information as possible from their weekly emails, books, courses, and have now read most of Tony Dungy's books as well.  My favorite of his is called 'The Soul of a Team', and I make a point to share it with every team I coach.  Every great team has certain qualities and characteristics that help them thrive.  I'm the JV tennis coach at a college preparatory school here in Jacksonville and our first match we got wiped out by a team that only had a varsity team.  We were a bit outmatched!  But I used this as a teaching opportunity.  So at our next practice, the kids showed up and seemed a bit confused when I told them to put down their rackets and fall in line.  We ran a lap around the soccer field (a solid 1/3 of a mile) and they were cutting up and joking around.  When we started lap number two, the laughter stopped and they said, 'Coach, how many laps are we running?'  I'm running in front of everyone and yelled back, 'I'm not sure. I haven't decided yet.'  I could hear the grumblings behind me.  After the 4th lap kids were complaining of cramps or something was starting to hurt or they needed water.  On the 5th lap they started to get visibly worried.   At the end of the 7th lap we stopped, and I had them sit on the bleachers while everyone else finished.  I then asked, 'Do you know why we ran 7 laps?'  Someone said, 'Because we lost 7 matches yesterday.'  I said, 'That's right.  We win as a team and we lose as a team.'  I went on to share what it means for a team to have SOUL (I have adjusted the descriptions a bit here and tailored it to our GritClub audience rather than a group of high school tennis players, but the concepts are the same): S - selflessness.  One of the most important qualities of a great player or leader on a team is selflessness.  Putting the needs of others above their own.  You have probably heard the Harry Truman quote, 'It's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't care who gets the credit.'  Part of being a team player is being selfless with your time when others need help or encouragement.  At meal times, maybe it means eating last.  At other times, to be selfless might mean to perform a chore that no one else wants to perform.  I encourage each of you to take a moment reflect on an area in your life or business that you can be more selfless. O - ownership.  Taking pride and ownership in your role, regardless of how big or small, is paramount to the success of any organization.  What makes a team unique is the power of each individual doing what they do best and the greater good the organization can accomplish when you own your role.  On any team or group, whether you are at the top of the food chain or the bottom, it's important to have a sense of pride and act as if your role matters (because it absolutely does!)  Almost more importantly is owning your mistakes.  It's too common that people want to blame others or blame circumstances for their shortcomings.  How can you take more ownership in your roles in life and your mistakes?   U - unity.  Unity to me means having someones back.  Supporting them when they have made a mistake.  Encouraging them when they are down or frustrated.  It also means having a 'yes, and' mentality when someone has a new idea.  In other words, when someone has a new idea or you are in a 'brainstorming phase', instead of saying 'yes, but that won't work because...' you should say, 'yes, and .... something that can expand that idea,' and keep the momentum going.  We all know that anytime you say something followed by a 'but' that you are basically negating the first sentence.  When you use 'and' it shows that you are on the same side as them and working together to improve.  How can you show more unity, or how can you have a 'yes, and' mentality today or this week? L - larger purpose.  This one is my favorite and the most important.  Think about an NFL team.  If their goal at the beginning of a season is to win the Super Bowl and they come up short, then in their minds they are failures.  Even if they win, then what next?  What goal could possibly be better?  But when you play for a larger purpose of uniting a city like the Saints did the year they won the Super Bowl after Hurricane Katrina, that is playing for a larger purpose!  I watched the movie 'Miracle' again for the 10th time, and that 1980 US hockey team is a perfect example of what can happen when you play for a larger purpose--like uniting an entire country!  I encourage you to think about your larger purpose, and if you can focus on that as the driving force, then you will be amazed at how many other goals you can hit along the way.

In closing, with your organization or team or family this week, how can you have more SOUL?




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