"It was a team, it really was" – Mike Ditka, coach of the Chicago Bears
ESPN highlighted Ditka’s quote during the recently aired “The 85 Bears” from the ESPN '30 For 30′ series I watched over the weekend. Two Sundays ago, the Denver Broncos played an amazing defensive team game in Super Bowl 50 and won going away. And I’m lucky enough to live in Seattle and see another great defensive team every Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks. The word I keeping hearing over and over – TEAM.
One of the common elements for each of these great Super Bowl teams – the MVP of the game was a defensive player (only six of 50 Super Bowl MVPs have been on the defensive side of the ball). And each of these great individuals stressed how important it was that they were part of a great team. No matter how great the individual player was, he still attributed all of his success to the success and completeness of the team.
Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of my company’s update to our deliberate practice methods. We conducted training sessions for our employees around the country on how they can improve their individual capabilities with focused practice. Our design team was determined to support our employees on the build out their individual practices while establishing mechanisms to support the execution of these practices in a team environment.
What struck me the most during these sessions was how important it was to build out these methodologies in a team environment. We spent some time allowing the individual to design his or her specific DROP (our own acronym – Deliberate Reflective On-going Practice). The most effective use of time was when these individuals had the chance to get feedback from many different folks – whether someone on their own project/client team or someone from a different project team from another office who just wanted to help them.
The goal of the training sessions was to enable each individual to come up with their own practice that would require feedback from their teams. While that was an important component of this training, it seemed as if the groups were even more energized when coming up with a practice that was focused on working together as a project team or client team…or even at the entire office level. There’s that theme again – “it was a team” that led to the greatest success.
Working as a team, the individuals not only had the chance to apply lessons learned from their own successes and failures but also had the chance to hear stories from other team members. Many of these individuals, who might be considered a “technical star”, were very appreciative of the feedback from the teams and realized they got better when they focused on the team’s success.
This seems similar to the Chicago Bears of 1985. They had one of the greatest football players (and humans, for that matter) of all time in Walter Payton. Walter Payton’s work ethic shaped this team’s culture, but the Bears’ team defense is the reason for one of the most dominating periods of football in the history of the NFL.
When we started this development process over a year ago, the original intent with our training was to teach individuals how to improve their own practice methodologies. As our design team solicited feedback across our organization, it became apparent that collaborating as a team is as or more important than individual work. Speaking for our design team, who worked closely together for the past year, we were excited to build out a team-oriented approach to this training. I’d say we built out something special – just like I heard Mike Singletary state in the 30-for-30 film “The 85 Bears”:
"What a team can do. No matter how many characters you have, no matter how many crazy guys you have, if you have leadership, you have imagination, then you have a chance to have something very special."