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How to Win

High Standards

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” –– Aristotle

A friend recently mentioned how proud he was to hear a good report about his team. It seems the players had gone out to eat and they behaved so well in the restaurant that a fellow coach called my friend to say how impressed he was with how they acted.

It’s more than a feel-good story. It goes to the heart of team identity. Everything a team does — from eating in restaurants, entering and leaving the gym, performing drills — is a chance to show what their standards are.

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman offered a model of team development. There are four stages: forming, storming, norming and performing.

In the norming stage, team members agree on their values and standards. These values and standards determine what the team will accomplish.

Norming will answer such key questions as:

How much will all members be respected?

What are our goals?

What will be our commitment to details?

What will our work habits be?

Sparky Anderson, Hall of Fame baseball manager, used to insist on neatness in the way his players put on their uniforms.

“If you look good, you play good,” he said. And a high level of neatness became a norm.

Willie Stargell led the Pittsburgh Pirates to the 1979 World Series championship by creating a family atmosphere that included everyone in the clubhouse. The team even adopted “We are Family” as its theme song. Inclusiveness became a team value.

When our team gets on the bus, I tell my players to travel like champions. That means do all the things they’re supposed to do without being told: buckle seatbelts, keep the aisles clear, stay seated, etc. I tell them that every minute I don’t have to spend watching their behavior is a minute I can spend preparing for the game.

So if you want to have a successful team, ask yourself: What norms have the players agreed on?


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