The Key to Building High Performance Teams

Change can be challenging for a team. This past football season, college teams who play at the highest level had to deal with a new way of declaring a national champion. Two teams handled that change the best: Oregon and Ohio State, who face off for the national title.

Here is the key that I see from those teams’ success: Grit.

By the fifth week of the season, both teams had already lost. Conventional wisdom said an undefeated team, maybe two, would decide the title. Ohio State and Oregon were out of the picture. Then there were injuries. Ohio State’s top quarterback went down, then his replacement too. Whoever thought the third-string guy would be in the key leadership position with this much at stake? Meanwhile, Oregon is missing top performers at multiple positions.

Yet both teams, behind creative and quick offenses, kept winning. They kept believing when the analysts and forecasters ignored them. Even in the semifinals, both teams were underdogs, but Oregon trounced Florida State and Ohio State outlasted Alabama. That’s grit.

More about grit

Grit is defined as courage, resolve or strength of character. Sometimes a team or individual claims grit as part of a bigger story that they are fulfilling. This is true in sports, and it’s a powerful engine for a business team as well. Historically, Ohio State is a gritty, successful football team, winner of seven national titles. Triumphing, even against the odds, is part of the Buckeyes’ DNA. Their coach, Urban Meyer, seems to be chasing destiny too. He has won national titles before at Florida, and this one would push him into the superstar category. They know from experience that winning demands tenacity. Oregon, by comparison, is the new kid on the block. Its rise to prominence started “only” three decades ago. The team is powered by country’s best player, Heisman Trophy quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Ducks have never won a national title, and only grit will determine whether they will. Whether they need to hang on to a lead or come back from a deficit—and fulfill their “Win the Day” motto—grit will make the difference.

Your Game Changer Takeaway

There are other traits of high performing teams, such as choice and trust. A team that aspires to rise above the competition must have grit to weather change. Does your team’s story reflect a stubborn will to excel no matter what the obstacles?

The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company’s Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach business people the framework for successful negotiating, so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.