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Blog : A golfing lesson


A golfing lesson

By Sam Gardner - Account Manager, talent toolbox

Few would argue that 2012 has been the most successful year of British sport in recent times. The triumph at both the Olympics and Paralympics was unprecedented and it was refreshing to see such great achievements across a range of sports and disciplines (hands up who didn’t know what ‘dressage’ was until about three months ago). It wasn’t surprising then that the Ryder Cup snuck up on us and teed off without really getting much publicity outside the close circles of the sport.

For those of you who aren’t familiar; the Ryder Cup is a golf competition which takes place every other year and is a team competition played between Europe and the USA over 4 days with different match plays every day. The culmination of the competition is the final day where each player competes one on one to win on a hole by hole basis, thus accumulating points for their respective team. Explaining the details is important here because the context surrounding this year’s competition was particularly gripping and Europe, going into the final day was looking down and out with little chance of rectifying what had been a distinctly average performance throughout the competition.

What prevailed on the final day, however, was truly astonishing and warrants recognition outside the world of sport. Not just because it was fascinating viewing, but because some of the behaviours exhibited by the team and the individuals are similar to those we see illustrated by successful teams throughout businesses worldwide:

A common purpose

Throughout the final day of the competition, any time one of the European golfers was being interviewed, they would always refer to a group effort, despite the focus on the individual skill: ‘We need to pull together here’, ‘We’ve got a great chance of making history here’. The players recognised the importance of bringing together each individual skill and attribute to form a cohesive and successful team. It demonstrates that if each member takes responsibility for their own activities and acts in the best interests of the team then the chances of success are increased and team harmony is kept in balance.


The solidarity between the players was exemplary, despite the fact that players on the same team often play against one another on a weekly basis. The mutual respect between the individuals definitely contributed to the success of the team as a whole and this was illustrated in the post-game celebrations where team members were constantly praising the efforts of their colleagues. Unity amongst a team can certainly play a part in its success and working towards a common goal with a collaborative approach will mean success will come sooner. When there is unity in a team, feelings are expressed openly and members support one another which in turn facilitates the success of that team.

Mutual accountability

When a US golfer missed the crucial putt to lose the competition, his reaction in the post-game interview was ‘We made too many mistakes’. This resonates throughout the world of teamwork as we realise that each member needs to hold themselves mutually accountable for the success (or indeed failure) of the team and it almost never comes down to the individual. Following the victory in the competition, the European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabel stated: ‘Believing we could do it was the most important thing. To the 12 men of Europe, what you achieved today was outstanding’, so this just goes to show that all involved were mutually accountable for the success.

Now, why it’s important to note the similarities above, there are of course fundamental differences between sports teams and teams within different contexts which need to be acknowledged. For example measuring the performance of this particular team was easy in comparison to say, a team responsible for creating a product to take to market where the success of that particular product is open to debate and speculation. Principally the Ryder Cup team had a tangible way to measure success; winning the competition. What’s more, there could be no interior motive for any of the competitors, their sole aim was to go out and win and following that they knew that the team was going to be disbanded; there was a forming stage and a performing stage, then the team was disbanded.

I think there’s a lot to be said for studying the way certain sports teams come together to try and achieve success, especially in such a prestigious and intense environment like the Ryder Cup where there’s an incredible amount of pressure on each of the individuals. Some of the behaviours displayed in the Ryder Cup teams can be seen in teams the world over, and it just goes to show that the context may change, but the principles of successful teams remain constant.

Do you believe teamwork is a principle factor in the success of your organisation?

Is great leadership necessary to create great teams?    


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