“In my business, togetherness is not just a nice concept that you can take or leave according to taste. If you don’t have it, you are nothing. Selfishness, factionalism, cliquishness are all death to a football team…
“As a manager in football, I have never been interested in simply sending out a collection of brilliant individuals. There is no substitute for talent but, on the field, talent without unity of purpose is a hopelessly devalued currency.”
Sir Alex Ferguson
The parallels with the project world are undoubted but what about an individual sport like tennis?
At the elite level, of course, tennis has ceased to be an individual sport. Even when Federer or Murray did not have a formally engaged coach they both had teams around them. These included fitness trainer, physio, family and agent. However, it also extends beyond, as top players also have close relationships with commercial sponsors. The goals, or purpose need to be clear for both the player and the supporting team in individual sports, just as they do in tema sports. For example, this year it was not only Federer and his immediate team that had the goal of getting him back to number one in the world but also his principal sponsors. When, over the last couple of years, many have been predicting a slow demise, at the age of 31 Federer reclaimed the top spot and surpassed the record of number of weeks at number one previously held by Pete Sampras.
As in football, where the primary goals may be season long – winning the league, a particular trophy, or simply ensuring survival in the top league – these need regular communication to the team, along with intermediate performance goals along the way, together with the process that achieves these performance outcomes. In this respect the “process – performance – outcome” model is important for the work and sporting environments.
In the context of delivering change in a corporate environment, where there may be diverse agendas among senior stakeholders, it requires a vision of the purpose to be articulated and communicated regularly, together with gaining buy-in to achieve the unity of purpose that is so important to successful delivery.