Instilling Pride in High-Performing Teams

We are high-performance coaches for world-class athletes, sports teams, and industry-leading companies.  Simon and I have worked intimately with teams whose success depends on their capacity to work together—working above and beyond individual talent. Today’s best teams must have the ability to leverage their knowledge and skills.  They must lead to positive change through a collaborative process. Our observation is that instilling pride in teams largely depends on attention to critical aspects of this collaborative process.

Some years back, Simon worked with an organisation called the English Institute of Sport (EIS). Their job, very simply, was to provide sports science support to the Team GB Olympic programmes and England Teams. Simon joined the EIS shortly after it was formed in 2004.

Leaders in their field

At that time, they were following in the footsteps of the well-established Australian Institute (AIS) and the US Olympic Programme (USOC). They often looked upon the AIS and USOC as the leaders in the field. They were their examples of ‘best practice’ and provided a benchmark for them. However, in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympic Games of 2008, they began to realise that their processes at the EIS were probably better than those of their competition. When they looked at the quality of practice worldwide, they became aware they were no longer following; they had become the world leaders.

This realisation sparked an exciting transformation. As a practitioner, Simon began to feel real pride in the team. Whenever he pulled on his uniform, the black shirt and tracksuit, he was reminded that he belonged to a truly elite organisation. His respect for his team members and the work that they all did grew as a result. However, at that point, they didn’t have the effects to prove it.  They were aware that their team was world-class. In 2008, the Team GB medal haul provided the validation. However, the pride came first, born out of their belief in their processes, and the results followed.

The World cup

Now let’s shift our attention to one of the most significant single sporting competitions globally—the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Pride is vividly experienced as fans sing their songs. Wave their country flags and dance enthusiastically. They were pulling for their favourite teams. Both as an athlete and as a fan, I’ve had plenty of experiences seeing world-class competition.  However, nothing compares to being at a Soccer World Cup. This time also was different for me since I was supporting the Adidas team in Latin America that year. They were the number 1 sponsor of that year’s event.

It’s not hard to observe that the teams that break through to the final rounds put them ahead of the individual. With plenty of individual stars around, this is not a simple task. Just ask Uruguay and their situation with one of the world’s most talented players, Luis Suarez. He lost control of himself during the final minutes of their game against Italy.  Here is an example of a player who forgot where he was, lost control of his emotions, and seriously hurt his team’s chances and, indeed, its pride.

Self-less attitude

For Simon and me, whether it’s in business, sport or education, instilling pride in teams starts by focusing on delivering world-class processes. When people understand that what they do every day is founded on a non-negotiable standard of excellence, they begin to develop pride in who they are and what they do. When team members understand that attention to everyday excellence precedes all outcomes, they also deepen their respect for each other. Of course, the formula is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to adopt!

Our top 6 tips for instilling pride in teams are

1. An External Vision And Map

Instilling pride begins with an external vision and a clear roadmap for those aiming to reach the pinnacle of their abilities. Being part of a team that not only challenges but nurtures growth is a profound experience. This sense of belonging to an organization committed to making a substantial impact fuels pride. A detailed blueprint or map is essential in this journey, as it provides guidance and sustenance, keeping individuals engaged and focused. The map acts as a constant reminder of the group’s objectives and the individual’s role in achieving them. It’s this collaborative effort towards a common goal that amplifies pride, transforming personal achievements into collective triumphs.

2. A Commonly Shared Ethic

The journey of instilling pride is deeply entwined with a commonly shared ethic, especially in high-performing teams. Our experience as coaches has shown that breakthroughs in performance often follow periods of adversity. Overcoming these challenges is crucial; it not only hones our abilities to handle complex situations but also builds confidence. This process of growth and overcoming imbues a sense of pride in both individual and team achievements. The essence of this ethic lies in unity and commitment, where standing together in tough times becomes a significant source of pride. It’s this shared resilience that strengthens the team’s bond and elevates their collective sense of achievement.

3. Regularly Setting High Performance

Instilling pride within a team is significantly influenced by consistently setting and achieving high-performance standards. When team members observe each other continually raising the bar, respect and unity grow. High performance is a journey that requires teams to delve into their deepest desires, emotions, and motivations. This introspection becomes crucial as the competitive landscape intensifies, demanding more than just superficial changes for sustained excellence. Such a culture of persistent self-improvement and mutual support not only fosters pride in individual accomplishments but strengthens the collective pride in the team’s journey and achievements.

4. Results-Oriented Rigour

In teams where instilling pride is a priority, pushing boundaries is a regular and revered practice. The focus here isn’t merely on the results but on the rigorous process of stepping out of comfort zones to achieve these outcomes. This approach to continuous growth and success, where the journey is as important as the destination, is what cultivates pride. It’s in this zone of discomfort that team members find opportunities for personal and collective growth, reinforcing a sense of pride not just in what they achieve, but in how they achieve it.

5. Not Trying To Look Good Ahead Of Others

Teams that excel in instilling pride operate with minimal politics and personal agendas. They embrace diversity and maintain transparency as non-negotiable principles, fostering a culture of mutual accountability and support. Regular sharing and constructive feedback are integral to this environment, turning challenges into opportunities for growth. In such teams, the focus is not on outshining each other but on collectively advancing to the next level. This approach ensures that pride is derived from collective progress rather than individual accolades.

6. Sharing Small Wins And Often

The act of instilling pride often lies in acknowledging and celebrating small wins. These moments, though seemingly insignificant, are pivotal in leveraging growth and fostering team pride. By becoming better listeners – to ourselves and our teammates – we create an environment where these small victories are recognized and celebrated. This recognition nurtures a sense of belonging and achievement within the team, reinforcing the pride that comes from being part of a cohesive and supportive group. It is in these small, everyday achievements that the seeds of pride are sown, leading to a strong, unified team.

“I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big successes. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of human pride.” – William James