Surf meets Business: the importance of teamwork and how to build an effective team


As Michael Jordan famously said: ‘Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships’; teamwork is crucial for sports and businesses alike. Even surfing, although typically considered an individual sport, heavily relies on a high performing team.

Tom Butler, Nine Feet Tall’s sponsored professional big wave surfer is well aware of that as he benefits from a top-notch support system. Tom knows that when he is out there charging down on forty-foot waves, his team is fully behind him, supporting and cheering him on, and he would not have come this far without their support.

Similarly, when embarking on an ambitious project, project managers should recognise the value and importance of an outstanding team. Having a strong team of individuals who can work together to achieve a common goal may sound obvious, but is often overlooked and thus many business projects are set back due to poor team culture.

Here at Nine Feet Tall we place great value on teamwork and below are a few tips we have learned along the way that we think can help any team get off to a flying start.

Trust your team

High performing teams are built upon mutual level of trust; it is arguably the most important factor which differentiates an effective team from a collection of individuals working on the same project.  As a project manager, it’s easy to get caught up in detail and take too much responsibility. However, it’s in the best interest of the project to trust your project team to lead in their work stream. What is more, trusting your team will also increase the team members’ accountability. We all experience dips of motivation from time to time, but the fear of letting down the rest of the team helps us keep up performance on days when we do not feel our best.

As a professional big wave surfer, Tom knows he would be unable to reach his potential without trusting his team to deliver. The most important thing for Tom in the water is his surfboard; and there is a long, complex process behind building the perfect surfboard. Design, shape, fin placement, fiberglass coverage are just a few stages in the production line at Fourth Surfboards. It would take at least six different people to deliver the project. From the building of his surfboard, to the competition team (jet ski safety driver, jet ski mechanic, spotter with radio, photographer, lifeguards, emergency services, contest director, media team, live webcast satellites, commentators) they all have a crucial role to play and trust each other to do their best. Likewise, they motivate Tom to do his best and push himself a little harder even when he feels at his lowest.

People work in different ways, some like focusing on detail, while others see the bigger picture, some are motivated by results, others by process; some are analytical thinkers and others creative. Distributing the work appropriately amongst the team members is a crucial part of building a high performing, motivated team.

Moreover, it is important to get to know what makes people tick, what inspires them and what makes them passionate about what they do. For Tom, remembering what drives his team mates and recognising the unique individual qualities they bring to the table, keeps his team motivated and pumped for what’s to come. Knowing your team and how to inspire them will ensure high morale and boost motivation even when the project is challenging or slips behind schedule.

Motivate your team

Setbacks are an almost invariable part of competitive sports and business. When they occur, it is important to keep you team focused on the final goal. Bring the whole team together, discuss mutually- agreed objectives and set appropriate time-frame. Make sure everyone knows what is expected of them and is aligned with the discussed objectives to make sure everyone is moving in the same direction.

Irena Nemchova – As Business Relations Coordinator, Irena  is responsible for managing communications with our current and prospective clients.  She coordinates client activity and works closely with our consultants and account managers to highlight trends, provide insight and promote shared learning.

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