Some people think of professional sports as annoying and unimportant, or somewhere in between. But at Action Mary, we know that sports, at their best, when athletes push themselves to the limits when teams are united in purpose, can be a reflection of the best and worst parts of any human life. If you pay close attention, the lessons learned in sports can demonstrate the greatness of the human spirit and the weakness of the human condition, and every emotion between.
All of us will face adversity. This holds especially true in a modern office, where the allocation of resources, team chemistry, and team morale can spell the difference between success and failure. Sports teams wear their weaknesses on their sleeves, and while any sort of team is only as strong as its weakest link, the nature of competition shines a harsh light on any athlete holding others back.
Building a squad with the right balance of experience takes a careful hand. Pack your team with too many veteran experts, and the team becomes top-heavy and expensive. Vets carry less risk, but such peace of mind isn’t cheap. Meanwhile, if you try to play Moneyball with a heap of young folks, your squad carries more risk and you may find yourself struggling to compete down the stretch.
Thus, the lesson is simple: diversify. Keep a strong class of young talent flowing in, and make sure your best experts feel appreciated enough to stick it out for the long haul. At Action Mary, our team building philosophy revolves around young talent consistently coming in and reshaping our strategy. We strive to avoid groupthink and team complacency by questioning what we’ve done in the past and not being afraid to try new approaches with changing times.
A fantastic sports example can be found in the NFL. Unlike other sports, whose teams face a tiered luxury tax bracket for their payrolls, NFL teams must uniformly adhere to a single salary cap, making American football’s team construction process strangely egalitarian. In the pursuit of winning, more expensive players like quarterbacks Drew Brees[i] and Tom Brady[ii] will sometimes accept less money per year to allow the team to allocate cap space elsewhere. Closer to home, Russell Wilson took far less in compensation than experts predicted for the same reason. Meanwhile, teams who pay more for their quarterbacks, like the Oakland Raiders[iii] or Minnesota Vikings[iv], consistently find their resources spread too thin to add youth as they struggle to escape mediocrity.
Chemistry is everything. A carefully orchestrated team dynamic can vastly outshine the sum of its parts, but only if those parts work in harmony. Plenty of baseball teams have learned this lesson the hard way, assuming that acquiring the top talent at each position is the recipe for a world champion team[v]. Real-life, however, almost never shakes out that way. Season after season, the MLB teams who reach pennant season with their eyes on the crown are those whose clubhouse dynamic is close and fun. Similarly, you’ll find that the most productive workplaces are not those which pay most for talent, but rather those who facilitate and nurture a healthy, happy work environment.
Finally, and most importantly, no team can win every single day. Even the winningest teams in professional sports history went home many nights disappointed in their performance[vi]. It may sound like a cliché of a cliché, but true winners are determined not by how often they fail, but by how they overcome failure. If your team takes a loss, shrug it off, hit the batting cages, and come back tomorrow with fresh determination.