Helping others become successful

Business in recent times has turned to sport to attach itself to those achieving success at elite levels in order to transfer strategies and techniques to produce high performing and winning teams, which was seen an idea emerge from a range of applied practitioners.  Now an esteemed outlet suggests a new way of engagement between managers and staff and between staff, which is particularly relevant for football in the community programmes: helping one another.

Take Sir David Brailsford for our first example, someone whom has been credited as one of the principal architects in transforming Great Britain’s track fortunes over the last decade.    In his Leaders in Performanceinterviewhe describes a process of thoughtful “facilitation of others”, so essentially helping others as opposed to dictating or controlling.

He explains: “In most walks of life you will be surrounded by experts who will have much more expertise in a given area that I will have, so it’s how you pull these guys together and get the best out of them…I am a facilitator for them.  I don’t want them looking up thinking what do I need to do for him. So it’s completely the other way around.”

In the book Peak Performance: Inspirational Business Lessons from the World’s Top Sports Organisations.  Gilson and colleagues explored a number of high performance (in fact lets stick with the title, ‘top’ or the best) sport organisations in the World.   Accessing sporting legends as Michael Jordan, Franz Beckenbauer, and Jonah Lomu completing in-depth analysis with the owners and managers.   One key finding within these series of case studies, was the willingness and ability of managers or leaders to facilitate staff to do their jobs better, to succeed.   This echoes the facilitation role that Brailsford adopts.

In a recent article from the Harvard Business Review on IDEOs Culture of Helping it describes the importance and function of helping.    Which has become a key element of the philosophy and working practice within IDEO.   This article offers a really interesting insight into creating a culture of helping in order to succeed.

This is something that has been championed through leadership (i.e., managers helping staff) and between staff to develop collaborative helping teams.    From my experience of working within teams as both a manager and practitioner I have found that I have navigated myself towards those that are willing and able to (and often enthusiastically) help one another, from the small day-to-day jobs to the more strategic stuff.   Is this something you have experienced, or felt you have done yourself?

Relevance for football in the community?

In community football we have an abundance of people (practitioners and coaches within your teams) who are good people, whom are socially orientated, committed to helping communities and interested in doing ‘right’ for the communities that they serve (often developed form of individual or felt accountability (described in research by Alnoor Ebrahim here).

Given this, there are a number of strategies we can consider to embrace, in order to capitalise on the characteristics of community coaches to enhance collaborative working within our teams to achieve greater results in our work across a range of social welfare issues.   Here are some ideas:

New employees

  • When employees join give them an ‘insiders’ handbook on how to ‘get on’ and work within your organisation (or The Little Book of IDEO), which spells out the most important values of the organisation. Chief among them “Make others successful.” 
  • Make sure that new recruits understand the importance of this and these norms within your organisation.
  • Make it known that you consider help giving a productive activity and that help seeking in your organisation is viewed as motivated self-development, not stigmatised as weakness (something often perceived within business and sport).
  • Celebrate help when you see its positive impact.

The role of the manager:

Work hard to foster high levels of trust across the organisation by:

  • stifling political battles,
  • encouraging high-status people to admit and learn from mistakes,
  • and not blaming or punishing those who come forward for help after good-effort failures (reflective practice may be worth considering as a platform for this)
  • Create opportunities and spaces for people across projects and areas to interact informally and frequently.
  • And use meetings or training sessions to teach people throughout the organisation how to seek, find, give, and receive help effectively.

We are currently working in very complex times whereby resources are being continually challenged and demands from our communities are becoming more complex.   This offers a to approach these new challenges head on.   A new way of helping one another succeed, which offers an improved more dynamic process of seeking and giving feedback, ideas, and assistance: helping others succeed.   This is something we all should consider developing into our working environments and culture.

Would be great to know you thoughts on this, whether involved in community football, small businesses or whether you are already an advocate of this approach (via the comment box below).   For more information please check out the article from the Harvard Business Review here and/or check out Adam Grants book on helping here.


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