In recent months we have all been at the mercy of what I would describe as a petty point scoring battle of potential world leaders, there is obviously something working on both sides so the question I have been wondering is: what actually works when we are trying to rally a team for success?
Recently I had one of those great moments alongside my Hockey team in Oxfordshire. It was a bright crisp October Saturday and we travelled east to embark on our next fixture. Much like a political campaigning team we knew what we needed to do, we just needed to turn up and keep everyone upbeat and engaged for the win. Prior to the season we held a team charter session and with some values from our Coach and passionate drive from our Captain, we established our common goal. We explored what each player needs to hear when things aren’t going their/our way and here lies the answer; POSITIVITY, POSITIVITY POSITIVITY!
As we arrived in the car park we waited for each member to arrive, greeted by either a spirited hand shake or some uplifting banter. We then went into the changing room where we kept the laughter and positive energy flowing, sharing funny stories and checking in on how people’s weeks had been in the fast-paced working world.
We walked directly across a field towards the pitch, like an Army ready for battle, we could have walked the long way round but it was clear that we were eager to take our place on the pitch. We didn’t have the most incredible warm-up but the energy remained positive and high, as we looked across at our opponent we sized them up, much like a Hilary Clinton vs. Donald Trump debate (but without the sledging!). Our Captain accurately concluded that their energy was low “They don’t even look like they want to be here, but we do!”, this gave us the psychological edge from the start, a vital component of a high performing team.
As the game took shape we went 1-0 down, but we stayed focus on our processes. Slowly the answer to the question played out…positivity started to win!
A sea of positive feedback rolled onto the pitch like constant waves on a perfect surf day, we celebrated mini wins like a parent and child celebrate those first few seconds of pedalling a bike without stabilisers. We’ve all been there, the parent is proud and happy that the practice of the process has paid off, meanwhile the child is elated by the success and gains energy and momentum. Each time we won the ball we cheered, each time they put the ball out of play we praised the pressure we put them under, each time we tried what was right we roared.
1-1, 2-1, at this point we were infectious. The opposition had no idea how to deal with the flood of waves, the tide was coming in and they were running out of sand, they panicked. Our internal positivity became their internal negative break down. The key here is that we focused all of our energy on positive feedback internally, their reaction was a side effect. No matter how many attempts we missed, un-connected passes were made, we stayed positive. 3-1, 4-1, the waves were now so big the opposition left the water and resided to watching from the beach as we surfed the energy, 5-1 then 6-1, the game was won mentally and physically.
As research has shown, successful teams require around 5.6 pieces of motivational feedback to 1 piece of developmental feedback to thrive. In addition, the work of Carol Dweck has also shown the importance of praising the process not the outcome. For us this sounded like: “That press was excellent as we stuck to our positions, same again…” vs. an external sledge that wasn’t used “our press is breaking them", the first phrase praises the process internally as a team, the second is an external praise of the outcome which is often what we see publicised in the Trump and Clinton campaigns respectively.
I wonder how much more effective Trump and Clinton would be if they focused their energy on internal positivity. Feedback isn’t a tool or a thing we do, it is a way of being.