On Top Of The Cricket World

The Boss wants everyone to pull together as a team. The quota-busters at the coal-face prefer to plough their own furrow. In as much isolation as possible.

Here’s the paradox. Every single sales function I’ve ever worked with has called itself a “team”. Yet as I write I struggle to think of one that truly operated in anyway close to what the concept surely means.

There are parallels with cricket of course. The team can still lose but as an individual you can still shine. Score your own century or take a five-for and head the world rankings yourself.

The first overall sales boss of mine tried to instil a sense of team ethics by using a sporting analogy of his own. At uni he was a hockey player. He used to ask, what’s the point of scoring a hat-trick if you lose 4-3?

When Andrew Strauss took over as England captain he saw all the boxes ticked when it came to potentially awkward personalities. Celebrity media-chasing darling, disaffected fringe performer, journeyman in by default, young buck not maximising potential. Yet somehow he and coach Andy Flower have taken all these and moulded them into a genuine all-for-one unit. And now they’re Number One for the first time.

In the glow of thrashing India (the incumbent top side on the log) glimpses of how it had been done emerged.

There was the reported trip by the newly installed skipper to a conflict resolution specialist whom among other things recommended creating a shared code of values. There was the presentation after match one when, after being dismissed for a shocking 51 in the Windies, graphs were put up showing what was needed to become the top side. When they revealed that it would include beating Australia home and away and S Africa, the initial reaction was how daunting (“ridiculous” even, according to Graeme Swann) such a goal really was.

Yet everyone involved bought in to what was required. And the rewards are reaped today, two and a half short years on.

Here’s 150 words on crafting a team of world-beaters from Andrew Strauss himself (as told to Channel 5 after the third test):

The individual players have to commit to wanting to improve, not just individually but as a group

… and be willing to do those hard yards that you don’t necessarily get the plaudits for behind the scenes – people aren’t looking at you, but you know you’re doing it in a greater cause

… if anything it’s been our team ethic that’s got us here and it’s important we maintain and develop

We’ve a fairly elongated backroom staff but they all do a very valuable job and allow us to concentrate on those little one percenters that are the difference between winning and losing games.

None of these guys in the team have been superstars from day one. It’s been a lot of hard work and gradual improvement that’s allowed them to dominate other sides

… if you want to win consistently you need all eleven players to perform.

How does your sales team stack up on that scale?

What “hard yards” are you doing behind the scenes to improve?

How are support staff helping you to focus on the match?

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