Skip to main content

The culture in sports teams often mirrors that of the culture in your business. In both cases, a team that works together succeeds together. But what makes an effective team? This article looks at the key secrets.

You may not think of your work team as being similar to a sports team. But the two share more parallels than you may think. Both bring together individuals with specific skills. Moreover, both have objectives for the collective to work towards.

They also have similar structures. Both teams have somebody to guide them. In the case of a sports team, the coach takes this role. In your office, either you or another manager offers guidance to your team. Furthermore, both bring new people on board regularly but also have experienced people in place.

As a result, the most effective team building strategies for sports teams also work for your work team.

Now that you know that, you need to know how to build a championship team. Here are six secrets that will help you to mirror the culture in winning sports teams.

Secret #1 – Define What “Winning” Means

Every sports team has an objective in mind. If they’re playing in a league, they may want to finish in a certain position. Those playing in a cup may want to reach a certain round. Of course, championship teams want to win it all.

The point is that “winning” has different meanings for different teams. But every sports team does the same thing. They define what “winning” means to them before they start chasing their goal.

That’s a crucial step that many organisations forget about. You may get so locked into the daily grind of work that you lose sight of what “winning” is. If that’s happening to you, it’s happening to your team members too.

Before you do anything, define what “winning” means to your team. This may be as simple as completing a project on time and within your budget. Or, it could be as complex as helping individuals learn specific skills. The key thing is that you have the target in place. That gives everybody something to aim towards.

CUB Club of United Business

Secret #2 – Objective, Strategy, Tactics

OST lies at the heart of how to build a championship team. But what does it mean?

OST stands for Objective, Strategy, Tactics.

Bringing these three elements together is what makes a successful sports team. It’s also one of the key secrets to building a successful work team.

Objective is simple enough. It’s the end goal of your project. In many cases, your objective links into whatever you’ve defined “winning” to be. But you may also have smaller objectives that relate to specific projects or individuals.

Strategy covers the broad methods you’ll use to achieve your goal. For example, let’s say that a sports team has the objective of winning a championship. Its broad strategy includes bringing together the right players and training them to work together. You don’t define specific tasks at this stage. You just lay the overall blueprint for what you want to achieve.

Tactics covers the specific information. In our sports team example, it will include the specific formations that the team may use. You can drill further down into this to cover the specific tactics a team uses to play another team. These tactics feed into the strategy, which feeds into the objective.

In business, your tactics may include the milestones you need to reach and the skills your team needs to reach them.

The key to OST is that you understand all three elements. Without an objective, you can’t create a strategy. No broad strategy means you’ll struggle to come up with specific tactics. The wrong strategy and tactics mean that you’ll never achieve your objective.

Think “OST” whenever you have a new project to work on. If you have all three elements in place, you know what makes a successful sports team and how to apply it in your business.

Secret #3 – Don’t Compartmentalise

There’s another way that championship teams used to mirror your office’s team. Only a few years ago, the culture in sports teams was to keep different departments separated. The player development department may not interact much with the conditioning department. The business departments would be completely separate from the playing departments.

You may have a similar setup in your organisation. The sales team may not communicate much with the product team. The upper levels of management may stay separate from the teams on the ground.

That doesn’t work in the modern sports environment, which means it doesn’t work in business either.

Today’s sports teams bring their different departments together. The ex-players who may have covered player development now interact with the business side of things. Many even work directly in the boardroom. Moreover, the playing side of things isn’t just the domain of former coaches and players. They now have reams of data available to inform their decisions.

The same goes for your organisation. The teams on the ground can provide valuable information to your upper management. Your product teams can help your sales teams to achieve more. You also have more data available to you than ever before.

Compartmentalising your teams is not one of the best office culture ideas. It creates divides. Members from different teams don’t communicate well. Moreover, the data that can help all of you may stay in one department.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have departments. Instead, it means to open up the lines of communications between your different teams. After all, you’re all working towards the same main objective.

Secret #4 – Keep Innovating

Do you know what happens to a sports team that fails to adapt to its competition?

It stagnates and falls by the wayside. History offers many tales of once-huge sports teams that have struggled to keep up once their game modernises.

This means that the culture in sports teams is to always look forward. The team may experience success right now. But what does it need to do to sustain that success over a long period?

Sports teams that fail to ask that question also fail to innovate. They stick with what’s working right now, even as other teams innovate to counter their efforts.

You can already see how this relates to your organisation. You have competitors, just like any sports team. A lack of innovation in your organisation means that you’re not staying ahead of that competition. Much like a fallen sports dynasty, a failing business can often trace its failure back to not innovating when it was on top.

In this respect, you can’t only look at how to build a championship team. You must also think about how to maintain your championship credentials.

Secret #5 – Have Unwavering Belief

No championship team reaches the top level without having unwavering belief. The team must believe in its goals and believe that it has what it takes to win. Without that confidence, the team falters. Players may hesitate instead of doing what comes naturally to them. The big occasions may overwhelm them and the team fails to perform to its standards.

It’s not enough to have a talented team. That team must believe that it can use its talents to achieve its goals.

This is another aspect of the culture of sports teams that relates to your organisation. If a team member has a crisis of confidence, they can’t focus on their work. Instead, they’re too locked into whatever’s making them doubt themselves. Mistakes happen and deadlines get missed. The talent may be there, but the belief in that talent isn’t.

So, how do you build belief within your team?

Positive reinforcement and feedback can help. Communicate with the team and let them know when they do well. If they’re struggling, help them to come up with solutions. Build your people up through your training sessions.

Finally, ensure that each team member works to their strengths. Few things sap belief like working on tasks that you’re not trained to work on. It’s like a sportsperson playing out of their favoured position. You can only use your established skillset so much to work on tasks that you’re not trained for. Finding the right tasks for the right people builds belief. That’s what makes a successful sports team.

CUB Club of United Business

Secret #6 – Listen to Critics

Unwavering belief is key to the culture in sports teams. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t listen to their critics. Criticism can provide insight into something that a team needs to fix. Or, it can act as fuel for the motivational fire.

The same goes for your organisation. Often, your biggest critics will be those who buy your products and services. If you’re not listening to them, you’re failing to spot issues. You can’t fix problems when you’re not listening to the people who tell you about them.

But managers may also face criticism from their team members. Again, it’s crucial that you listen to what they have to say. An unheard team member loses motivation. They may feel like their opinion doesn’t matter. As a result, they’re not going to give their all for the team.


So, let’s come back to the main question posed in this article.

What makes a successful sports team?

There’s no single secret that leads to success in sports. It’s a combination of different ideas that result in a team winning championships. The same goes for your team. Bring these secrets together to achieve success:

  • Know what “winning” means to you and ensure your team understands their objectives.
  • Never forget about the magic OST combination.
  • Don’t separate departments from one another to the point that they don’t communicate.
  • Never lose sight of the innovations that you’ll need for future success.
  • Have an unwavering belief in the skills of yourself and your team.
  • Don’t fear criticism.

There’s plenty more that you can learn from championship sports teams. That’s where CUB Network can help.

At CUB our ambition is to unite those who are changing the world through their businesses. We support these people by building a private community of Australia’s next titans of industry. And we bring these titans together to accelerate the achievement of each other’s ambitions.

If you wish to be considered for membership, please feel free to request a club introduction on our membership page: