In 2004, Heiner Brand was the coach of the German national men’s handball team. That year, he had an extremely close-knit group of players and won Germany’s first gold medal at the European Championship. When asked about the team’s success, Brand was unequivocal: it was a result of the team’s cohesion.
So what does cohesion mean, exactly? Well, there are two types of cohesion you should be aware of, and both will increase a team’s success.
The first is social cohesion, which is about having healthy relationships and social bonds between your teammates.
Brand’s handball team had suffered a good deal of setbacks along the way, including injuries to some of the best players and a bad start to the tournament, but thanks to their strong relationships and social bonds they were able to overcome each stumbling block. Their cohesion meant that they were able to stay emotionally connected and continue to work together through difficult times, as opposed to turning against one another.
It’s important to note that there is such a thing as too much social cohesion. A 2014 study at Ryerson University shows that when teams are too closely bonded they can waste time socializing or ostracizing their coach.
The second type is known as task cohesion, which is bonding through a shared commitment to reaching a common goal. When a team has a high level of task cohesion, each member is willing to sacrifice their self-interests in favor of the shared goal. This includes making sacrifices and doing whatever it takes to achieve the goal of the team.
Task cohesion doesn’t necessarily require social cohesion; even without it, task cohesion can be a hugely beneficial quality.
Every team, no matter how big or small, needs a strong leader – someone who can guide them through tough times and inspire them to do their best. A great leader is more than just a manager. So what are the precise qualities that make the best leaders?
First of all, an effective leader is flexible and able to adapt to the different scenarios that are sure to emerge. This means the leader is always aware of the changing environment and what the team needs at any given moment.
A good basketball coach, for example, needs to respond differently to a pre-game huddle than she would to the final timeout at the end of a playoff game. In the last moments of a close game, a good coach will adapt appropriately and give clear and direct instructions for a team to follow.
In a high-stress, time-sensitive moment, there’s no room for lengthy explanations, and a good leader will know this. But when you’re leading a team through a regular practice, this is the perfect situation to focus on development and take the time to provide more thorough explanations.
Leaders can also be more effective by practicing humility, which is a way of earning respect and trust.
For this, you can look to Derek Jeter as a role model. In his career with the New York Yankees, Jeter was one of the best, with an amazing .310 lifetime batting average, 3,400 hits and 358 stolen bases. But even though he played a large role in winning the Yankees three back-to-back World Series titles, he always showed humility and never bragged about his accomplishments. Nor did he speak ill of any other player or put himself above a fellow team member.
Jeter’s humble nature not only made him one of the most respected players in the league; it made him a successful team captain for eleven straight years, inspiring loyalty from every teammate.
Leadership is also about teaching teammates ways of raising their performance level, which can be effectively done through constant feedback. Positive reinforcement works best, and leaders should always be on the lookout for ways to reward strong effort and performance. Likewise, leaders should avoid punishments and degradation when a team member underperforms.
Michael Jordan is remembered as one of the all-time greatest, but he would point out his own failures, like missing 26 game-winning shots. Acknowledging these misses kept him motivated to keep improving and prevented him from resting on his laurels.
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