3 habits of great teams: Office collaboration lessons from the World Series

Throughout the season, Big Papi has lead the Red Sox by example. See how you can apply his approach to your own office.
Throughout the season, Big Papi has lead the Red Sox by example. See how you can apply his approach to your own office. –Jim Davis/Globe Staff

This World Series has been rife with unbelievable moments, from Game Three’s controversial obstruction call to Game Four’s historic pick-off. Like any devoted Boston sports fan, I have been glued to the screen as the Boston Red Sox have battled the St. Louis Cardinals over the course of this epic series.

Allegiance to the home team aside, I have been struck by the distinctive team cultures of the Red Sox and Cardinals. From those now-iconic beards to the mythical “Cardinal Way,’’ both teams have cultivated team behaviors and attributes that are directly related to their success in the 2013 season. As an someone focused on collaboration and productivity, I can’t help but notice how the habits of these stellar sports teams translate to the workplace.


Business leaders love to talk about teams and teamwork, emphasizing the way our employees work together, share ideas, and “put it all on the line’’ for the results that will help the company and team win. It’s clear however, that extreme circumstances (like Game Seven of the World Series) can bring out the best in teams – the kind of do or die pressure cooker moments that produce heroic plays and unbelievable achievements. The challenge for team leaders is to replicate this kind of team culture when there is no pennant on the line. With that in mind, here are three essential habits teams can learn from this year’s World Series:

1. Resiliency: After a stellar debut in Game One, the Red Sox lost two games in a row. The Cardinals’ pitchers were decimating the Sox lineup. In Game Four of the series, the Red Sox continued to struggle at bat and seemed headed for another loss. A speech from David Ortiz and a reminder that World Series Games do not come around every year, reignited the team’s flagging spirits. Jonny Gomes (who wouldn’t have even taken the field had Shane Victorino‘s back felt a little less tight) smacked a three-run homer that set the Red Sox up for a win to tie the series 2-2.


Office Take Away: Team managers need to cultivate an environment that focuses on the future, progress, and moving forward towards success – instead of the past or prior mistakes. Sometimes this means gathering the team together and setting reset: reevaluating goals, tasks, and priorities.

2. Transparency: In baseball, there is no hiding a mistake. When you throw to third base and the pitch goes wild, there’s no denying the error. Teams like the Red Sox and Cardinals are full of players who take ownership for both their success and their shortcomings. After a bad start in Game One, the Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright spent hours in front of a mirror with film from the game working on reforming his mechanics.

Office Take Away: Learn from mistakes and move on. Make transparency and ownership easy. Set up systems that facilitate open communications and help make assignments, deadlines, and results clear for all team members. New collaboration technology can help make this kind of open sharing easier.

3. Servant Leadership: Mike Matheny is the manager of the Cardinals. In only his second season as a head coach, he has been criticized for his lack of experience. But Matheny’s team has seen successful to this point, in part because of his leadership philosophy. He is a student of “servant leadership’’ – helping his players succeed rather than commanding them.

Office Take Away: Be a servant leader. Encourage, support, listen and enable team members while emphasizing collaboration, trust, and empathy.

Establishing resilient, transparent and self-motivated teams is essential to team success. Take the time to reflect on how your team can be more efficient, collaborative, and organized. Every team has the potential to be a great one. They just need the right tools to help them get there, regardless of what Commissioner’s Trophy you are after.


Go Sox!

Matt Cutler is the founder and CEO of Collaborate.com. Follow him on Twitter @mcutler.

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