Over the years, I have read interviews, biographies and watched documentaries about successful teams or groups that stay together. Whether it is the Rolling Stones or U2, they all agree on the basic prerequisite for team or band success. No single individual is more important than the team. Or put another way, no single individual can achieve more than the sum total of the band, so to be truly successful, the group or team must work together and the collective success is what really counts.
And now, at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the Norwegian ski team is demonstrating yet again, that where there is team harmony, there is very often great success. According to an article in the The New York Times, Norway’s team is about a third of the size of its other European rivals but are second in the medal table and have consistently punched above their weight for the past two decades.
They have a number of things going for them and not least among them is the absence of a hierarchy that pits the youngest against the oldest, or the highest ranked in the world against the lowlier competitors. They all help one another to win as much as they can individually, There are no secrets. Yesterday, they won Gold and Silver in the Men’s Downhill. Since they first began competing in the Winter Olympics, Norway has won 329 medals, including 118 Gold medals – more than any other nation in Winter Olympic history. So perhaps there are some things we can all learn from their success.
They have five primary rules or codes of conduct that help keep the team doing what it does best – winning medals:
1. No jerks. You have to get along with everyone and there is no excuse for upsetting the harmony of the team.
2. No class structure. Whether you’re a rookie or a multi-medal-winning champion, anyone can sit at the head of the table on the numerous occasions they eat together. In other words, they are all equals.
3. The social fabric of the group is paramount. The Norwegians have a saying, “There is almost no skill or ability you can have that is so good, it allows you to ruin the social qualities of the team.” Spending 250 days across the year together causes these men to bond in ways that many teams struggle to get near, including on a number of occasions, sharing beds in hotels that do not have any available single rooms.
4. Talk to each other not about each other. This hardly needs unpacking but needless to say, can lead to confrontations in the best of teams but if the foundation of the relationships are solid, then any situation can be resolved.
5. Friday night is taco night. It doesn’t have to be Friday and it doesn’t have to be tacos of course but whatever works for your team, your family, your group or band, it will benefit enormously from regular times of eating together. It just so happens that Friday night taco eating is a Norwegian tradition and one that clearly has tangible benefits.
So, whether you want to launch a successful business, improve your existing team’s performance, or become the next greatest rock band in the world, take a leaf out of Norway’s book of team success I’d say.