Watch elite teams to learn their secrets

I had the privilege last week, along with more than 70,000 other people in Houston, of watching one of the great sports teams of our time – the Barcelona Football Club. Last season, Barcelona won both its domestic league (the Spanish La Liga) and the highly coveted Championship League, placing them at the top of European football, if not the world. As you might imagine, in addition to watching the spectacle of world-class football (soccer), I was also interested in how this elite club played as a team.

RonaldinoThe team is made up of stars from across the world. The most renowned player is the Brazilian Ronaldino, who has been named the World Player of Year for three years running. Ronaldino has reached rock star status around the planet and was clearly a fan favorite in Houston. But Barcelona did not become a champion on the back of one player. The team has assembled outstanding talent at every position, too numerous to mention.

The reason for Barcelona’s success became apparent to me and the rest of the crowd that night. Some might call it teamwork, which would be accurate, yet not the full story. This team exhibited the highest level of trust in one another I believe I have ever witnessed. Time and again, players would make innovative and dangerous passes that seemed to be based on nothing more than trust that their teammates would break in the right direction to receive the ball. Time and again, other players would make seemingly fruitless dashes into space, trusting that their teammates would supply the ball. Within about 15 minutes, Barcelona made up a 3 goal deficit to leave their competitors and the crowd awestruck.

I’ve heard all the stories about the downside of having a team full of rock stars, in business or in sports. However, when such a team achieves the right chemistry and cohesion, the right level of mutual trust, it is a joy to be around.

I’ll be thinking and blogging about how teams in the business world can reach higher levels of trust and teamwork. I invite you to join in the discussion. What key traits have your best teams developed? Have you experienced the kind of trust among colleagues that Barcelona FC has apparently mastered?

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