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Teamwork Secrets We Can Learn From the Bryan Brothers

Posted: 08/10/2012 11:43 am

Bob and Mike Bryan are twin brothers and American professional tennis double players. They've been the world's top-ranked doubles team for more than 297 weeks, which is longer than any other team in doubles history. After winning the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Bryans won the gold medal in London.

Whether you're playing tennis or some other sport or just want to enhance your communication skills, you can learn quite a lot from the Bryans, who seem to have an uncanny ability to read each other's minds while they work as a seamless, cohesive, and almost unstoppable unit.

Here are three key teamwork lessons we can learn from the Bryans this summer:

1. Pick the Right Partner

When it comes to picking the right partner, the Bryan twins won the genetic lottery. But even if you don't have a biological double, you can still choose your partner wisely. For example, if you are the type of person who likes to be in control and call the shots, then teaming up with someone who has similar characteristics may lead to friction and arguments. Instead, in any relationship (work or personal), choose the person that complements your leadership and communication style.

Sometimes picking the right partner may mean that you choose different people to be the leaders for different categories. For example, in our household, my wife calls the shots when it comes to what's for dinner, and I call the shots when it comes to planning our travel. By knowing our respective roles, we can avoid conflict.

2. Get the First Ball In

The most important component of a successful partnership is the first ball -- specifically getting that first ball in, whether you're serving or returning. The Bryan brothers are masters of a high first-serve percentage and a conservative but effective and consistent serve return -- which means they nearly always get a chance to play out the point.

When you're working with a team, you don't necessarily have to have everything perfect before you make a final decision. In the same way that the key in tennis is not to serve every ball at 140 miles per hour, but rather to get that first ball in, the key in teamwork is to make a decision and move on, even if everything doesn't have as many fireworks, bells, and whistles as you'd like it to.

For example, if you're bringing a new product to market, this may mean simply getting it into people's hands and beginning to do business, rather than spending a ton of time trying to make it perfect. Or if you're trying to get fit, rather than waiting for the perfect workout routine to come along or for your body to feel just right, just go the gym or go outside and start moving. Sometimes waiting until everything is just right means that you never give yourself a chance to actually play out the point!

3. Reward Yourself and Your Teammates Every Time

You'll notice that the Bryan brothers are pretty emotional on the court, rewarding each other with handshakes, high fives, smiles, and fist pumps every time they score. They let each other know that they're happy about each success.

In the same way, when you reward yourself or your team for every success, no matter how small, you create a subconscious desire to keep on succeeding over and over again. This may mean sending out thank you notes or email messages every time you see anything positive in your team, celebrating successes each month with a team party or gathering, or rewarding yourself with work breaks, mini-vacations, or just a trip to the movies or the mall when you achieve a personal breakthrough.

Whether you're a tennis enthusiast or not, you can apply the teamwork lessons of the Bryans to any aspect of your life. If you have your own teamwork secrets to share, leave them below!

Ben Greenfield is a fitness and triathlon expert and host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast on the Quick and Dirty Tips network. He is the author of "Get-Fit Guy's Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body -- A Workout Plan for Your Unique Shape."

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