We've all been part of a group or team where everything clicked. Everyone knows things a great team needs -- leadership, ownership of solving problems, camaraderie and integrity. The problem is everyone claims to be a great leader, honest, team player etc on their resume. There is one specific phrase I suggest you look for when building teams:
'Competitive Tennis Player'
Truth be told I played a lot of tennis growing up. I'll enlighten those that don't know what competitive tennis entails and why finding a competitive tennis player or two to work with is a great idea.
Ownership of Solving Problems - Your team needs people that you can task with a problem and expect them to solve it. You'd also love people that can hear a customer's issue and patiently resolve it without incident. At every rung in business there are unsung heroes that take ownership of whatever the situation is (instead of saying 'it's not my job') and do whatever they can to solve the problem.
A tennis match is the modern-day gladiatorial coliseum. Boxers have their corner men with them. Not in tennis. In tennis, you are stuck on your own with several problems -- your opponent, nerves and temper to solve. Your support system and everyone else is behind the fence and unable to help you. You can't pass the buck to anyone else and the issues you're battling on the court have no sympathy for poorly-timed bad days. Tennis is about accepting things as they are and enduring anyway.
Leadership - Teams need great leadership. Someone that appears to look at everything with time-machine goggles on. They see a shopping mall where others see barren land. They see destiny where others see despair. Leaders are one-step ahead of everyone else. They are able to plan ahead and work towards a goal. Everyone else stays in the rat race. A great leader isn't afraid of how they look when they are focused on getting things done. You rarely see them applying for jobs too. They are too busy making them for the rest of us.
Tennis players make numerous tactical and technical adjustments with long-term goals in mind. They realize that learning proper technique initially will pay dividends in the long run even though it may take longer to master. It doesn't matter if they need extra practice. Also, great tennis players aren't afraid to change tactics and step out of their comfort zone to win. In tennis everyone has a game plan until it stops working. Adjustments are needed to win.
Integrity - Most business owners crave trust. They need people they can trust when things get tough and not jump-ship to greener pastures. Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Most business owners would rather have a person that is 50 percent skill and 100 percent integrity over 100 percent skill and 50 percent integrity. I visit with business owners of all shapes and sizes constantly. The one thing they need is people they can trust to give the organization their best and keep the organization's best interest at heart. Those people know they'll do well if their organization does well. People that try their best and show they care about the organization can stay in roles even if their skills diminish.
Tennis is the only major sport where at most competitive levels players are the referees. You make line calls and score matches with your opponent. Imagine two boxers mutually agreeing when the other hits below the belt or soccer players giving yellow and red cards to their opponents. Even while you are trying to win an intense competition you still carry the honor system with you. Yes, many people accuse their opponents of cheating, but 98 percent of judgments in a match go without debate. They need to trust their opponents and themselves to play by the rules and accept their judgments no matter how bitter. Your ethics and character are never more on display then when you are playing tennis.
If you want to know if someone is a good problem-solver, leader or trustworthy spend an hour or two with them on a tennis court.
They may be more than someone to workout with.
About the Author:
Sajeel Qureshi is the VP of Operations at Computan, a digital marketing and software company. Computan serves as the digital department for numerous businesses throughout the globe ranging from start-ups to multinationals.
He has a degree in Business Administration from St. Bonaventure University and MBA from Eastern Illinois University. Sajeel plays tennis well enough to convince the untrained eye that he knows what he is doing and poor enough that the trained eye submits him to a drug test.