Leadership teams – a safe space?

Leadership teams

Last weekend’s AFL and NRL Grand Finals were a fascinating opportunity for anyone obsessed with leadership teams and their performance, like me. Being a Victorian, I spent more time on the AFL than the NRL – although the hype about the cliff-hanging final moments of the NRL final did draw us to take a look.

Watching Hawthorn play was mesmerising, and I’m not a Hawks fan. They move like one organism, their pace and accuracy is extraordinary. They are clearly redefining the game, resetting the standard of what it is to be an AFL player and an AFL team. But what intrigues me is to know what is happening inside that club in terms of training and teamwork. It’s clearly working, three consecutive grand final wins says it all.

Simultaneously over the past week I have been viewing and listening to programmes and promotion related to the ABC’s Mental As Campaign and been reminded of how prevalent mental health issues are in our society and the importance of mental strength to performance.

How are these two things related?

If you are a leader committed to creating a high performance team you have to allow for the impact that can have on people’s experience of overwhelm and anxiety. Leaders are human beings; they go through the same range of emotional stress as the rest of us – albeit their threshold may be higher than some.

I would bet that element is given a lot of attention by the coaching staff at Hawthorn, that it is not ignored or glossed over. I would also not be surprised if the support that is provided extends beyond having the appropriate professionals available to players to having team members be fully in communication with one another about what they are dealing with. You could see their connection with one another on the field, there was always a fellow teammate right there for the Hawks players.

As is well known, one of the things that can escalate one’s experience of emotional distress is not talking about it, or talking about it to someone who can’t really get the world of what you are dealing with. The people who can best understand what you are going through really are your fellow team members.

The question for leadership teams in organisations is ‘is our team a safe space for honest communication’?

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