In a recent meeting, the Minset leadership team found itself reflecting on the key principles of leadership and the many similarities between sport and business. In particular, between kids sport and project management.

Early in the season, the kids are super committed and enthusiastic. Then, a few months in, the school holidays hit, and before you know it, their commitment and focus begin to wane. Project teams often start the same way – with great gusto, excited by the difference they can make. A few challenges come along, everyone starts getting distracted by business-as-usual pressures, and project progress starts to stall.

Interestingly, the pillars of team success come down to the same fundamental leadership principles – whether it’s the local under 12s footy team or a multi-million-dollar change project.

Vision – it’s essential for every team and helps the leader (or coach) focus everyone’s attention on what matters most. A strong vision is rooted in the team’s past, addresses the future, and deals with the realities of today. A compelling vision is achievable and captures the hearts and minds of your team members. As Henry Ford famously said: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Communication – strong communication and effective leadership are intertwined. Every team member needs to understand their job and how they are performing. Feedback is crucial. What do they need to improve? Where are they excelling? Remember…it’s hard to over-communicate.

Contingency planning – things go wrong, often. Planning helps you map out your options in advance, so there are fewer surprises. So, whether it’s losing your top player to their cousin’s birthday party, or managing conflicting stakeholder needs, identifying your top risks, and planning for them, sets you up for success.

Relevant systems and processes – circumstances change around you all of the time, and your systems and processes need to change and evolve. Are you using an approach because it adds value or because you’ve always done it that way? Have a look at your team members and what you need to achieve. If your systems and processes aren’t supporting both people and outcomes, don’t be afraid to change them.

Having fun – people who have fun are engaged, less stressed, and more productive. Both kids and adults increase motivation and energy with a little downtime. It can be hard to think about fun when you’re in the thick of it. But keeping things simple and rewarding effort goes a long way to improving morale and re-focusing everyone when the going gets tough.

Creating a sense of urgency – is not the same as stressing everyone out. It’s about developing an environment where team members understand why something is urgent and what they can do about it as individuals, and as a team. Maybe the finals are just around the corner, and you need to increase the batting average to be competitive? Or perhaps the project is due for a review, and a few key actions are behind schedule? Help people understand ‘why’ and involve them in solving the problem.

So, next time you’re taking on a project management role, or coaching your daughter’s netball team, think about the leadership principles that come together to create the levers behind a team’s success.