I am reading a good book about the University of Washington rowing team from the early 1930’s. Rowing was a very popular sport in the early 1930’s with the east coast universities and clubs mostly dominating the scene. However, the University of California and University of Washington had a “spirited”, so might even say bitter rivalry for west coast supremacy. But it didn’t end there, as the University of Washington’s crew team went on to win the nationals and later represent the US in the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany. In fact, our team won the gold medal thereby, poking a finger ion the eye of Aryan supremacy and Hitler’s plans.
What is fascinating to me is how precise the art of rowing is. In an eight man crew, each member must perform their task exactly the same way and on the same tempo in order for the boat to glide smoothly through the water. The Washington team was having difficulties in getting the times that they had become accustomed to in earlier events. The coaches were perplexed and eventually hit upon a solution. The role of the coxswain is to call out the tempo to the crew in order to maximize the stroke count and produce the desired time. The coxswain of the #1 crew hit upon a simple solution to keep his fellow crew mates focused on the task at hand. He would repeatedly call out the letters M-I-B. M-I-B stood for Mind In Boat. He wanted each oarsman to be reminded that their only chance for winning was to leave all external cares and pressures outside of the boat. Once they stepped into the boat and strapped in, then they had to keep their “mind in the boat”, focusing only on that which would help the crew to succeed in its singular goal of winning.
This same philosophy applies to successful teams in business. Is your team aligned behind common goals? Does your team approach their roles with a common purpose and methodology? For those that do have a consistent strategy, the results are powerful. I have had the privilege to lead several teams where we had to gain alignment in order to win. We did align behind common goals and purposes and we achieved record results. Working at cross purposes only serves to sap the energy of the organization. Employees become de-motivated and begin to give less than their very best.
If you want to realize the fullest potential of your team, then ensure that every team member has his/her mind in boat. That’s when you will sail to victory and reap the rewards that come with it.