The great coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Over the years we have seen (and been a part of) the building of some great organizations. It is our belief that truly great companies, sports-related or otherwise, are built on the foundation of a teamwork concept.

The word “team” dates back to 12th century England. It was first used to describe animals working together to pull a cart or wagon in one direction. Isn’t that the goal of most leaders, to get their groups moving together in one direction for a common cause? Some synonyms of “team” include army, band, brigade, company, crew, outfit, party, platoon, squad and gang.

Think about some of those terms. Several apply to the military (a very important type of team), some apply to sports (think squad, crew and gang) and others to causes (like band or party). Whatever your definition is, it is obvious that “team” is a widely recognized concept and one of vast importance in our society.

If you are a non-profit leader, a rights holder, a coach, teacher, elected official or of another field, you undoubtedly have a team that you must lead. You don’t have to have a C-level title on your business card to be a team leader. Everyone leads someone. Those who achieve success in the sports tourism and events industry often are talented at not only leading teams, but BUILDING them. These leaders often display these five qualities in their ability to build great teams:

  1. Transparency – It is much easier for people to follow leaders when they know what the end goal is, and how they are expected to get there. Great team builders show their followers what they want (verbally and through their actions) and they articulate their goals consistently.
  1. Energetic – You don’t have to have a wildly extroverted personality to lead people. However, you do have to have a drive and passion for what you are pursuing if you expect others to get on board.
  2. Advocate – When we use this term, we don’t mean just for their own pet causes. We mean that great team builders advocate for their people. Seth Godin wrote a great book called Tribes, that outlines the best practices of unifying groups for a common effort.The best teams have each other’s back, from the person on the top of the pyramid all the way to the last man on the totem pole.
  1. Mentorship – Great leaders are mentors, yes, but they are also mentored. Every successful person has others that they lean on when needed. Take time not only to help others, but also to continually educate yourself along the journey.
  1. Synergistic – Those who can “connect the dots” between partners get farther than those who work in silos. Strategic thinkers look for ways to align themselves (synergize) with others for the common good. The old theory of “a rising tide raises all boats” applies here.

There are groups that work together, and there are TEAMS. Whether you are an executive, a middle manager or an entry-level person “in the trenches,” you have a great opportunity to lead. It is rare that one great leader is like the next, but those who exhibit transparency, show great energy, advocate for their people, employ 360-degree mentorship, and think synergistically have a leg up on the others.

A Japanese proverb says, “A single arrow is easily broken, but not 10 in a bundle.” We need more arrows (talented people) in our quiver. Seek out collaborative people to be part of your tribe. Recruit them, cultivate them, back them, lead them, and when called, be led by them. Build a culture of thinking “team first” and a great foundation for success will be constructed.

By Jon Schmieder

Jon Schmieder is the founder of the Huddle Up Group LLC, a consulting consortium made up of experienced, award-winning executives. Schmieder has more than 16 years of experience in leading non-profits and sports tourism organizations through strategic growth and increased community collaboration. Huddle Up Group clients include USA BMX, Detroit Sports Commission, Eugene Cascades & Coast Sports, Connect Sports, Veteran Tickets Foundation, Arizona Football Coaches Association, Evansville Sports Corp, Travel Medford, Des Moines CVB, Las Cruces CVB, and the Association of Chief Executives of Sport (ACES). The Huddle Up Group can be reached at or 602-369-6955. To receive the weekly “Monday Huddle Up,” sign up at
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