Ryan Harris with his teammates in a football match.

6 Components That Influence Team Dynamics

He put both fists on my chest and drove me back towards the quarterback. F*ck. I messed up and it was my fault.

A player from the other team had given me a bull rush in the last preseason game of the year.

All of a sudden — WHAM! — my guard comes and knocks the guy out. He saved us from hitting the quarterback, and we got a first down.

But the best part? There wasn’t a single word spoken between me and my guard. There was just an understanding that he would always have my back. I didn’t have to say “thanks,” I just had to line up again because I’d have the opportunity to help him in a few more plays.

That’s what solid team dynamics look like. It’s when you stop seeing “ME” and start seeing “WE.” In that moment everything becomes greater. Everything becomes more possible.


1. Sight: What Does Your Team See?

What is your team seeing every day when they walk in the building? There are two ways you need to answer this question.

> Goals: Keep them in sight and in mind.

In the NFL, our goals are visible…literally everywhere we go. We see the goal of the season written throughout the hallways. We get notes in our lockers with the goal of the week written on them. They even write the goals on the schedule.

I was once on a team where — on every schedule — instead of seeing Kick-Off at 7:05, it would say Beat The Jets at 7:05.

> Environment: You need a clean workspace that inspires employees to perform their best.

Every pro and college football team spends millions of dollars making their facility the absolute best it can be. It’s not a vanity measure. It’s because better facilities are linked to higher performance.

What does your team see when they come to work? What do they see in meetings? What do they see around their workplace? Are they aware of the company’s goals? Do they see you as a leader putting forth your best effort to hold the team together?

#2. Leadership: How’s Yours?

A former coach of mine (he’s won a Super Bowl) started all our meetings the exact same way. Every. Day. He took different highlights from the week’s practices or game to emphasize the points he was making in the meeting. We knew what to expect and how the principles of our team would be the foundation for our success.

Run a quick audit of your leadership:

  • Does your leadership continue to evolve?
  • Does your leadership continue to learn?
  • How does your leadership inspire?
  • How does your leadership nudge?
  • How does your leadership create?

A good leader never stops improving. You set goals. You set standards. You reach them, and you keep growing. Leadership cannot grow stale.

#3. Burnout: The Good

“I want my team to burnout.”

I’ve played on a lot of football teams, but THIS team took me to a whole new level. I learned the most and became the best player I could be because the coach believed in burnout. And it was amazing.

No matter where you are, no matter what company you’re in, no matter what job you have, you need to accept it: burnout will happen. Might as well make it a target.

The best Olympic swimmers and swim teams burnout on purpose. They do this so that they show up fresh on race day.

Before you start racing towards burnout, you need to identify how you and your team want to approach it. How does burnout affect your team? When done correctly, burnout creates great performances. When done incorrectly, it leads to point #4…

#4. The Law Of Diminishing Returns

In my ENTIRE football career, I have never seen more guys on IR in a single season than when OUR coach never stopped us. It hurt our team, it injured players, it ended careers, and it ruined families.

We were playing for a coach who refused to listen to players who were reaching their breaking points. This coach experienced a lot of success in the NFL, but his refusal to accept the law of diminishing returns crushed our team, and cost him his job.

This coach isn’t alone. Not enough people understand that, at a certain point, your work will provide diminishing returns. The law of diminishing returns is a law for a reason. It’s proven.

As a leader, you must understand how the law applies to your team and to your business. Listen to the conversations taking place. What’s the pulse? Maybe you’re having too many meetings. Maybe you’re not having enough meetings. Know when to back off.

#5. Schedule: More Than Just Dates & Times

In the NFL, we have a practice schedule AND we have a schedule for every practice. It wasn’t until after I become pro that I understood how important the latter was.

I realized I couldn’t start and finish practice at 100 miles per hour.  I needed to use different parts of practice for different purposes. I needed to use the warm up to warm up, not to focus on technique. I needed to use drill time to focus on the drill, not on how the drill would work in a future game.

Can you create a schedule that informs people when to be on, when to be off, when to be fired up, when to focus, when to think critically, when to expect criticism, etc?

Schedules affect team dynamics because they create structure, and this structure conserves time and mental bandwidth. Sporadic schedules don’t work. I’ve yet to find a high functioning team with one.

The year we won the Super Bowl, we had a meeting at 8:00 am every morning. Period. Didn’t matter what day it was, except for the off day. 8 am. We were there.

What’s your schedule?

#6. Honesty: Good Luck Without It

The best coaches I’ve ever had could, and would, say:

“Guys, it’s my fault we lost this game. I didn’t have you ready, but we have an opportunity to be great. I need you to get better, and I’m going to get better.”

Can your team be honest with each other? Not confrontational, not disrespectful, not jealous, but honest.

“Hey, that really helped me out there.”

“Hey, you really got my back right there.”

“Hey, you need to pick it up.”

No one can argue with honesty. Leaders need to show it and your team needs to practice it. Honesty is undefeated. Without it, good luck.

What To Do Next

> Never minimize your role in a loss or a win.

That’s what one of my greatest coaches would say. Teams win together and teams lose together. Whether you’re a leader or a player, healthy team dynamics create team buy-in, producing a constant evolution of achievement that’s brought only by being together.

> Take an inventory of your team’s dynamics:

  1. What does your team see every day that affects performance?
  2. What is your leadership doing to grow?
  3. What is your team doing to reach burnout?
  4. How will your team know when you’ve reached burnout and how will you react?
  5. Is your schedule a source of stress or structure?
  6. How is honesty showing up in your team? Is it?

Immediately implement any changes to improve your team dynamics.

What changes do you need to make RIGHT NOW to improve how your team functions? How do you plan to make those changes? This requires heavy lifting, but the success of your team depends on it.


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