There is no ‘I’ in TEAM (but there is in WINNING) pt2

Hannah Prince concludes her piece on the winning mentality.

Healthy levels of task conflict

As already explained, this ‘team of teams’ is a hugely diverse group of individuals who each bring their unique personality traits, values, beliefs and attitudes. While research suggests this is great for team creativity, idea generation, and reducing intergroup biases, it can hamper the levels of team cohesiveness, efficacy and can actually result in more team conflict.

This term ‘conflict’ often has negative connotations but it’s important to recognise that it’s actually a sign of a healthy working team. In fact, it can facilitate effective decision making by overcoming group biases and allowing group creativity to flourish; all of which can positively impact performance.

So both the performance staff and players need to understand that this group is hugely diverse and therefore accept that conflict is going to happen which it not always a bad thing. With this knowledge they learn how to adapt their behaviours in order to cater for others preferences and communicate differently according to people’s preferences.

It can also help generate a healthy amount of conflict which is related only to the task at hand, and not emotional or personal in any way. This type of relationship conflict is actually detrimental to performance.

Team cohesion

“Being picked is the greatest honour I could ever receive as a rugby player…the pinnacle of my career” – Lawrence Dallaglio, former British and Irish Lions captain

So the players will have a genuine desire and passion to be part of the squad which is an important component of cohesion; however they also need to be well integrated, not just socially but also when it comes to actually performing. In sum, they need to be both attracted to the group and well integrated.

This makes a team a cohesive unit, i.e. they stick together in order to win. Having high levels of cohesion is likely to improve performance as well as result in individual level benefits including enhanced self-esteem, conformity to the group, individual work output and collective efficacy.

So when the team are on the pitch, they need to stick together, whether they’re winning or losing, playing well or not, they need to remain united. They also need to gel as a social unit as this is equally as important for performance.

Team goals and role clarity

Of course the team, both on and off the field, know that the ultimate goal is to win the series but what are the steps or factors required for this to happen? What’s required of them all both individually and as a team to achieve success?

Perhaps one of the goals during the matches is to keep penalties conceded down to five each half, to give away less territory and ball to the Kiwis which should result in less points conceded. One way to scope this out is through group goal setting, a common method used in sport which is linked to enhanced group performance, communication, commitment and satisfaction.

Read part one of this feature here 

It’s also been identified as the most effective method of enhancing cohesion amongst sporting athletes. In fact individual perception of cohesion and group unity can decrease when group activities like group goal setting are absent.

So Gatland and the rest of the performance staff should have a group goal setting session on a regular basis to ensure the team knows exactly what’s expected of them in order to win. When actually setting these goals, it’s important to note that the type of goal used determines the level of performance generated.

Research confirms that: (i) specific goals lead to higher performance than more generic ‘do your best’ type of goals, and (ii) more difficult goals lead to higher performance than easy goals.

Role clarity

For the team to be effective, everyone requires clarity around their individual role as well as an understanding of others roles and how they all contribute to the overall goal of winning the series. Take the captain Warburton, what’s his role on the pitch and how’s it different to scrum half Greg Laidlaw?

How do they communicate on the pitch with the rest of the team in order to fulfil these roles? The team needs to understand this with clarity, if they don’t then performance will likely suffer, players will feel dissatisfied, levels of team cohesion will decrease and the team will probably have less confidence that they can perform well.

It may also result in players anxiety levels increasing prior to competition, which when too high can have a catastrophic effect on performance.

Perhaps one player has a tendency to overthink things and as a result this may be negatively affecting their performance, part of their individual goal setting could be focused on this. It provides a common language for the team which can help when clarifying roles and responsibilities.


For the British and Irish Lions to demonstrate effective teamwork and performance, there are endless factors to be considered, here I’ve highlighted a few.

To be effective, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of both collective and individual goals, roles and responsibilities, an effective leader who inspires the rest of the team, and promotes a cohesive unit, and finally healthy levels of conflict.

To bring about these positive outcomes and enhance performance, individuals first need to have an increased awareness of what’s actually going on. A crucial aspect to this is self-awareness. When individuals have enhanced levels of self-awareness, their thinking, communication and behavioural styles alter for the good of the team as a whole.

This can reduce the occurrence of issues which commonly arise in teams, and instead enhance levels of team cohesion, role clarity, communication effectiveness, and general engagement levels within the team.

A full list of references is here.


About the author

Hannah Prince is the business psychologist at Insights Learning and Development. She has a background in sport psychology and passion for understanding the underlying psychological factors required for high performance.


Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *