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Cohesion-Performance Relationship in Team Sports: Lessons for Entrepreneurial Management Teams

When we think of examples of high-performance teams, perhaps many of us think of our favourite professional sports team (as a Canadian man, I was ‘born with skates on’ so I think of our national sport – ice hockey). The cohesion-performance relationship in sport has been the subject of extensive research in sport psychology. There are similarities between elite sports teams and entrepreneurial management teams that impact their cohesion - such as having defined roles/positions/functions, the existence of common (overarching) goals, the need for some degree of interdependence, and the need for mutual respect and of course cooperation/collaboration. But, aside from some fundamental differences in the nature of their respective ‘games’, there are also differences – primarily in their functional heterogeneity and, in my judgment, the clarity & precision of common goals, the nature & extent of interdependence & collaboration. This article explores these issues from the perspective of what entrepreneurial management teams can learn from exemplars that is relevant to apply to their more ambiguous circumstances.

So to answer this question: ‘What lessons can eMTs learn from elite sports teams to enhance their cohesion?’, here are some suggestions:

1. Develop some “entativity” - i.e. an identity unique to your team;
2. Establish standards of excellence for performance that are not just financial (see article #1V4.2022);
3. Get to know one another really, really well - not just as executives, but as people;
4. Develop, enhance, and leverage mutual respect for others' KSAs;
5. Explore and fully understand the team's strategic & operational interdependencies, particularly internal;
6. Assign responsibility for developing entativity & cohesion (a logical choice is the entrepreneur-leader but some founders (particularly if young) lack experience & expertise - in that case the VC should consider becoming a sponsor of team development, which can be supported by external team coaches).

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