Building A Winning Team Culture

Megan Zimlich is an accomplished track star and, among her many other fantastic qualities, is an important player on our team here at Sport Fuels Life and Team Connection. When it comes to building a successful team culture, she believes that honest assessment, getting specific with setting goals, and making accountability a priority are all vital elements. Read on below to learn more about Megan!

Please share a story of how sports have positively impacted your life.

Sports have had a more than positive impact on my life… sports ARE my life! Sports give my life direction and deep purpose by providing me with a platform to chase ambitious goals and achieve them. Through sports, I am able to continue to grow and overcome challenges, while inspiring others to do the same.

Since starting gymnastics at the early age of three, athletics have shown me that discipline and the corresponding commitment to long-term goals are important. Hopefully, achieving the goals happens but the places you see and the people you meet along the way are perhaps the most special part of all.

After having competed on a national championship track team at the University of Arkansas as a pole vaulter, I spent my time working in the athletic department as a graduate assistant, while pursuing my master’s degree in business administration. During that two-year period, I immersed myself in Division I athletics from a different angle and absolutely loved it, but I still had a desire to train and compete.

After graduating, I decided to move to North Carolina to commit more time and energy to my training so that I could be a competitive U.S. pole vaulter, as well as grow the sport through coaching and advocacy. I am so passionate about track and field, but also sports in general. The lessons learned through sports and the journeys they create in life are significant.

How would you define team culture? What are the traits of successful team culture?

Team culture is the energy created from a group of people working toward a common goal. A successful team culture is marked by unity in a shared vision with the required discipline, focus, competitiveness, and accountability to reach that goal.

What role does inclusivity play in building a winning team culture?

Inclusivity provides a team with growth, opportunity, and purpose. Adding a variety of perspectives can add needed strengths, so that the team can fit together like pieces in a puzzle. Having skills in many different areas will set a team up for success, and ultimately winning.

Can you give an example of how team accountability, communication, trust and conflict resolution improves culture?

Currently in our elite training group, we set goals at the beginning of the year and share them openly with our coach and training partners. Putting those goals out into the world gives us each a sense of ownership in our goals for the year. We know it’s our fault whether we achieve them or not. Being surrounded by training partners who can hold you accountable everyday serves as a constant reminder and motivator to keep pushing through tough times. Accountability, communication, trust and conflict resolution support a positive training environment. This in turn helps us attain our goals. Our team culture is crucial in raising the standards of our own performance. It is necessary to give and receive constructive criticism from our training group to shape the group dynamic in a way that everyone can reach their potential.

How does problem solving as a team help the overall collaborative environment?

Problem solving as a team helps the overall collaborative environment because it gives everyone a chance to step up and contribute. It is important that every player brings something to the table. If not, the group will defer to one team leader to always provide a solution, rather than stretch themselves to come up with solutions on their own, or feel their ideas are welcome. Everyone on a team must be seen as a leader and capable of adding value to a group. In order to succeed as a team, you must be able to work through challenges as a team.

What are three life hacks for building a winning team culture?

  1. Assess (honestly) where you are currently.
  2. Set your sights on where you want to go (use specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-sensitive goal-setting) and develop a game plan of how to get there.
  3. Hold yourself and others accountable to those goals.

I spent four years in Jeff Janssen’s leadership academy during my time at Arkansas. He gave us countless resources for building a winning team culture – check out this article for some more expert advice on building a winning team culture.

Why do you personally believe that Sport Fuels Life?

Sports have taught me how to set goals and achieve them while overcoming challenges along the way. I know that sports does the same for others; I see it through my experience in coaching. It is an exciting and powerful force.

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