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Teambuilding Lessons from the Ryder Cup

by Tony Roe on September 20th, 2012

The European 2006 Rider Cup winners at K-Club - pose for the cameras

The European 2006 Ryder Cup winners at the K-Club - pose for the cameras

The Ryder Cup is due to be played in America at the end of the month and we will be provided with wall to wall coverage of the event once it kicks off. The mention of golf tends to lead to two polar opposite reactions amongst the public – interest or extreme dislike. However, there are occasions where strategies used in sport can assist in resolving organisational difficulties.

When Paul Azinger was appointed the United States Captain in 2008 he recognised that American golfers struggled to adapt to playing together as a team. This had been demonstrated in previous Ryder Cup events.  The challenge here for the captain was to bring together a group of twelve players who would play for each other, bond as a team and produce a performance that would result in a rare victory over the opposition.

Because the team members would compete in smaller groups of four throughout the competition he decided to use an approach used in building the Navy SEALS, which was based on breaking the units down to small groups which they called pods.  He selected three members for each of his groups (pods) based on personality and reinforced ownership by asking them to select their fourth member from a list of players that were playing well on the circuit.  Given all of the attention and analysis that is devoted to a Ryder Cup captain’s picks, this was a brave and unconventional strategy that ended up paying big dividends for Azinger and the American team.

He assigned a seasoned co-captain to each of the groups and also gave responsibility to each group to decide pairings and sequence of play. 

The result was a home win for America against Europe, one of the few recorded in the Ryder Cup Series.

The lesson here is not about golf but on the importance of developing a strategy that will support the team, producing a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Paul Azinger’s book is titled Cracking the Code and was published in 2010.

PS. For a related training programme, please click on the  link here:
1. Leading With Teamwork & Collaboration

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