On the “Madness” of Perceived Partner Responses

One of the hardest things a team has to do is work together. That seems fairly harsh, but it is a true reality, precisely because getting along takes work. Basketball is one of a few true team sports. Not only do you have to have skills and precision to swish the basket, but you also need strong communication, superb substitution patterns, passing prowess, excellent spacing, opponent tactics, knowing who to count on to close, and remaining calm and poised at the end of the game. Teams who have mastered these will win, but the champions are going to emerge with the intangible ingredient of social chemistry–getting along, building relationships, and working together. 

Following Marquette’s Lead

I am not an all-out avid fan of men’s basketball, but when March Madness comes around, you can observe me figuring out who is playing and what station to see the game. I am watching a particular team right now–the Marquette Golden Eagles. Is it because two of the mayors of Holland, Michigan—Nathan Bochs and Kurt Dykstra are graduates of Marquette Law School? It could be, but probably is mostly because our son, Ara Crittenden is a proud 1997 graduate of the highly revered education that Marquette delivers. Marquette University’s coach, Shaka Smart is on a National Coach of the Year watch. 

This year the team secured both the conference title and the Big East title for the first time since joining this dominant conference in 2005. You can tell from his outward demeanor that he grabs the attention of those he leads. His five core values are: appreciation, enthusiasm, competitiveness, unselfishness, and accountability. He credits those entirely to the upbringing from his mom who he says is “my number one influence in coaching even though she hasn’t coached a game in her life!”  Shaka shouts: Marquette! The team responds in unison: Defense!

Perceived Partner Responsiveness

One of the universal theories that explains successful relationships is Perceived Partner Responsiveness. Our relationships are stronger when we perceive those around us as responsive to what we say, do, and feel.  A study by Reis and Carmichael published in 2006 further explains this theory. “When relational partners perceive each other as being responsive, the relationship tends to be harmonious, open and constructive; in contrast, when people feel that their partners have been unresponsive, their relationships tend to be conflicted, guarded and dysfunctional.” Responsiveness doesn’t just miraculously appear.    
True response is understanding someone else’s values and responding to them. If you sense people are not responding to you, you might have an influence problem. Or, you could have a pride problem, meaning you think you deserve a response. There is a continuum that oftentimes occurs:  resistance—reaction—response. Resistance is energy working in opposition. Reaction is energy that, when negative is a retort, a recoil, or a backlash. A response is a reply that when it is positive and healthy creates acknowledgement and forward momentum. A good leader or coach along with the entire team will need to work out the resistance and negative reaction through carefully uncovering, exploring, and understanding the cause.

Team Mentality

Not only do business teams need to go on retreats to work these things out together, but sports teams need to as well. Here is what Ara has to say about the team he hopes will be poised and calm at the finish of the championship game, “recently, this is a sport where the egos and ambitions are driven based on the highlights and being in the spotlight. Refreshingly, in this team first mentality everyone eats, unselfishly. The result during game play is fluidity and selfless abandon, lost in the fight. More times than not, it has also resulted in a win. When any number of eight different players can score in double-digit figures, the Golden Eagles have demonstrated world-class teamwork.”
In a retreat last October, each player decided each teammate’s role, and hold each other accountable to their commitment. Ara continues, “the result is a team that has consistently outplayed its projections. They always show up, they play hard, and they play like a team. A real team with depth and talent and skills. It’s not just one player who makes all the magic.” The Big East 6th Man of The Year, David Joplin describes the process, “as long as we stay together, are prepared and play for each other, and play as hard as we can, we’ll see what happens. The relationships we built with each other required sacrifice.”

What is that sacrifice? 
Who goes first? 
Rule #1:  the more mature person goes first. 
Rule #2:  The more flexible person. 

The Value of Team Chemistry

The flexible craft gives way to the more immovable object. On very successful teams like this year’s Marquette team, you can bet Shaka found his first followers. He found the most mature and he found the one who was flexible, to move from resistance, through reaction to a healthy response to help mold and lead the way to complete unselfishness. Ara concludes as a real fan would, “Coach Smart has been here before and knows how to lead a team into the Final Four.” 

True chemistry is about elevating the performance of others. Chemistry ignites the talent the team has, getting the most from each person. PSG provides training and consulting to accelerate the communication, the collaboration and teambuilding process. We help you master the art of working together. We can help you:
Build Task Chemistry—understanding all the strengths on your team, getting people in the right roles with everyone taking pride in their job and holding each other accountable.
Build Social Chemistry—opening lines of communication and building relationships to accelerate caring, trust and bonding.