Spencer Wilkerson - Team buy-in

"If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Three seasons ago, in the Ultimate frisbee league I play in, I watched an expansion team lose by one point in the finals. They lost but there was no shame in it and they opened a lot of eyes. They played a crisp, confident style and appeared, to the gathered crowd, to be a team that had played together for years. Again, they hadn’t, they had just formed up and soundly beat teams who had been together for some time.

I wanted to know how they did it. I wanted to know if there was some secret to their success and so I asked their captain, Spencer Wilkerson. I asked how he got his team to play together with purpose and with passion. 
I wanted to know how they got to be so good so fast. What he said struck me. He said, “I asked them.” He said that he put it to them that they could play and have fun and be a pretty good expansion team or they could allow him to coach them and they could work for it and they could be great. They thought about it and each of them chose the second option. They all bought into this vision that he’d laid out and together they became a dangerous unit on the field. 

In the summer after their second season I asked Spencer to revisit that conversation on camera during a beach tournament where we played together and he was generous enough to do so.

This season, his team’s third, they won the league championship. 

I remember sitting in a bar at a league event after doing the interview and talking about the idea, and importance, of a team buying into a unifying team concept and an engineer who was sitting at our table said that it was exactly what he was trying to do at work. He told me that it was something he and his team were actively working on. He became excited as he saw how the idea related to his work, which was gratifying as it’s what Life Athletics is all about.

It’s important not to focus so much on the actions of leadership that you forget to make sure that everyone is all in. This applies in sports, in business, in relationships, and in life.

"You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere." – Lee Iacocca