What a profound statement! “Do nothing to bring down the energy of the team”. I heard it last week from the motivational and inspiring Kevin Biggar as he described the parallels between undertaking the trans-Atlantic rowing race and growing a successful business – of all the amazing speakers from this years Deloitte Fast 50 event, Kevin’s insight has had the most profound and immediate impact on my life.

An adventurer who transformed his life from a self described “couch potato” to taking on and achieving successive challenges – winning the trans-Atlantic rowing race with no previous rowing experience, completing an unsupported trek to the South Pole and in recent years following in the footsteps of New Zealand’s early adventurers forging their pioneering paths for a documentary First Crossings. Kevin drew strong analogies between his life and that of our own as business owners with great (and often hilarious) stories, photos and video’s to underscore his key points.

The impact of relationships in team work

The impact of relationships in team work and the importance of ensuring these do not break down as you build and grow a successful high performing team was central to Kevin’s talk. He demonstrated examples through 5 important subject areas relevant whether your business is a startup, growing or mature business – or you are about to walk to the south pole pulling a sled containing all the supplies you need for such a treacherous journey:

  1. Face the try line
  2. Choose to win
  3. Play as a team
  4. Break it down
  5. Play to the final whistle

Since listening to Kevin I have observed my own behaviour and instances where my natural reaction would in fact bring down the energy of the team and have been kicking myself for the number of times I have done so in the past. I have also spent time considering another construct Kevin discussed – the fundamental attribution error and why we don’t give each other a break. In short a bias that leads to us over estimating another person’s internal personality characteristics (eg: calling them a jerk for making a simple mistake) instead of considering external situational factors (they could have made the mistake due to extreme personal stress).

Wikipedia (again my friend) has a good example to demonstrate the fundamental attribution error:

As a simple example, consider a situation where Alice, a driver, is about to pass through an intersection. Her light turns green and she begins to accelerate, but another car drives through the red light and crosses in front of her. The fundamental attribution error may lead her to think that the driver of the other car was an unskilled or reckless driver. This will be an error if the other driver had a good reason for running the light, such as rushing a patient to the hospital. If this is the case and Alice had been driving the other car, she would have understood that the situation called for speed at the cost of safety, but when seeing it from the outside she was inclined to believe that the behavior of the other driver reflected their fundamental nature (having poor driving skills or a reckless attitude).

Considering the perspective of others is one thing, considering their state of mind and external pressures and influences is another level again, something every business owner should be conscious of as these are the triggers leading to the potential breakdown in key relationships.

Take this challenge and ask yourself these questions every day:

  • Have you prejudged someone in your team? 
  • Have you blamed someone for their performance labelling them as slack or lazy?
  • Can you see relationships within your wider at risk of breaking down?
  • Have you done anything to bring down the energy of your team?

I suggest as you ask yourself these questions every day you will start to observe your own and others behaviours that could ultimately lead to the energy and performance of your team diminishing. Like everything else in business evolving, pivoting and changing to maintain traction and momentum – the energy of your team is a key factor to maintain, so observe then act.

A culture of acceptance and sustained energy has got to be far more successful than one of criticism and fear of failure and I don’t want us to get onto that slippery slope. Like Kevin’s advised I plan to “break it down” and “face the try line” confronting this one as our business model evolves into it’s next iteration. I will keep you posted on our progress, let me know about your own. Happy sharing Vic.

Here are links to a few other articles on the fundamental attribution error:





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