By Anton Vanhoucke

8 teamwork insights from an ice skating champion – summary of the book ‘Effect’

ice skating champion - effect

‘Effect’ is a book about effective teamwork. The title refers to the strange fact that your conscious actions don’t always have the effect you desire on other people. The book is written by ice skater J.O. Koss and psychologist B.M. Ihlen. They wrote down their team coaching insights after winning several olympic gold medals.

Their book was originally intended as a sports coaching manual. The ideas in the book however, are relevant for any team. Here’s the first part of my book summary. I summarized the book in eight insights for effective teamwork.

Insight 1: our actions don’t always get us the effect we want

Let’s start with a story to illustrate the basic idea. It’s a fictional story, yet it’s true to life. It’s the story of John. John works as a researcher in an R&D team. John is participating in a team building training. At some point during the training, the trainers ask the participants a very personal question. How much do they like working in their current team? John readily admits he doesn’t like his job, nor his team. He complains that his achievements always go unnoticed. There’s usually no one to help when he’s in trouble. And, most of all, he wishes for more support and recognition from his teammates.

His case is thoroughly investigated during the course. The trainers keep asking him questions about the case. John is visibly exhausted and becomes a little annoyed by all the attention. Then, at some point, another student interjects: “Well, John, the trainers are giving you a hard time. Why don’t we take a break?” John stays tough and replies: “Nah. People who come to a training like this should be able to handle this.”

It’s hard to do teamwork with a team of Johns

Think of the effect of John’s statement. Does it encourage John’s fellow students to give him the support and recognition he craves? Is John fostering effective teamwork with his fellow students? What would have brought him closer to his desired support? I bet you can think of three other things John could have said! His teammates are eager to help, but they probably don’t know how. Making sure teammates understand each other’s needs leads to more effective teamwork.

Be mindful of your intent

In retrospect it’s easy to point out mistakes. It’s not that easy to spot them just before you open your mouth. What helps me is being mindful of my intentions and needs. If you do this, you’re more likely to spot mismatches between action and desired effect. For me two very concrete activities help:

  • Listening to body language and spoken language alike. If something doesn’t feel right, investigate right away.
  • Keeping a diary. It’s great for keeping track of the things you truly want. They’ll be more top of mind. It’s also great for learning from mismatch mistakes.

What’s your most successful strategy to get the things you want? How do you get along and do effective teamwork? Share it in the comment section!

Team coaching with more Effect

When coaching a team I try to be mindful of other people’s mismatches. When I see friction, I quickly try to make the mismatch explicit with direct evidence. After the friction is resolved, it’s a great moment to discuss this insight with the whole team. This way more than just two people can learn and the team can quickly become more effective.

For brevity I’m splitting the summary in 8 separate articles. In the next article I discuss balancing your needs and shoulds. Be sure to share this article with whomever could benefit from it!

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