A basketball swooshing through a hoop.
Corporate Culture

Lessons in Teamwork from the Hawkeyes

Jake Robertson
Jake Robertson
Client Executive, Team Lead - Property Casualty

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, it’s been pretty much impossible to miss the energy around the University of Iowa’s women’s basketball team. I’ve watched more of their games over the last two years then I did the preceding 37 years of my life. So, I asked myself – what’s drawing me in?

The easy and short answer would be Caitlin Clark. But, when I dig deeper, it’s a lot more than that. The team has chemistry and an uplifting nature, effective players and coaches, impactful role players, great defense and offense, and a great leader.

This blog isn’t an analysis or critique of the basketball team – instead, I want to explore what we can learn from a successful, unified team.

Witnessing the success and growth of this team inspired me to reflect on the importance of a strong team in business and how nothing clicks without everyone doing their part.

Preparation and Collaboration Develop Team Synergy

Did you know the Hawkeye women’s basketball team has a “gray squad?” It’s a group of young men that practice with them ahead of upcoming games. When it comes to preparation, they do everything they can to challenge themselves before the big game.

The same can be said in business. If you don’t put in the time and effort, you can’t have the expectation of success. Getting out of your comfort zone is non-negotiable. Chances are that you’ll prepare, fail, and prepare some more before you win. The goal is to make you and your team better so at the time of competition, you’re ready. Preparedness leads to success.

This is a personal opinion, but I think one of the things that makes the Hawks so successful is that every member of that team contributes in a different way. They utilize their personal skill sets to the benefit of the team, and their strengths complement each other.

  • Caitlin Clark is a leader. She orchestrates the offense. She scores. She passes. She runs the court, and she takes charge because she knows her team is there for support.
  • Gabbie Marshall is the most ruthless defender I’ve ever seen, and not too bad of a shot blocker for the shortest person on the court. If you need her to score, she can shoot the three.
  • Kate Martin is the foundation of the group. She’s the voice that everyone listens to and she’s the jack of all trades.
  • Hannah Stuelke runs the court better than any post player I’ve ever seen. She knows Caitlin Clark is looking for her in transition and sprints down the court on every fast break looking for a layup. Plus, she does everything with a big smile on her face.
  • Sydney Affolter stepped up after Molly Davis went down with an injury. She had arguably one of the biggest buckets of the season last game against West Virginia University.

My point is that each of these Hawks contributes and supports the team in different ways that all lead to their team’s overall success. Caitlin’s contribution has been well-documented as she breaks records left and right, but the team wouldn’t win as many games without Gabbie’s incredible defense, Kate’s leadership, Hannah’s running the floor, and players like Sydney stepping up.

It’s the same in the professional world. No one person can do everything. Your success relies on the strength of your team, and making sure you get the most out of everyone. You’re at your peak as a team or organization when everyone is contributing and you know – and complement – each other’s strengths.

Leaders Can Learn From New Players

I’ve been ruminating on comments from Kate Martin at a press conference after their win against WVU. Caitlin Clark mentioned looking up to Kate earlier in the conversation, and Kate shared on how her perspective changed after working with Caitlin.

“That’s what the greats do is raise the level of competition every single day in practice. She had goals, and I hadn’t really — typically I was looking up to people who were older than me. Then somebody younger coming in with such a fiery mentality and wanting to win, and I just loved it. Sometimes you don’t really think about looking up to somebody who’s younger than you, but I always admired her, even since the day she stepped on campus, because I knew she wanted to win.”

These thoughts struck me as wise beyond her years. Sometimes, the mentor becomes the mentee and I think that’s great for everyone. It facilitates growth that otherwise probably wouldn’t happen and your organization or team achieves more because of it.

If you look at these girls play, I truly believe they embody the idea that “There is no I in Team,” and I think it’s served them well as it does any organization. You’re only as good as your weakest link, and I think the Hawkeyes have very few weak links. They get the most out of everyone on the bench which puts them at their highest potential.

Looking for a Team Invested in Your Success?

I’m not saying the Hawks are going to win it all (though I’m sure more than a few brackets have them in the finals), but I know they leave it all out on the floor. It’s about more than the game – it’s clear that they care for and are invested in each other and the success of the team. Bringing this same mentality to our own teams and organizations within the insurance industry and beyond will help us better serve our clients and colleagues.

One of many reasons I enjoy working at Holmes Murphy is the team atmosphere where we love what we do and who we do it with. Check out our job opportunities or reach out today to learn more about what it’s like to work with us!

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