How do you create a team with a shared vision? Interview with Amy Hayes

Amy Hayes is the women’s softball coach at Bradley University, where she has lead her team to two championships in the last seven years. Her student-athletes have been recognized for every Bradley Athletic Department Award – 11 honorees in the last 7 years.


I have been thinking lately about how a museum director or department head can create and communicate a shared vision. I know that this is something that as a coach you think about a lot. How do you create and communicate a shared vision with your team?

The number one thing when assembling a team is that you have to get people to be selfless. Start with a greater vision, a shared idea that everyone wants to invest in. For us it is that we play for something bigger than ourselves. The desires of individuals should never rival or overtake what is best for the team.  Once you get team members thinking that way and understanding their roles and taking pride in their work they buy in a little more. You need to do things on a daily basis to get them to remember this mindset. One of the biggest things for the Bradley softball team is involvement in community service, which creates a sense of gratitude and is a very impactful way to keep individuals grounded and heading in the right direction.

It’s an everyday thing to make sure players focus on the right things – that they are not worried about results or successes, but instead what they need to do that day to get better for the team. That one’s contributions, albeit important, are insignificant without a “team first” attitude.

How do you make sure each team member shares this larger vision?

We don’t have a ton of meetings, because a team that talks a lot never gets things done, but we do talk about what players think will make this team successful, how they envision the team’s success, and how the ways they carry out that vision impact team success. This is done through a lot of one-on-one conversations, pulling people aside and talking about their importance to the team and taking pride in their role. Our goal is to be very clear on roles and to help them understand the importance of upholding their role for our overall success.

How involved are you as the coach with each member of the team? Do coaches delegate team member management? If you have a team of 30 or 40 people, do you have a relationship with each of them, and if so, how?

I have to have a relationship with each person individually. The number one thing about creating a group culture is that people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. I need to have a relationship with every single one of my players as well as all my assistant coaches, staff and administrators. I need them to know they mean more to me than just worker bees or ball players — they need to know I care.

How would this work in a business with a large staff?

I recently watched a show on PBS about LEGO. The way they do things there is almost cultish – in a good way, if there is such a thing. There’s so much sharing, and celebrating of each department’s successes. In a large business you can’t sit down and have one-on-one meetings with everyone, but you can certainly know what’s going on in each department and celebrate that throughout the company. Send out a newsletter, have a monthly talk that mentions each department and what they are doing, post monthly birthdays.  It is important to find ways to make people feel valued.

In a museum context – or at least, in my museum context – there is a clear vision, but it is not the only vision possible. So while in sports I imagine the ultimate goal is about winning the game, in museums the goal may be different in each institution. Also, you gave me a book to read – Jeff Janssen’s The Team Captain’s Culture Manual – that suggests that team core values are about how you want players to act, but in museums core values often highlight what we want for our community (see, for example, this blog post from Jeanne Vergeront). So, for example, at my museum two of our core values are equity – the PlayHouse is for everyone – and the idea that we are catalysts – we inspire learning beyond and between visits. The relationships of a sports team and a museum to vision and values seem very different.

Your core values are not that different from ours, in a college sports environment. We, too, are trying to define our community, but it is not just about wins and losses — at least not for championship teams.  My goal is to help young women grow and become impactful, better people who want to make a difference in their world.  Our first goal is to continue to improve ourselves physically and mentally – giving all we can to the team in order to garner success for our program, our department, university and community. There has to be a lot of trust amongst the team so that people feel free to be the best they can be without holding back for fear of scrutiny or judgement.  I try to instill a sense of pride in not only what we are striving for, but how that fits in to the athletic department and university’s vision. At the end of the day if I’m able to do that our team will be more successful on the ballfield and in life.

People have to buy into the vision; they need to be part of it. Ask them what success would look like. Allow them to help create the vision – the trick is to do this without losing your vision. The more you can put your vision in front of your staff without it coming directly from you, the more it will have an impact. We often have speakers come in. When students go home for break they have to read a book about someone who has been impactful, and we share that.

This year we have a team meeting every week. I started those meetings with my seniors and a representative from each class, but then I realized that this is something we needed to do as a team. So we meet weekly and discuss what we can do on a daily basis to uphold our team culture. This takes time: time away from their schedule, my schedule, their physical workout. But it’s worth it; these meetings have more of an impact than 50 extra swings in a batting cage.

What tips do you have for museums working on creating a team with a shared vision?

First, vision needs to be inclusive. Everyone needs to be aware of it, everyone needs to know its importance, and everyone needs to be given clear expectations: “I need you to lower the amount of homeruns you give up this year.” However it’s the next step- the most important- that is usually left out and it’s what cripples teams.  It’s the “how”. How are we going to lower the homeruns? Often we tell people our expectation but forget to show them the path to get there.

Second, the vision has to be clear and repetitive. The team members need to want to live it, to breathe it, to be as excited as you are about it. It’s a process to learn what drives potential team members, and to figure out who will share your vision. I don’t just look for good ball players – I look for people who are coachable, self-motivated, driven, who love what they do and take pride in it.

It’s also essential to strive for significance rather than success. Your motives should be to be selfless, not selfish. We live in a world where it’s about success and instant gratification, but it should be more about living a life of significance. Bring joy instead of taking it away. How can you impact a moment, a day, and a life?

It really is just about building relationships. Getting people to buy in rather than just telling them what they should care about. Sometimes the cost of creating a team with a shared vision is that I have to tell someone it’s not going to work out here anymore. I don’t think we should be scared to do that. We need to cherish our vision and take care of it, and make sure we have people who will do that. Sometimes there’s a great deal of addition by subtraction.

The Janssen book talks about different roles team members can have. It’s the same in business. Who is creative? Who is social? Identify people’s strengths and from there find ways for them to be impactful and celebrate the vision. There are different ways that people can contribute and all should be cultivated and appreciated.

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