I watched the final of the women’s cricket world cup yesterday between England and India and, as I’m English, I was more than a little biased in my aspirations for the outcome of the game. However, the game was amazing and kept me on the edge of my seat right through to the end, and whilst the result obviously helped my enjoyment but there was something I noticed throughout the day which really struck me. I can honestly say I’ve never watched a major sporting event where so many of the participants were smiling so much. Not just when things were going well but pretty much all the time.

Maybe it was my interpretation but there were many occasions were a mistake had been made but those involved still smiled with an expression that conjured up an image of “we got away with that one!”. Those interviewed after the game, both winning and losing players, talked of pride in their team mates and their belief that they were capable of going on to even greater achievements. Both sides had their moments in the game where an individual should have done better but I didn’t see one example of chastisement or turning their backs on their team mate, every mistake was met with words of encouragement and support.

This undoubtedly helped the individuals involved to regain their confidence and deal with the next situation more positively, secure in the knowledge that their colleagues recognised the error as simply that, a mistake under pressure. I’m sure there were, or will be, objective debriefs where the errors are analysed and decisions made as to how to avoid them in future but, during the time that it mattered, the focus was on ensuring there were no mental barriers to prevent everyone performing to the best of their ability. This made me think about the environments we create in business and whether they’re conducive to good performance.

All too often I have seen situations where, as the pressure increases, the camaraderie and team work decreases, almost as if the task is so important it doesn’t seem right to be happy while doing it. All of us have our own “world cup final” moments at work, perhaps a presentation to a potential new customer, or maybe the preparation of an important report. Few of us undertake those tasks with the pressure that a 27,000 capacity crowd creates so if approaching a task like that with a smile and a sense of enjoyment is good enough for the players involved on Sunday surely it’s good enough for us as well. Good leaders get the best out of people and one of the ways to do that is to create an environment where everyone enjoys what they do.

Some managers take the view that if there’s chatter and laughter the job isn’t getting done. There needs to be a balance but beware the teams that look too serious when the chips are down, maybe if they lightened up a little they would work better together and the quality of their output would increase.