Seven years ago, I assisted seven sporting clubs, one after the other, to overcome the heartbreak of suicides within their communities. At every club I assisted, I heard the same message, “We never saw it coming.” These were institutions that had teamwork at the very core of what they did, but they had blind spots when it came to identifying mental health issues amongst their communities.

I founded SALT with a view to taking the values and strengths that Australians demonstrate when they are playing team sport and challenging them to apply these values to other areas of their lives. I was also determined to identify some of these blind spots that existed, to save lives and to help clubs become stronger, braver communities of care and in doing so, make lives richer and better lived.




Over time it became obvious that the formula we used in coaching mental fitness for sporting teams was equally applicable to business teams, in the classroom and for other community groups.

Now, as we move into COVID-Normal, it’s vitally important as franchisors that you look to your teams, your franchisees, and help them become resilient, mentally fit and in doing so, you can develop better people, better employees, better businesses.

Consider this. When we play a team sport, we show courage, sacrifice, and self-control. We make good decisions under pressure, we are clear communicators, we have the backs of our teammates. Yet often, we are not as dedicated or connected to the very facets of life that matter far more than sport—our relationships, our education, our vocation.

Imagine what we would be like as a society if everyone was consistently this best version of themselves; the version that turns up when we play a team sport. The fact is, if we are strongly invested in what we are doing, we will want to be our best selves. Can we create workplaces that create this motivation? The answer is yes, if we really understand the why.

If I ask “Why do you come to work?” The first answer many people give is “for the money.” So, if we assume that an employee is worthy of a fair rate of pay, we can forget about money and focus on factors that are much stronger drivers for invested, motivated team members.

Positive psychology talks about five factors that are necessary for people to feel fulfilled and motivated. Sporting clubs fill most of them, but workplaces can too. The PERMA model (scientific formula for happiness) says that people need:

  1. Positive emotions – we have good times together.
  2. Engagement – we get caught up in our work, our minds are in flow.
  3. Positive relationships – we like and trust the people we work with.
  4. Meaning – we are doing something that benefits others, contributes to the world.
  5. Accomplishment – we are growing as people and achieving high standards

If workplaces can focus on providing people with as many of these factors as they can, then there is every chance that they will create the environment where people are willing to act like a team.

So, what makes a good team, or better yet, what makes an excellent team? A good team is a group of people who know their roles and fulfil their duties without being watched over or pressured. They know what they have to do, and they take responsibility for doing it.

But that doesn’t make an excellent team.

An excellent team is one that has all the attributes of the good team but is also deeply invested in how their teammates are performing and coping, both at work and outside of work. They are invested in each other.

When we are invested in each other to this degree we develop the courage to step out of our comfort zones and ask each other some essential but difficult questions. This is particularly important at a time when we know people have been traumatised by ongoing restrictions and lockdowns. When I say ‘difficult questions’, they feel difficult until we try them and after that we quickly realise, they are not that difficult, really. Questions like, “How are you going? No really, how are you going?”

The first question is really a greeting, the second part of that question says, “I mean it and I really want to know how you are genuinely feeling.” Similar questions include, “Are you OK?” “Do you need help?” or “On a scale of 1-10, if 10 means great and 1 means terrible, how are you going?” This is a great question that helps people who might not be able to explain in words how they are feeling. It gives you an immediate gauge of where they are at. If someone says, “I’m a four,” you might reply with something like, “Sounds like you’ve got a bit going on. I’m happy to chat if you’d like to.”

Sometimes we are hesitant to do this because we fear opening up a can of worms. What if they start confiding in us and we don’t know how to respond? The answer to this is that you don’t have to have the answers and it’s not your job to fix them. It’s your job to listen, to care, to empathise, to ask some questions, to let them know you’re available if they need someone to talk to. Research shows that this low level of intervention offered by people who care is highly effective in helping people deal with their difficult issues. We all need a team of people around us who care, who actively listen and, if necessary, will help us access professional help.

So, in conclusion, does your franchise strive to create positive emotions, engaging work practices, strong relationships, meaning and purpose? Do you see yourselves as a connected, caring team? Are you willing to push through awkwardness and, in these trying times, provide the connections that everybody needs to emerge from this time with optimism, hope and support?

SALT have developed an online session to help businesses re- emerge from this pandemic in the best possible shape. ‘Workplace Re-emerge’ is aimed at building teams that connect and support each other with a focus on becoming stronger, better and more positive about the future than they have ever been.



Dave Burt is the founder of SALT Sport and Life Training, a not-for-profit, health education company that takes the values and strengths that Australians demonstrate when they are playing sport and encourage them to apply these to life. Dave and his team educate and challenge clubs, businesses and schools to become stronger, braver communities of care.

For details email info@sportandlifetraining.com.au or call 1300 980 424.