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18. November 2021

Interview with Marit Malm Frafjord: What can Professional Handball Teach us About Collaboration?

Marit Malm Frafjord is no stranger to the importance of teamwork in trying times. The 35-year-old professional handball player has over 20 years of experience playing in the top divisions of Denmark, Romania, and her native Norway.

Since her first championship in 2006, she’s won countless awards, including two Olympic gold medals in 2008, another in 2012, and two recent bronze medals. While her world-class defence skills play a major role, teamwork has proven critical to her continued success.

She now plays for a Danish side, Team Esbjerg, and balances her time with her other venture, a fashion-focused book distribution company.

Let’s hear from Marit what playing handball at such a high level has taught her over the years  and why, like both WorkPoint and Team Esbjerg, she sees community, collaboration, ambition, and respect as key to continued success.

The Importance Of Balance

Early in my career, I played handball full time on a professional level. Those were some great years, but I believe it’s healthy to find balance and use my head for other things too.

If everything’s about handball – it’s all about winning. And when you’re losing, you’re not very happy. Now, I play two games a week and work full time, or even more, at the Horsens-based company that I run with my boyfriend.

The company, New Mags, is a book distribution company with a warehouse in Denmark. We have 15 employees and buy books from 30 different publishers around the world. But we’re not your average book shop – we sell books to fashion stores, interior stores, and design furniture stores and try to make the book world fit in with the interior world.

It’s going well, and we just opened our first store. Recently, we shipped books to Japan and Alaska and have plans to expand throughout the rest of Europe.

Team Goals:  Collaboration & Community 

You learn a lot when you play with a team at a very high level. Hopefully, you like your teammates, but no matter what – you have to collaborate with people. And some people have larger egos than others.

For example, in Bucharest, I played with great players from all over Europe. Most were leaders in their previous clubs and were used to taking on a lot of responsibility. Ultimately, we learned that we have to put our personal wants aside and play as a team. And that can be hard sometimes.

One of the biggest lessons I learned is that we don’t always get it our way. It’s important to adapt and find the best solution for the team – while always doing your personal best. People all have strengths and weaknesses. I believe it’s important to stay honest and support each other while working toward a common goal.

Ambition: Pushing Through Trying Times

Even though as part of the Norwegian Olympic team we won gold in the 2012 Games, it was one of the most challenging championships for me and for the team. We lost many games in the beginning and, as a captain, I felt a lot of responsibility and was using a lot of energy trying to figure out why we didn’t perform as we wanted to. 

And even though we didn’t read the news, we still got negative questions from journalists that told us that the overall portrayal of us wasn’t great.

But deep down, we had self-confidence. We knew that we were good and that we could bring it back. For me, it’s the same in a normal job – and I think it’s important to get people to see that. Talk to each other and work to find solutions to challenges and through your shared ambition and vision, you’ll get there!

Continuous Improvement: Respect For Ourselves & Others

All in all, I’m a big believer in continuous improvement which I know is also at the core of WorkPoint. That’s how you learn and grow. Post-match, in team meetings we always look at three things we were happy with and three things we could do better – as individuals and as a team. 

Some things are easily solved. For example, you can watch a video of yourself and see that you would be in the right position for a save if you moved a quarter of a second before – small details matter. Other challenges, however, require concerted efforts from everyone. That’s truly what’s at the heart of collaboration: awareness of the impact of our own contributions to the greater good. Respect for our team mates, and for ourselves, plays a big part here too.

But it’s only when we apply the need for change that improvements happen. And that’s just as true in life as it is in both sport and business.

See What Professional Handball Can Teach us About Collaboration Here

Contact

For further information, please contact

Hans Ulrik Madsen

Director of Partner Development

hum@workpoint.dk +45 21320075