Teams are living breathing organisms – constantly changing and adapting. They progress in phases just like a child goes through development phases; from a toddler to an adolescent to an adult. In essence team coaches are excellent ‘course correctors.’ Like airplanes that fly off course 99% of the time, the pilot is however always constantly correcting. The same can be said for team leadership. A good high school or college coach recognizes where their team is and what the team requires at any given phase.
Ken Blanchard’s book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams provides a great framework for studying ‘team.’ Blanchard gives a complete definition of the characteristics of ‘high performance teams’ and their subsequent stages of development. He also provides a welcome alternative to the classic yet clunky “Forming, Norming, Storming and Conforming” model of group dynamic.
Blanchard provides us with 4 stages of progression for teams: Orientation, Dissatisfaction, Integration and Production. Throughout the course of a singles season a team may move through all the stages, or the team may become stuck in any one of them. Teams may also move fluidly between the phases – forward and backward – depending on the leadership and on the challenges that they face.
Let’s look at Stage 2 – Dissatisfaction This is the ‘adolescent’ phase of the team. It can be challenging and wrought with conflict and confusion. It is a period of low confidence and high doubt. The biggest lesson here is that this is not ‘BAD’ but actually a necessary step that all great teams must navigate through. Have you heard the expression – “It is darkest right before the dawn”? Well keep this in mind when your team is in the dissatisfaction phase. Athletes will be competing for power, authority and attention so there will be an understandable dip in morale and commitment. They may be displeased with authority and eager to assume control and ownership. The group may fragment. Notice if you see ‘cliques’ forming.
During Stage 2, effective team leaders will need to clarify the big picture. Have a clear communication process so that your group can harness the power of their discrepancies and differences. Continue to get clear on who is responsible for what and demonstrate that you are steadfast when it comes to holding everyone accountable – including yourself! Open and honest conversations during this phase will lead to break-through in the future. If you trust this process your athletes will also.
When things are challenging continue to encourage, reassure and acknowledge each and every person. One very common pitfall in this stage is to avoid conflict – assuming that it will damage team cohesion. However the ‘dissatisfaction’ everyone experiences eventually becomes the catalyst for greatness in the future. It will take great patience for you to ‘hold’ the team’s frustrations. You’ll want to keep the oven door closed during this phase – a moderate temperature will allow the bread to rise … if its too hot the bread will burn, and if its too cold the bread will not rise.
Many of the best teams spend the greatest amount of time in this phase, mainly due to the presence of strong willed and assertive team members. You will be best served by finding effective and safe ways for allowing people to express themselves.
I originally learned this concept as “begin with the end in mind” from Stephen Covey’s book the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.” Now that I have kids, it’s all about magic wands and super heros!
Life is constantly changing and challenging us. Around every corner is yet another problem, issue or concern. We often look backwards for a solution. We ask, “How did I handle this situation before? Will that work again? How can I improve on what I did before?” Unfortunately, this approach often gets us more of the same – just a slightly different flavor or color!
Remember – if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten! Not sure where this came from yet it pretty much sums up sports psychology!
Time for the wand! You can have exactly what you want. Start to look at your program this way. There are no limits.
Clarity of vision is crucial to team success. Once you have a clear picture of what you want, then you can put together a plan for achieving it. Spend some time now (in the off season) and get clear on what you want in your program. Be specific.
Create what you want this season. Be open minded. Ask lots of questions – like “What else do I want?” Breakthroughs come from questions not answers!
Once you are clear – share it with other. The more you put your vision out there (to assistants, administrators, players, parents etc) the more real it becomes.
So speak your vision to anyone who will listen!
Unfortunately, button pushers get a bad rap. They’re considered rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, intrusive, self-absorbed and insensitive. They are the difficult people in life. Teachers send them to the principals office, coaches pull their hair out and bosses fire them.
I see it differently. I believe my job as a coach, partner and a parent is to push buttons and to welcome my buttons being pushed. Why? I’ve found that the best at anything – sports, public speaking, sales or surgery, have the fewest buttons and the ones they have are really hard to find.
Attempting to protect athletes or ourselves from button pushers is to do them (and you) a disservice. Our competitors are all about to pushing our buttons. The more buttons we discover within ourselves and the more we learn how to manage them, the better we will be under pressure.
So how do you know a button has been pushed? Here are some classic signs:
- Getting angry and upset at someone’s behavior.
- Feeling annoyed by something.
- Feeling taken advantage of
- Being rebuffed, spurned, made fun of or humiliated
- Feeling unappreciated, unimportant or devalued
- Feeling falsely or unfairly accused
Typically when one of our buttons get pushed it send us down an unwelcome path of anger, hurt or withdrawal. Unfortunately these patterns do not allow us to learn about ourselves. Remember, when a button gets pushed – you’ve just discovered another area for growth. So instead of reacting when a button gets pushed, stop, breathe and reflect. Stay calm – do not get angry or yell. Cool off before you say anything.
My first exposure to Coach Sochor came years ago through my work with Positive Coaching Alliance. I was instantly smitten. His presentation and presence captivated me. When I started Inside World Class Coaching, Coach Sochor made the short list.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Jim and walked away again in awe. I now refer to him as the “Yoda of Coaching.” I kept muttering to myself: “This guy is a football coach, a very successful one. I can’t believe he thinks like this. Amazing!”
In 1970, when Coach Sochor took over as head coach, the team had not had a winning season for 22 years let alone won a championship since 1915. Under Sochor, UC Davis won 18 straight league championships, more than any other football program at any level in NCAA history.
“Everyone else was bigger, faster, stronger and more talented than our UC Davis players,” he said. “So we had to figure out how to best compete, and that was by believing in ourselves.”
Here are a few other insights from the “Yoda of Coaching”:
- I tried to make football fun and yet held every athlete accountable for his own actions. Negativity — “whining” or “scapegoating” — and emotions like fear, anger, envy and doubt were to be avoided.
- I never once coached a game that I didn’t firmly believe we would win.
- We can program our state of minds – when you’re feeling good about yourself, you can do anything.
- I always talk up to my athletes. I’m very big on the positive aspects of coaching. Coaches should “gild their soliloquy” constantly; better your own self-talk, and raise your own level of expression and consciousness.
- Our power truly is inside ourselves – realizing this, we’re unstoppable.
To hear the entire interview go to www.InsideWorldClassCoaching.com
California defeated BYU, 19-7, Saturday night at Steuber Rugby Stadium to win the 25th national championship in program history. The Golden Bears finished the year at 26-0, their first perfect season since 2002, refusing to allow BYU to repeat as champs in the two teams’ fifth straight meeting in the title match.
“There is a lot of trust and a lot of commitment,” Clark said. “Those are words that are used by people every day. When you’re on a sports team, those words become real. And each one of these boys lived up to their commitment.”
The road to Clark’s 21st title as Cal’s head coach started last fall. I had the pleasure of interviewing Coach Clark in September as the inaugural guest of Inside World Class Coaching. Here are a few of the highlights from the “front end” of championship number 21:
First team meeting
Our objective is to give the individuals within the team, and then the team collectively, a roadmap for their success. We set out what the team rules are and what our expectations are of them individually and collectively. We establish how we operate, how the machinery works, how we communicate, what our values are, and that they’ll be asked to add to the team.
- We expect everyone to put the team first and themselves second.
- We believe in constant performance improvement. We’re not very neurotic about winning games, but we’re pretty neurotic about getting better. We have an expectation that we’re going to get better, and we’re pretty upset if we don’t. We may never get to be great, but we will get better.
- We believe in merit. The currency the players have and exchange within the team is based on what they’re doing in the moment and not what their potential is going forward or what they did last year. That’s the merit. We want to create a meritocracy.
We say leadership is the ability to make those around you better and more productive. We don’t say that leadership is being a senior or the star player.
We’re not interested in a team where the minority leads the majority. We’re interested in a team where everyone feels the responsibility of contributing back to the middle and back to the leadership of the team.
Cal Rugby Brand
We’re successful. We do it right. We’re sportsmen, and we’re fair sportsmen. We don’t cheat. We respect the game, and we respect our opposition.
We’re student athletes. Our players typically go on to very substantial careers and are known as very successful men. We have a team GPA of over 3.0.
We’re not that satisfied. It’s pretty hard to win year after year and to be at the top of the medal stand year after year. You get there by having an attitude of, “Whatever talent level we have, we’re going to try to overachieve it, be competitive and get better.”
It’s kind of a sobering responsibility for the team every year. You’re walking onto a team that is known for that. What is your choice? Are you going to add to that brand or detract from it? It’s zero sum, really. It’s a conscious choice.
“Teamship” > Team Building
We don’t sit around a campfire to talk about it. That’s not our technique. It’s this whole idea of teamship and team building. How is it that you’re a good teammate? What are we trying to build together? It’s at the core of athletics. Our players are experts in it.
We talk about teamship and team building, who we want to become, and how we want to be thought of. We talk about it on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 9, and the first day and the last day of the year and every day in between. It’s never too far from our consciousness.
My antenna is always up around teamship. I listen to how they talk to each other and the tone they use. If a player is out of step with our idea of teamship, I talk to them about it. I earn my paycheck. I bring them in. It’s very personal to me. I don’t want to lose anybody. It’s a failure to me to lose somebody. It’s a reflection of my work. I’m going to try my damnedest to not let that happen.
Am I willing to remove somebody from the team who just doesn’t follow our values? Yes, of course. You have to.