Team Malaise

What happens when a team just loses it’s mojo?

Is this simply a “that’s what happens sometimes”, situation or can it be fixed?

Finding the cause, or lighting a spark…is one more important than the other?

Go back. Go deep. Go internal. Ask good questions about why this team plays or works on the things it does. What are the values at the core of the project or program? What’s its collective WHY?

If you can find the seed of its existence and agree that it’s one worth working for, then you can determine the actions that the group must take to move forward, to achieve and take steps in the name of the WHY.

Identify the WHAT, too.  What will you do? What things will you not do? Keep track regularly and enlist a tracking system to hold the whole group to.

These small things are the only things…one piece at a time a team can bring itself back to creating a great future.

Show Up

How can I help?

What do you need?

Are you feeling ok? Anything I can do?

These are such well-meaning questions, but if a person is really struggling with something–a “life problem” or how to field a ground ball–they may not know what they need, and it’s probably not an answer that would be most helpful.

Offering to provide a fix that neither party knows exists is impossible, and “well, let me know…” is really not helpful.

So, just Show Up for your friend, teammate or partner of any sort. Just be there; you don’t even need to be a good listener, specialize in empathy, or even spend much time to be good at Showing Up.

In sports, showing up can look like being first to something, being prepared, being willing to lose, or fall short. It can be cheering, and it can be pushing; high fives can come in all sizes.

Showing up can be a smile or pat on the back, a “I see you working hard”, or a package of cookies, or a note or card. It can be an email or a text message or a stop-by-to-say-hi or shovel the driveway.

Just do something, no matter how minor.

There are no rules of caring for people, and don’t worry if you don’t know what to do, just show up for them.

The Spaces Between

Great teams have strong players, committed coaches and trainers, and a strong plan.

Talent matters. To have success on the scoreboard we have to have physical talent, and more skilled athletes is a plus for any team.

To really achieve we need to also consider the spaces between the people. The bodies do the work, and the forces connecting these bodies greatly impacts the ability of the team to reach its best.

In the spaces between we find the bonds that connect the people, the norms of the group, the language used to get things done and the standards of behavior.

The power of connection can make or break a season. These are the things, taken together, that many call “culture”. Connecting people, growing relationships is often thought of as an outcome of a great team culture.

Arguably, it’s what’s going on in the spaces between that is actually the start of a great team experience.

Punishment Does Not Equal Discipline

Punishment is an external force.

Discipline is self-imposed.

The difference is parallel to that of inspiration and motivation. We can inspire others to action, but motivation, ultimately, comes from within.

Discipline is the same way.  We can offer a workout program, a daily calendar full of to-dos, build a tracking app, require a player to do certain things, and this might inspire them to find the discipline to do the things you want them to, but discipline itself comes from each of us.

Help others to find the discipline, even require the actions to be a part of your program. That’s opportunity, not punishment.

 

What We Want

What do we want? What do others want from us? Do you know? Is it important to know?

If we say we absolutely know what we want, that we have our eyes on the prize, that our goals are crystal clear…are we selling ourselves short? Might that prize be “less than” we can achieve if we have a great set of processes and ways of doing?

“This is what I want”, is results-focused thinking without any real definition of “better”, or a goal to reach for and, most importantly, the process that it will entail.

Teams will say “we want to win a championship!”  Great. How? Do you have a plan to go with the want?  A really, really specific plan or set of behaviors that you commit or (or at least know you should commit to) in an effort to reach a goal?

What we want is not as important as what we’ll do and who we’ll be day to day. Help figure this out by asking the key questions like: what do people/teams who get what we want likely do day to day to move toward that want? Do more of that and teach your teams how to know what to do in the short term as you move toward that end game.

Still, no guarantees.

 

Not In My Backyard

There are lots of ways to “know” how programs are doing. Watch them play, read about them on social media, hear from those close to that other team…

It’s easy to judge the good and the bad from afar, and we can assess the issues that can plague any group or team just by watching the sideline, dugout or even the way they play.

Of course, the scoreboard tells us a lot, too. We “know” the good programs and those that are struggling.

Many coaches (and players) spend time looking at other teams’ cultures and concerns, but how often to we run an assessment of our own?

Having a system of program hygiene in which you thoroughly dig in to see how you’re actually doing in all of the phases of the game that you value is a key to long-term success.

Knowing the areas that matter to you – your core values – is crucial, and then having a way to assess how you’re doing is the crux of maintaining success.  Having an idea of what matters is just half the battle: knowing how you’ll assess is the only way to actually get that piece done.

What’s your system?

Intra-team competition

Coach, do you value competitive kids? Of course. Do you want your teams to know how to compete? Sure. Will you work hard to cultivate competitiveness in players who have been working on only their own game for too long? Yes.

It’s important to value competitiveness as a team, and not in a negative way between teammates.  Pushing others to “win” in a practice setting, to beat teammates is not good unless it comes from a place of love.

The sentiment of, “i’m here to make you better, teammate,” is a great way to push you team to compete, but think twice before you encourage kids to “win” at the expense of other kids, in practice.

 

There’s No Scoring On Defense

in some sports “the defense” scores points, although their main role is to stop the other guy from scoring points.  In some, like softball and baseball, there is no way to post on the scoreboard when your team is in the field.

You can only win when you attack. On offense. Find a way to have a strategy on offense that you love, that everyone is bought in to, that speaks “we’re in control”.

Defense is a tone setter, but not scorer. Even if you’re great on D, you can only be totally in control if you have a strategy that allows you to control on attack.

Get to work.

 

Fear of Not Missing Out

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Who’s missing, and who’s not? There is FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, and there is reverse FOMO…the idea that you’re doing something great, and someone is missing it.

When you wonder why people don’t want to do what you’re doing. When you invite someone and they decline. Do you worry about those people too much and not enjoy yourself as much as you could?

Our obsession with the past and the future, our challenge to enjoy who we are and who we are with at this moment, to be satisfied, period. It’s so easy to get excited about the things our future self is going to do, or to reminisce of times gone by. It’s somehow harder to just enjoy. THIS IS GREAT!, right now, is good enough.

Take time to enjoy those who are there, with you, to make the most of your moment and save your emotional energy for those missing for the next time you see them.

It’s ok for “it” to be less than perfect.

Swaddling Teams

People in cultures from all corners of the world swaddle their infants. They wrap them tightly in material so that the baby is constrained yet comfortable.

Arms tight to their sides, just their face clear for breathing, the child is soothed by the containment. It’s like a long-term hug, the comfort of being right where they are and their brains not having to consider much outside the swaddling material.

Entire teams can be swaddled, comforted by the feeling of being surrounded by known people, expectations and norms. Being accepted by those around you and understanding the clear rules and standards of a team offers the comfort of familiarity even if circumstances or relationships are challenging, or may sometimes feel personally constraining.

Are your team members given wide-open freedom to do what they think they should do or are they guided–gently but surely–by the comfort of clear team standards?

Is your way working?