Focus on Your Teams’ Vital Behaviors

What if I told you eliminating negative comments between teammates during practice would help players accept their roles, reduce their jealousy of other players roles and increase pride in the team?  Or if I told you getting players to stop arriving just-in-time, or late, for practice and start to follow a pre-practice routine injuries would be reduced and team focus and improvement would increase exponentially?  I am not saying the above cause and effect examples are true but I do believe is there are a few key behaviors that when focused on can lead to dramatic changes on your team.

This belief is well-detailed  in a book I am currently reading Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.  The title caught my attention as a coach. Isn’t changing behaviors and actions what coaches try to do everyday?   I have wrote a great deal and believe whole-heartedly that as coaches and leaders all we can really do is try to develop a relationship in which they give us permission to influence their actions.

I wanted to share a couple of key passages from the book:

Before you can influence change, you have to decide what you’re trying to change. Influence geniuses focus on behaviors. They’re universally firm on this point. They don’t dive into developing influence strategies until they’ve carefully identified the behaviors they want to influence. And now for the big idea: A few behaviors can drive a lot of change. The breakthrough discovery of most influence geniuses is that enormous influence comes from focusing on just a few vital behaviors. Even the most pervasive problems will often yield to changes in a handful of high-leverage behaviors. Find these, and you’ve found the beginning of influence.

Discover a few vital behaviors, change those, and problems—no matter their size—topple like a house of cards.

Influencer : The Power to Change Anything (p. 23). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

The book gives some remarkable success examples  of how focusing on few vital behaviors creates tremendous change in behaviors and outcomes.  Including one about a re-entry program for criminals that has honed in on two key behaviors that if changed open the floodgates to change in their lives.

A few key questions for coaches to answer:

  • Coaches what are the two key vital behaviors that if changed would create the biggest impact on your team?  Remember: we are looking for maximum impact so take time to identify either those items that must change before anything else can and/or those behaviors that if changed will lead to change in many more areas.
  • What am I doing to isolate and focus fully on those key vital behaviors?Remember players only respond to what is emphasized and when we focus on too many behaviors we delute the emphasis and the players ability to improve in a specific area.
  • What are those vital behaviors that you feel are holding your team and players back from reaching their potential?

Why only some stay the path

The greatest obstacle to success is taking action daily, the greatest obstacle to taking action daily is finding motivation, the greatest obstacle to finding motivation is belief, and the greatest obstacle to belief is faith.  Thus faith is the foundation for all worthwhile accomplishment.

A great many players desire to achieve success in their sport.  They may even strongly desire and dream of the outcomes they can receive when successful by societal standards;  wins, championships, recognition, scholarships, professional opportunities, etc.   Yet why do so few start and last on the path of full committment towards those standards of success ? Why doesn’t the possiblity of those rewards drive every player through adversity? Why do so many stop at obstacles?

I believe the answer lies in a lack of trust, or faith, by the player that is borne out of the uncertainty of not seeing the alignment between what is on their  heart and the path they are being asked to travel.  In order to stick through a difficult journey, a path paved with adversity, a person must have deep faith that this is the path for them.  They must possess a deep faith that the path and the reward line up with their personal goals, values, and purposes.  When faced with times of adversity what is at the core of our motivation will win out. If a player doesn’t believe in the path the prospect of an extrinsic reward will not carry them past the obstacles.  Only the determination found in pursuing intrinsic goals can drive someone repeatedly past obstacles.

The only other explanation would be players simply do not desire the extrinsic reward being offered.  I hear so many pundits and expertts like Dick Vitale say on television something like  ‘if the kid would just go to class and work hard they could be millionaires, I don’t get what he is thinking’. Two things in response to that. 1) Believe it or not money and fame may not be the greatest source of motivation for everybody, if it was we would all be entreprenuers or entertainers.  2) Has anybody taken the time to find out what truly excites that player?  Has anyone helped them identify their passion(s) and how the path of working hard on the basketball court and showing up to classes might align and be of  benefit with their passion(s)?

The world’s extrinsic rewards will never be able to compete with the power found when a path aligns with somebodys passison and purpose.  Likewise a coach will never be able to fully motivate and teach a team until the players and team have faith  in the alignment between their passions and goals and the coaches vision and plan for them.

Learning is a choice

Learning is a choice, made by the learner not the teacher. Therefore,  a teacher should focus on what motivates others to learn; identify what sparks a learners curiosity rather than focusing on telling them what you already know.

It is easy to get the highly motivated player, the player who wants the same things you want to learn what you are teaching; but what about the majority of the players  you coach who aren’t this way how do you get them to learn?

Great coaches like great salespeople understand people don’t buy based on what you know; they buy based on what it can do for them.   Coaching success requires getting players to align their individual  interests with the vision you have set for the team and the players role on it.

Today’s player needs to believe before they will follow. This may be different from when todays coaches were players; they might have followed a coach before they believed. This shift is why generally today in coaching threats don’t work for long, and punishment doesn’t lead to buy-in. A relationship based on trust, transperency, open communications, and void of hidden agendas is vital to coaching success.  This type of relationship  enables a coach to identify what  motivates an individual  player and allows a player to  learn how, not told, to be successful within the framework of a team. 

Coaches and players need to stop making asssumptions about what the other is thinking and wants.  A coach needs to move out of dictating and demanding and move into the realm of dialoguing and discussing.  Please hear me I am not saying  a coach relinquish their voice in determining and upholding  the standards, philosophy, and values of their team.  What I am saying that a coach needs to understand the success of  the values, philosophy, standards they set  is depenendent on those charged with carrying them out.  It is dependent players learning and fully  buying into the vision and plan. The quickest and most effective path to that end  is to help players discover the benefit of adhering to it; and this requires a true relationship with players.  You can’t hold a player to a standard that they haven’t agreed to be held to.

Two final thoughts:

  •  No matter how talented a coach is and no matter how gifted a player or a team might be a coach can never push them into achieving their full potential.  The sad truth is that some players and some teams never achieve their full potential because they never discover what would motivate them to align their interests with what is needed to be the best they can be.
  • The best way to ensure someone believes is to let their buy-in be their decision.  The best way for a coach to do this is to engage in effective question and listening with their players.  If you have questions on how to go about this let me know and I would be happy to discuss this approach with you.