Individual committment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
– Vince Lombardi
Why do sports teams who on paper are comprised of unquestioned talent fail to deliver in reaching their collective potential? (The Philadelphia Eagles being the most recent in a long list of examples) Why do companies with tremendous initial capitilization, staffed with experience and talent never turn a profit? For both of these questions quite often the failure to reach group potential is the direct result of individuals not becoming fully committed to the group effort and goals.
Let’s take a look at what I believe are leading internal team factors preventing individuals from being committed to group effort . Please note, the action that leads to these factors emerging will differ from situation to situation but it is vital as a leader of a team to understand what needs to be guarded against to prevent underachieving. In the teachings of Dick Bennett victory starts with eliminating defeat.
Team members not understanding, simply misunderstanding, or naively believing their role would be different than the role the team needs them to play.
- Team members feel their role and efforts are unrecognized and/or unappreciated.
Team members are unwillingly to alter their effort/role to best align with the efforts/roles of their teammates.
Team members no longer trust in teammates committment to the group effort and their own personal best effort.
Team members feeling the role they are being asked to play was misrepresented at their front-end.
Team members feeling their role is being changed without understanding or being communicated to as to why.
Leadership not accurately understanding what is needed to cohesively blend the talent together to maximize the potential of the team.
Team members no longer unquestionably trusting in the sincerity and validity to the group cause of leaderships words and actions.
Team members feeling leadership is more focused on the best interest of a select few than the whole.
Looking at the factors listed above it is vital as a coach that you:
Communicate early, often, and clearly the roles of each team member.
You get in alignment each team members’ expectations and understandings of their role with their actual role.
You never stray from your unyieding committment and focus on the group interest and goal.
Your actions and words never contradict a committment to the group and goal.
You never assume you know what team members are thinking and you never assume they understand your motives. You need to constantly be in dialogue and relationship with team members to maintain the trust needed to reach full group potential.
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?
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.