People have to sign things in order to participate. From elementary school to the NCAA, one can’t participate unless they agree to do or not do certain things. This we (mostly) easily accept, and regardless, the rules are really clear.
You likely have written rules for your team, no matter what type of team it is. Perhaps a handbook, employee guide, posters in the lockerroom or a contract to sign.
On the flip side, many of us have more unwritten rules than written ones. “Work hard”, “show respect”, “be a good teammate”, are all big picture unwritten rules.
Does everyone on your team know exactly what is meant by those unwritten rules? Do you know?
Perhaps you also have some that are similar to these: “freshman do the grunt work”, or “the head coach is always right”.
It’s time well spent to investigate and know what the unwritten rules are on your team–you may not even know that they exist–and to clarify the ones you like. Even more importantly, shine light on the ones that are not valid or helpful to your team (“we drink a lot on Saturday nights”), and rid your team of these unhelpful rules.
Did you ever notice that when you shine a flashlight under the bed, or simply turn on the lights, that the boogeyman disappears?
If you have issue in your operation or in any relationship, it works to turn on the lights. Illuminate the concerns, even if you are unsure who is “right” or what the “right” thing to do is.
State the facts, solicit opinions, and see if bringing it out in the open helps to give you ideas as to how to proceed.
“The thing to do” is often super clear after you get a good look at the problem. Reflect on your values and the lens at which you see the world, and a course of action will show itself.
When something goes wrong we often ask a version of this question: “why did they do that?”
This speaks to intention, that the person planned to screw it up, the “why?” implying that they wanted to make a bad decision. Of course, sabotage might be in play, but usually it’s a given that the person was not motivated to do things poorly.
Errors of all kinds come from a lot of angles. Typically, lack of focus or attention to detail, lack of skill, or poor preparation.
Coaches should understand this and teach focus in addition to skill and strategy, and look to ourselves to ask how we can better prepare our people.
There is no such thing as “not doing anything wrong” on a team or at work. If someone is saying that, they’re probably doing something wrong.
If you are not giving, you are taking away. Energy is a zero sum game.
When you answer, “it’s going”, or “as good as can be expected,” when asked how you are, you are violating the No Neutral rule.
Be mindful of your projected energy.
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.
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.
When things are upsetting, most of us can’t just take three deep breaths and be “over it”. Things don’t just go away because they hope they will, and most of the time the advice to “just let it go”, is a vast oversimplification.
Really, how do you do that?
If the event or situation was bothersome enough that someone else noticed and felt compelled to give you advice–the “let it go” mentioned above–then it’s likely not a small thing. Those people rarely have the “how” or strategy to help us get past that thing right away.
So, unless you have an idea of how to help someone get past a problem, practice empathy and try to simply recognize that they are having pain or a struggle rather than telling them to get over it.