Building Culture is Simple

  1. Pour the foundation.  What are you all about, Coach? ID your drivers, your values, the things that you insist upon, or wish you did.
  2. Frame it.  Determine the language and lens that you’ll use to see the creation of the program and team.  What are the critical pieces?  There is no shame in asking your people here either. Get consensus, have great conversations.
  3. Get the tools in line & get everyone to agree on the floor plan.  Determine what the finished product will look like if it’s great.
  4. Decorate.  What’s this season’s slogan? Do you have a hashtag? A secret handshake? A goal that everyone can get in line with?

Number 1 is mostly driven by the leader. The head coach, the person at the top.  YOU must have an idea of the central principles by which you’ll drive the program and from there you can, and should, include all of the important people.

Start there.  Simple.  Not easy.

Make It Up

When people don’t know what’s going on, they make something up.

Most are uncomfortable with the feeling, “I don’t know,” so they insert a story into the situation. It’s really a part of the human condition.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“She must just be a &#^&$ ,”, or “He’s just reacting to that thing that happened.”, or “I’m pretty sure that those guys are not the kind of guys we want to hang out with.”  

Things go south QUICKLY on teams when things are not easy and communication is not valued.  Or perhaps good “communication” is not defined well to be understood among the individuals, and so people have to make up stories to fill the gaps in understanding. 

What if coaches made it their top priority to define great communication, display the standards through positive and negative examples and talked about it

every

single

day?

Would that help?


Rule of Unwritten Rules

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.

Principle #7 Monsters In the Corner

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.

 

Is College Coaching a Good Job?

It’s tough out there!  50+ positions have turned over in college softball this year. FIFTY! A good amount of coaches–of both genders but more women it seems–are leaving the profession altogether.  #coachingishard

Tongue in cheek I have said that women are leaving more often than men because they are “smarter”, and when it gets tough the recognize that there are other great opportunities.  I don’t really believe that, however. I think that lots of “smart” people are finding coaching at the college level to be too big a challenge because “we” don’t adequately prepare people for the job.

Yes, it’s a job. One that needs training and deserves our best attention. Like teaching in too many places, however, we think about how people do the job and not enough about what the role of a coach should be.  There’s too much at stake to just roll out the balls and hope people get it.

Obviously, sports at the college level is zero sum. Those who win couldn’t do so without another party playing the role of loser. Someone has to win.  So, unless are are globally happy with a 50% loser rate, the scoreboard cannot be the only measure of success.

Let’s train people to define success (by this I mean administrators being honest with themselves and others) and devise a plan to achieve most of the goals. Let’s allow mistakes on the scoreboard and believe in our bones that, indeed, things like good team culture, kids enjoying the process and becoming “better” people will indeed lead to positive results on the scoreboard, but not every time and not simply because we hope that coaches and players alike “get it”.

We are better than this.

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.

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.