Signs of Trouble and Signs of Hope (in Teams)

I have worked with players and coaches of many teams that have undergone a regime change while I was working with them. As a result, I have been fortunate enough to have an inside view of many of the dynamics that are affected when this happens. Many, but not all, of the ones I have been involved with, occurred because of disappointing prior results.

These are some of the things I look for when I am involved with players, coaches or teams going through a change in leadership:

1) Buy-in. Do the players and staff believe in and trust what the new leader is selling? Without buy-in, all of the other things on my list, with one exception, are not going to happen.

2) Walking Your Talk*. Do the coaches and support stuff live the ideals they are preaching? Every team I work with has catchy motivational sayings and quotes all over the walls of their facilities, but if they are not living examples of those things, they lose their team in a hurry.

3) Culture**. This is the backbone of any organization. In short, a winning culture is characterized by shared values, goals, and practices within the team and is backed up by discipline (often social***) when members are not living up to their commitments to the team.

4) Respect. To earn this see Walking Your Talk above. Coaches and staff need to earn the respect of the players as well as give the players the respect they deserve.

5) Camaraderie. This is the one trait that can be accomplished without buy-in and also the one that often gives you the most bang for the buck. I have been involved with two teams that were highly successful prior to their regime change, which hired poor leaders that the players liked, but who were unable to earn their respect. In both cases, you could see the cracks in the foundation within months, but because of the love of each other and shared goals the players had from the previous regime, they continued to achieve at a high level for a few years (One even won a national championship) before crumbling.

Though I am talking about athletic teams here, these lessons are also applicable to businesses.

Please note, I did not mention coaching because at the levels I work with it’s rare to find a coach who does not have technical knowledge, and it’s the lack of the above that leads to their downfall more often than not.

One other thing I did not list was the number of good players. Not because having more good players is not important, but rather because adding more good players, in the absence of the things listed above, will more than likely waste their abilities.

You are more likely to see a quick turnaround on a team with a new positive attitude than a team that adds more good players. I see as many teams with great players and losing records as I see that have average players who have winning records. The difference is attitude and the traits I listed above or lack of those traits. This is why it is not uncommon to see a football team that went 4-8 one year, go 8-4 or better the following year with most of the same players.

“It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.” – David Allan Coe