How do great teams create culture? Have you ever been part of a great team? What made it that way? Was there a special bond among teammates? Was it a place of high energy and strong trust? Did you win a lot? For most of us who have been on some great teams in our lives, the answer to those questions is usually a resounding “Yes!” Often the next question is, “Why don’t all teams end up being great?” It can’t be only about winning because not all great teams win all the time. Of all the questions listed above, the concept of winning a lot is not necessarily at the top of the list when it comes to memories of being on a great team. Many people will look back on some of the teams they considered as being great and realize that they didn’t win a championship or even win a lot of games. Some of the greatest teams in the true concept of a “great team” were teams that did not win a lot of games.
So, if winning a lot of contests is not the only pre-requisite for a team being great, why don’t “great teams” happen more often? I believe everything starts with the leadership. In sports, that person is the coach. That may seem like a lot of pressure to put on one person, especially given the fact that when we are talking about youth/school teams, we are talking about the skill levels, mental capacities, behaviors, mood swings, etc. of children and teenagers. How can we put all the blame/praise on the coach when there are so many variables in any given team situation?
It all starts with the coach because if the coach is intentional about trying to create a great team culture and experience for the kids, the chances are much greater that it will end up that way. Coaches who are intentional about what they want to see happen have more success at seeing their goals come true. That does not mean that it is a guarantee, but they certainly create a situation that is much more apt to come true if they are intentional about it.
Unfortunately, most teams in the world happen by accident. The culture and the experience is left to chance. There is no vision, no plan, no roadmap for getting to wherever they are seeking to get. They wander through the season hoping that it will be a good experience. They let the ups and downs and the ebb and flow of the season dictate whether or not the experience is a positive one. Oh sure, many coaches (and team leaders and team members) will talk about wanting to win whatever championship is the ultimate for their team and set that as their goal. However, goals like that create a focus on a result – a result that has many variables that could create that result or keep it from happening. Focusing only on results creates a lot more pressure. While it is at least giving them a direction to go, focusing on a result means that there is only one way to succeed – achieve that one result.
The better method is to focus on creating the culture that you would like to have in your program. Focus on your team’s standards, your guiding principles. Bruce Brown of Proactive Coaching calls these a team’s “Core Covenants.” In his booklet and presentation, “First Steps to Successful Teams” – www.proactivecoaching.info – Coach Brown says a covenant is “a binding agreement where action is physically visible. This takes the agreement beyond words to an actual vision of performance. It says, ‘This is what we believe, so therefore, this is what you will see.’” The best covenants are focused on behavioral characteristics. When a team sets up covenants for behavior within the program, they are creating the culture that they seek. By focusing on behavioral characteristics, these teams are zeroing in on things they have control over – not results and outcomes that have all kinds of variables that influence them. For example, if a team establishes “Team-First Attitude” as a covenant, everyone on that team can make the choice to be committed to being a great teammate. There is no pre-requisite skill, training, education, physical attribute, etc. necessary to be able to display a team-first attitude. Every single person in the program can have a team-first attitude. The same goes for work ethic, teachable spirit, discipline, mental toughness, integrity, and any other behavioral characteristic one can think of. Every player in a program can commit and live every single one of those kinds of characteristics with nothing more than acting and behaving in the proper way.
If a coach is intentional about establishing covenants, s/he creates a much more favorable chance of having them be lived in her or his program. But it takes work. Developing covenants with the leadership of the team, explaining them to the entire team, taking time to discuss them and work on them throughout the year, and doing all that they can to live the covenants must be intentionally and purposefully developed by the coach. It is a process, and the process takes time and effort. But if a great team is the goal, there is no clearer, better, more consistent and predictable way to achieve it than to work through this process with determination and purpose. Coaches who do this in an intentional fashion create a team environment of success and excellence.
One major by-product of intentionally focusing on creating this type of culture is that these teams also have a much better chance of creating scoreboard success, too. And they are on their way to intentionally creating the “great team” experience that everyone wants to be a part of. For an in-depth look at creating an outstanding team culture, check out Proactive Coaching’s DVD Captains & Coaches’ Workshop, or better yet, have one of us out to do a Captains & Coaches’ Workshop for your teams. For more information go to www.proactivecoaching.info.
Scott Rosberg has been a coach (basketball, soccer, & football) at the high school level for 30 years, an English teacher for 18 years, and an athletic director for 12 years. He has published seven booklets on coaching and youth/school athletics, two books of inspirational messages and quotes for graduates, and a newsletter for athletic directors and coaches. He also speaks to schools, teams, and businesses on a variety of team-building, leadership, and coaching topics. Scott has a blog and a variety of other materials about coaching and athletic topics on his website – www.coachwithcharacter.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected].
Scott is also a member of the Proactive Coaching speaking team. Proactive Coaching is dedicated to helping organizations create character and education-based team cultures, while providing a blueprint for team leadership. They help develop confident, tough-minded, fearless competitors and train coaches and leaders for excellence and significance. Proactive Coaching can be found on the web at www.proactivecoaching.info. Also, you can join the 200,000+ people who have “Liked” Proactive Coaching’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/proactivecoach. Scott can also be reached through Proactive Coaching at [email protected].