Archive for January, 2011

Serving Errors

January 26, 2011

One of the things I love about volleyball is the fact that even the best players still make errors. I found this video of the 2008 Olympic Games Gold Medallist and MVP Paula Pequeno making an abysmal serve (Check out the look that US libero Stacy Sykora gives her at 14 sec).

I tend to agree with Kessel about positive errors (they call them “smerrors” at SASI) – that serving out the back of he court is better than serving into the net.

Teams, and the big halftime speech

January 24, 2011

Recently at work, i was given the task of finding out how we could improve our company. I was directed to this podcast by these management consultants (if you decide to check this out, i urge you to move past the terrible 80s intro music). After listening, i thought there were some interesting observations that apply to sport too:

  • Many of us in the workplace are part of things that are labeled as teams, but are really in reality “workgroups”
  • A team is what happens when certain behaviours among a workgroup occur and performance is the result (so you can’t have a team without some level of behaviour modification amongst its members).
  • People are driven to be part of teams because it’s “That special feeling I get from being part of something bigger than me that performs well.”
  • Culture is what happens when you sum-total all the behaviours – you can’t change culture by setting out for cultural change. Occurs when you change behaviours and attitudes.
  • The notion of “going away” to do “Team Building” exercises are ineffective – Ropes courses, paintballing, “trust falls”, “going away” etc usually don’t work. Team building is effective in the relevant context – the workplace.
  • Team building is trust building – great teams have a high degree of trust between members
  • Trust is built on communication. Human beings are more trusting of those with whom they communicate more with things they care about (that is relevant communication).
  • This trust can be achieved by communicating 1-on-1 with direct subordinates on a regularly scheduled basis
  • In performance-oriented, goals and responsibilities are communicated clearly. Communciation is candid about what the team achieves and doesn’t achieve.
  • In good team cultures, individuals are rewarded for extra-communication, and the avoidance of vague comments or passive voice in written communications.

What’s obvious from listening to all this, is how crucial it is for leaders/managers/coaches to have good 1-on-1 communication skills, and that the 1-on-1 communication is more effective than talking to the whole group or having big team meetings.In fact, in our work place over the last couple of years, we’ve scrapped most of our “bigger” meetings and now use a lot of regularly scheduled 1-on-1 meetings.

What surprises me, is the number of coaches I know who don’t have good 1-on-1 communication skills. I know coaches who only ever communicate to the whole group. I know coaches who only speak to their players 1-on-1 if and when there is a problem. And I know coaches who are evasive to deal with a problem when it requires a 1-on-1 solution.

About a year ago, i asked the boys at my Football club who they thought their best coach was and why. consistently, what they thought made their best coaches good was that their coaches would give each individual a role and speak to them personally about 2 things they had to do to fulfil that role before each match – ie these coaches had excellent 1-on-1 skills. The current junior coaches at our club phoned to speak to every player on their lists individually. They make themselves available for 1-on-1 chats at all times and have told me stories of receiving calls after games and on the car trip back from trainings.

When these players graduated from juniors to seniors, they found it very different. By their description, there would be about 6 players the coach spoke to, about 6 who he didn’t speak to but knew what they were doing, and about 6 inexperienced guys that he didn’t speak to that had no idea what they were doing. For those young players, their transition from juniors to seniors didn’t meet their expectations and they played worse. The effectiveness of these coaches had nothing to do with their credentials, but rather their ability to engage with their players on an individual basis.

The best football coaches aren’t the guys that deliver the inspirational half time speeches – it’s the guys that have a regular 1-on-1 chat with their players every week. maybe those guys can give the great speeches too. But i think history chooses to remember Barrassi’s “handball, handball, handball” speech, or John Kennedy’s “Do something” speech. Unfortunately, all the regular, practical, less-glamorous 1-on-1 communication that built a rapport, a trust and ultimately a great team is left forgotten.