The culture of any organization is built upon what is consistently said and done by all members, particularly driven by the top member or “Head Coach”. Where the Head Coach is concerned, players and staff will be constantly asking themselves – what does this mean, and what should I do? – in response to everything coming from him or her.
It is scientifically accepted that we largely communicate with our body language and tone of voice, in addition to the words we speak. Tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and body language are said to make up an estimated 70% of our communication. As you strive to improve your coaching results, your challenge might be to get to know yourself better in the realm of how you communicate and how it is received. Think back and notice how you routinely speak, or don’t speak, to people around you. Typically what do you sound like, what gestures or facial expressions do you make? What tone of voice is prevalent? It might be extremely useful for you to ask your staff or people closest to you for some honest feedback as to how you regularly express yourself.
And that may feel a little bit like a risk! After all, what if you learn that you have a habit with some tone of voice or facial expression that does not actually assist you? Asking for honest feedback can feel very vulnerable. But your strength can ultimately be found in your vulnerability. By allowing yourself to be exposed to the unknown- that open and honest feedback- you gain vital knowledge and awareness. And it is in that place of awareness where breakthroughs and growth are born. If you don’t know what you look like and sound like to the people you are trying to influence, then your influence may be limited. If your influence is limited then performance will have a measure of luck or chance. Exercise your personal responsibility to explore every avenue for increased performance, especially including your non verbal communication. There is a well used quote, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” By venturing into this area, you might find ways to affect your organization massively!
Silence Speaks More Than We Know
Are there moments when you say nothing at all in response to a situation? It is crucial to understand that silence in itself is a massive form of communication. Because in the silence, the “not saying anything,” you give all those around you open opportunity for creating the meaning for you. When a coach does not communicate about something, everyone fills in the blanks from within their own filtering and processing system. So whatever you don’t communicate about, people around you interpret based upon their past experiences and generalizations.
For example, when a rule is broken and the Coach does not speak to the team about it, what meanings could players put to both the violation, and the ensuing silence? They may conclude Coach has favorites or a special player who does not have to respect the rules, they may decide that Coach is not paying attention, Coach is inconsistent or not fair, rules don’t really matter anyway or at least only some rules, Coach does not respect us enough to include us in a discussion…or many other variations of what the silence means. Unless your desired outcome is to have multiple meanings put to a situation, it is absolutely vital to communicate what it is you want your players to understand the situation means to you, and therefore to the team. Members of staff are equally susceptible to communication problems when others are silent. Many assumptions, conclusions and projections result from silence or lack of clarity. All members of an organization will perform more efficiently and effectively when silence is replaced with clarity. Take care to express yourself in a manner that brings out the best performance in others.
A covenant within your organization can be – “We cannot NOT communicate!”
Jennifer Griffin is a Sports Performance Analyst at Syracuse University for the women’s soccer program. She has also been part of the US Soccer Federation’s Per Diem Staff and was formerly a member of the Women’s Soccer Committee for the NSCAA. Jen’s soccer resume also includes having been a coach at the high school level for nearly 22 years.