T.E.A.M.

I love using that as an acronym that stands for Together Everyone Achieves More. Easy to say, looks good on a locker room wall, but hard to achieve. It has to start with breeding togetherness that builds the trust we previously discussed.

At a Positive Coaching Alliance event titled “Insights from Experts” Westmont University Head Men’s Basketball Coach, John Moore, made a great statement regarding the togetherness of a group.

In order to create the most positive and successful culture possible, we should do everything possible to make everyone feel like a part of the group…and a valuable part at that. Anything that anyone involved with the team that does anything to set someone apart from the rest of the group is upsetting the potential synergy of that group.

If we believe that it is necessary to trust the other members of the team to do their job, so that I can do mine, then it would follow that we should do everything we can to assist in building that trust. Yet many members of teams and organizations do quite the opposite. On a regular basis we see this principle violated both in words and actions.

The recent climate on NFL’s Miami Dolphins only magnifies a problem that exists, in some manner, throughout groups around the world. These incidents are on the world’s biggest stage, yet are mirrored in some fashion on high school and youth teams everywhere. it just as often (maybe even more) happens in the workplace in some way, shape, or form.

In the most extreme cases we see hazing, bullying, or initiations but in more benign cases we see individuals not included in the group, ostracized, ridiculed, teased or maybe worse - ignored. These do nothing to strengthen the group, yet often are looked at as a way to bring someone into the fold, “bond” as a team, or as a rite of passage to join the group. Or in the case of Richie Incognito allegedly trying, to “toughen up” Jonathan Martin, who some said was a bit too “soft”. Many times these incidents become a “tradition” that get continued, “Because we’ve always done it this way” - which might be one of the worst reasons to do anything.

Why anyone would want to continue a tradition that’s sets someone apart from the others or does anything to break down the trust a teammate has for another, is as counterproductive as anything could be. This comes on the heels of Positive Coaching Alliance launching our anti-hazing campaign. Some great comments, videos,and resources on the topic can be found on PCA’s Todays’ Take”: Richie Incognito, Hazing and Bullying Teammates.

Many people have rushed to different judgments on the issue, and often their opinions are usually based on their experiences. If they we involved in something similar, often they will not view the actions as negative. They want to be able to say they went through it and turned out fine. Many times they are the ones that keep the cycle going with the "...it happened to me..." mentality. Whether or not something is “hazing” is actually in the eyes of the person being hazed. What's not "hazing" to some, may be to others, and vice-versa.

PCA National Advisory Board member Brandi Chastain, speaks out against hazing. I bet if you told some of her teammates that if they scored a goal they needed to take off their jersey and celebrate in their sports bra in front of 100,000 spectators and millions of television viewers – they might feel a bit uncomfortable. That discomfort is all I would need to define hazing for some. But for Brandi it was just a celebration of sheer joy.

If we use the “discomfort” guideline  it can go a long way in determining whether the line is being crossed or not. Whether it is dressing in outrageous clothes, singing in front of others or even going over the line when playing truth or dare the feelings of the person needs to be considered. Is this making them a part of the group…or keeping them apart from the group? Is it building trust – or tearing it down?

Leaders of the group, whether they are the coaches or the team captains, need to be aware of what is going on and get to know the teammates. You need to know the person to know whether the line is being crossed, and you can’t just rely on how you feel personally. Rather than treating others how you’d like to be treated, treat others as they need to be treated. And when you see something going on or something that doesn’t follow those guidelines – stand up and put a stop to it. As Tony Dungy said on the Dan Patrick show regarding the Incognito story...

"Hazing doesn't happen everywhere, it happens where you allow it to happen."

Veteran New York Jets guard Willie Colon said, “Any time a guy feels disrespected and like he can’t go to work and feel comfortable, that’s when you can’t have that in the locker room. Because at the end of the day, he’s playing, he’s playing for you, so you’ve got to take care of each other.”

There is that word I go back quite often. CARE. Teammates in the most positive cultures need to truly care about each other. They may not like them, or hang out with them, but for the group to be as good as it can be, they need to care. To do anything less is counterproductive. The opposite of  love is not hate...it is apathy the total lack of concern.

Texas A&M Assistant Basketball Coach, Bob Starkey, posted this in his fantastic blog titled Hoop Thoughts quoting Vince Lombardi on the separator for his championship teams:

"There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don't win the game.  Then you come to the third ingredient: if you're going to play together as a team, you've got to care of one another.  You've got to love each other.  Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself, "If I don't block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken.  I have to do my job in order that he can do his."  The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these guys have for each other."

Do you think Richie Incognito really cared about Jonathan Martin? He did have plenty of support in the locker room as a good teammate, but was he really concerned with Martin's feelings?  His history may not support that, whereas Martin’s reputation in the locker room is a bit different.

Former Stanford lineman and Martin’s teammate, Andrew Phillips, said, “He (Martin) is a phenomenal person. He cares for people in the utmost way at all times. I’ve never heard him say a bad word, a bad thing, to or for anybody in my entire time at Stanford. He was one of the guys that everybody loved in the locker room.” Too often, in the macho athletic NFL society, caring might translate to soft.

Unfortunately, while trying to make others feel a part of the group with initiations, hazing, and other actions teammates instead keep them apart from the group through their actions. I’d love to hear some ways you welcome teammates into the fold and foster teamwork in your groups.

Teamwork makes the dream work

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