Which is most effective – building strengths or repairing weaknesses?
When working with athletes or any other client, I am firmly in the camp of building upon the strengths that they currently have. We are able to do so much more when we maintain the growth mindset where they can still improve upon those strengths. I also consider it important to see their abilities as abundance instead of scarcity. By focusing on what they have, it helps them to stay positive and working on the weaknesses might only detract from their strengths. I would not want to neglect those strengths and allow them to deteriorate. Now, weaknesses still need to be given attention. Some of those gaps could cause major problems, so I would have the athlete focus most of their time on improving their strengths and automating as much as possible with routines to give them some space to work on their weaknesses, as well. Lastly, using a model of continuous improvement is essential to allow space for evaluation and reflection.
What is an effective self-evaluation approach for coaches to learn and maximize their own coaching strengths?
Like the athletes, an approach that emphasizes continuous improvement is most effective for coaches. This model ensures that feedback is coming in more frequently and being assessed in real time to make sure that the appropriate needs are being addressed. This won’t always be the case, but it presents the opportunity to make changes. Additionally, an evaluation strategy is completely worthless without markers that are being consistently assessed. Since there are several aspects of any coaching job, the self-evaluation should be broken down into a few main categories. For example, the tasks or skills can be grouped into leadership for their abilities as a role model, management to examine how well they are planning and organizing everything, and pure coaching skills. Other factors to consider would be how well aligned their behavior is with their personal philosophy and the team philosophy and culture. Ideally, those would be the same, but that is not always the case. They can use a simple rating system. For some of these skills, a numerical (1-10) rating might not actually be meaningful, especially when it is a subjective self-evaluation. So, using a minimalistic system with fewer options works well. One example would be just three options: Excellent, Room for Improvement, Needs More Attention. This has more distinct categories that show clear progress. Lastly, while the term ‘self-evaluation’ implies that there will be no assistance from outside sources, the other coaches and players would certainly be able to provide invaluable feedback to eliminate any blind spots and potentially corroborate your own assessment.
What approach would you use to effectively address a team's need for motivation and subsequent disciplinary actions when/if certain players did not respond to those actions?
I listened to an old Finding Mastery podcast with Stuart Lancaster on the long drive from Oregon to Wisconsin. There were a few things that stood out to me, but one of the biggest ones was an activity that he did with his team. Without their knowledge, Stuart contacted the friends and family of each player. They wrote the athlete a letter telling them what it means to see them perform at that level. This was at the national team level, so that is obviously a major accomplishment, but I think it could be done at just about any level. This gives the athlete something tangible to motivate themselves which also has a very strong emotional component. The pride of their family and friends will also help them dig deep and find that pride in themselves to continue pushing even when they do not feel motivated. What an incredible idea! Another way to maintain motivation is to have clear goals that you are working towards accomplishing. The team and individual athletes should have things that they are striving for that can be broken down into process, performance, and outcome goals. This can also be related to things that they want to achieve as a human being or relating their process for improvement to their life outside of sport. Tying in a bigger purpose is a very powerful motivator. The last motivating strategy for me would be to encourage the team to tap into the culture and mission they have set for themselves. This would ideally be something we establish early on and the same thing could go for a punishment. When our team has a specific set of values, they would be the best ones to come up with a punishment for failing to live up to the standards we agreed upon. As the coach, I would be involved in guiding this process and making sure the punishment is appropriate and sufficient so it is a jury of peers with an ultimate decision from the judge/coach. Doing it this way means that nobody can argue with the punishment since we all came up with it together and no star player would be exempt.