"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept"
Many of us will have heard this quote, and we all probably agree with it.
As coaches, we may be comfortable enough to have a conversation with someone when we are put in this type of situation. We see a standard that isn't acceptable by one of our players and we act on it straight away. Put yourself in the shoes of one of your players who may be in that same situation. They see a standard that isn't acceptable from a fellow player. Can we imagine how uncomfortable it is for them to have that conversation? They can't be sure how it will be received. They will certainly be nervous about whether it creates conflict. What if their challenge is ignored? How do they then continue the conversation?
The ultimate aim of a team is for all players to feel confident to have the conversation with any offending player so team standards are never compromised or "walked past". To achieve this, all members of the team must accept that there will be uncomfortable conversations with other team members. This is OK, it's actually a good thing. This message needs to be reinforced by anyone in a leadership position. If we are having uncomfortable conversations then we are heading in the right direction to create a strong and unified team culture. All team members also need to accept that they may be the person being challenged. This is also a good thing because most of us will learn from that experience and be better within the team environment.
Here are three strategies to help team members have tough conversations.
1 Speak up immediately but in the right way.
Dealing with the problem as soon as possible is preferable because it reduces the possibility of it festering over days or weeks. In doing this though, we need to be very aware of the situation and the surrounding environment. Have the conversation away from a group situation unless it is relevant to the group. Also, be aware that there could be emotion involved, and that emotion may take over rational thought. At any stage, be prepared to pull back and say we should deal with this a little later. Take deep breaths and stay in control of your emotions.
2 Ask questions rather than make statements.
Some of our best learning is when we come up with solutions ourselves. So, if you are challenging another team member on behaviour, a good strategy is to ask them a question about the behaviour they displayed and whether it is acceptable to the team. By asking them to reference the behaviour to the team it makes it about something bigger than them. We all love the community of a team and we all want to be seen as a positive member of that community. By asking the question we allow them to see the solution for themselves. Calm and positive questioning can also control the emotion in the conversation.
3 If you continue to get resistance then ask for help.
Weight in numbers is a powerful force in a team environment. If the team member wants to argue about the behaviour, and if you can access other team members, invite them into the conversation. Once again, use the power of the community of the team to influence attitudes.
The saying "be comfortable with being uncomfortable" rings true with tough conversations, and going into them with a mindset that tough conversations are required for the betterment of the team makes them all worthwhile.
To join our rugby coaching community and become an active member in sharing knowledge and experiences go to The Art of Rugby. It's free to join coaches from all across the globe.