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Get Your Player in the Game with Effective Communication

5 min read

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Published January 30, 2015

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Picture of Liz McBride

Liz McBride

“Some people are so...helpless.”Football_Aplayer

At a recent quarterly planning session, one of the executives explained how he’s trying to communicate admittedly aggressive objectives to his team, while being met with responses such as: “How can I do this? You took my resources!” This momentum killer makes him feel like he’s “near the end zone” while his team is still “on the 20 yard line.” 

It sounds like he is well intentioned. I mean, he’s communicating - isn’t that all we’re supposed to do? Communicate, communicate, communicate! I told him, in no uncertain terms, to follow the advice I give to my boys and tell his naysayers to “suck it up, buttercup!” OK, that last part isn’t true. After all, we are the ones who need to suck it up and bring our team along with us to gain momentum again.

Here are some rah-rah tips to get your players to the end zone:

  1. Call the Play: Your team sometimes needs to know the backstory to see why this next play will work. For example, why some initiatives were chosen over others, why certain projects were prioritized and allocated resources and what future resource plans are. Players can take it personally if their play isn’t on the list. Be prepared to explain these decisions, e.g., the need for further testing, a lack of energy or resources at this time, etc.
  2. Huddle: It’s not until your team has an opportunity to come together, ask questions and share concerns that they’ll truly hear the play. Huddle up and let your team feel heard. This can also be done by pulling a player off to the sidelines for a 1:1 discussion to get him back in the game.
    • The What - Present the play and any needed framing / backstory
    • The Why - Explain why this is important with facts and data
    • Facilitate questions and ideas - e.g., anything missing? Anything you’re surprised to see? Do we need any resource placeholders?
    • Facilitate discussion on dependencies and alignment with other initiatives - e.g., any of your current numbers/goals at risk with these priorities?
    • Check-in for thoughts (one word or phrase from each player)
  3. Punt: There may be valid reasons why your team is not moving down the field quickly enough, and a lack of resources could be one of them. In many cases, your team may interpret your goal as an “on top of everything else” when, in reality, you want them to re-direct their energy to the play at hand. There may be other dependencies or initiatives demanding their time that may slow them down. Identify these dependencies and competing initiatives with your team and align with other groups to ensure resources are accounted for. You may have to punt and reset these priorities with your team to align to the company’s / group’s key priorities to get your team focused on the play.
  4. Change the Roster: When you are dealing with A Players, you will be less likely to hear the: “How can I possibly do this?” reaction as A Players naturally elevate the game and are self-driven enough to find a way. However, even A players can slow down if the world around them has suddenly changed. Consider whether or not they are playing in the right position. As your new aggressive objectives are rolled out, perhaps it no longer aligns with their motivation or strengths. If so, look to change up the roster to keep your valuable player on the team as a whole, but maybe in a new position.

If you are absolutely sure you’ve:

  • clearly communicated,
  • sought to understand concerns,
  • identified dependencies,
  • aligned with other initiatives,
  • re-prioritized to gain their focus,
  • considered their alignment with the role

...and they are still on the 20-yard line? Then you may consider benching a player.

In the end, the executive agreed his “helpless” players needed for him to provide more focus and alignment. They were less likely helpless as much as spinning too many plates. No players were benched or traded in this story. And there were no prescriptive shortcuts or deflated footballs. Too soon? Ah, suck it up, buttercup. 

Now, get your player in the game! Ready? Break!


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