Nick Saban is Right - Why & How Staying in the Moment is Key to Success

Nick Saban is Right - Why & How Staying in the Moment is Key to Success

Before the University of Alabama faced Florida State University in the first week of the College Football season, Coach Nick Saban was asked what he would like to see from his team in the upcoming game. His goal was simple:

"The number one concern for me is: can the players stay in the moment? Can they focus on the things that they need to focus on? (Can they) have the discipline to do those things?"

The question then becomes, what can you do, as an athlete or a coach, to get you or your team to stay in the present moment? How, no matter what the internal or external distraction is, can you focus on the task at hand and do what you need to do in order to get your assignment done?

Here are three simple was to help keep you present when stress, pressure, or distractions keep you from achieving you goals.

First, become aware of your signals. When we get into stressful situations, we tend to have very unique signals that go off when we are not in the moment. It could be negative self talk or tension in specific areas of the body. Whatever the signal is, being aware (which we will talk about more later) is key to staying focused in the moment and controlling the things that you can control. 

Second, be patient. If you are constantly in a rush, that means more than likely you are thinking about something in the future. In order to achieve the task that is right in front of you, right that second, what is going to happen five minuets or even two minuets down the road doesn't matter. What does matter is your ability to stay calm, not rush from one moment to the next, and stay right where you are until the moment is over. As we talked about a few months ago, the only thing that you have is right now - and rushing to get it to be done with will doesn't help.

Lastly, make being aware a priority. If awareness is the third or fourth most important priority in your list of trying to improve yourself as an athlete, you're more than likely in a bit of trouble already. Success is centered around your ability to be aware of the situation that you are in, accurately assess your emotions, correct your mechanical issues if necessary, and focus back on the task at hand. And no matter what you do, from breathing properly (which we discussed on how to do in a previous post) to staying calm in challenging situations, your ability and commitment to being aware is the vessel you need to get you where you want to go.

Staying in the moment is really hard to do. In the case of the Alabama Football Team, when you are expected to win the National Championship each year, just focusing on your job can be challenging. But each year, for nearly a decade, they have been in the last game of the year - because they play one play at a time and stay in the moment. 

So don't just watch them do it. Go try it and see its benefits for yourself.

Floyd Mayweather: The Picture of Patience and Composure

Floyd Mayweather: The Picture of Patience and Composure

If you were one of the nearly fifty million people that watched Floyd Mayweather defeat Conor McGregor on Saturday, what you saw was not only the greatest fighter of his generation continue his (now) fifty fight winning streak - but a lesson in the art of patience and composure.

The entire reason for watching this fight, at least in my opinion, was to see if a UFC/MMA athlete, in the prime of his career, could take down the guy who many consider to be the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time.

And within the first four rounds, you couldn't watch the fight and think that McGregor was not on the path of pulling off one of the greatest upsets in sports history. 

Coming into each round in an aggressive fashion that admittedly surprised Mayweather, the UFC Champion was quicker and more effective - landing quality jabs,and clearly had the fight in hand.

Mayweather on the other hand, threw very few punches, choosing rather to wear McGregor out through continued patience and gain feedback for his plan of attack in the later rounds. 

And after a 10th round TKO that left McGregor wondering where he was, the Irishman's response to Mayweathers victory was not praise of his technical skills, but more so praise of his mental game: 

"I don't think that there was skill there. I just think there was composure and experience there." 

And whether you are an athlete or involved in business, what McGregor said about the importance of patience and composer needs to be understood and implemented.  

Lets took at why both of these skills (which can be learned) and why they can help you start achieving your goals:

First, patience can beat aggression. Unfortunately, patience is not something that the modern-day athlete, business person, or any normal person for that matter is told to is important. You are constantly told to go faster, get work done quicker, win now, right this second. Especially when trying to achieve a goal that may take you some time, whether it is a marathon, a report that takes you a few weeks to put together, or in the case of Mayweather, a fight that lasts several rounds - having patience is key. There is no reason to go right to the lead of a race that lasts two hours if you can let others do the work for you, no reason to do sloppy work in trying to show someone how good an employee you are, or go for the knockout early. Take your time. Focus on the process and show patience. 

Secondly, stay composed, no matter how stressful the situation. Composure is usually taught from coaches or other leaders in the form of being told, "hey, calm down!" or "knock it off a focus," and the frequent "keep it together, lets go!" Being composed means that you are able to stay focused in the moment. You may feel stressed, overwhelmed, or out matched. But what matters is what can you do in that moment? Can you stay committed to the plan you have created? Can you make good adjustments via the awareness you have of what is happening right then and there? Those who can do all of this, even when you confidence is down are ones that will not only win, but when facing situations in which they are not supposed to do well in, can shock the world.

Be committed to having composure and patience - no matter what you are doing. That commitment can be the difference in you achieving your goals and just dreaming about them. Don't be a dreamer. Be a doer. 

Tori Bowie & Why The Competition Shouldn't Matter

Tori Bowie & Why The Competition Shouldn't Matter

When Tori Bowie became the World Champion in the Women's 100m dash two-days ago, she made an adjustment in her race place before she went to the line.

Different than her past championship appearances, when she would get nervous because of the competition, this past Sunday she was going to "block out the noise and just focus on what I needed to do. Although I couldn't believe who was in the race, I knew that thinking about them was not going to do anything for me, so I just had to focus on what I had to do." 

Success does not come from always thinking about what others are going to do. Sure, you need to be aware of what is going to happen in the race and the situations that you are in (we spoke about that recently when talking about Jenny Simpson's first round 1500m race) - but if you let it control you, you will loose sight of what you specifically need to do in order to be successful. 

Champions know that they need to control their emotions, ease their minds, and focus on their plan. This is how winners win. It's how Tori Bowie became the World Champion by 0.01 of a second over the best field in the world. The competition didn't (and shouldn't matter) - all that mattered doing what she needed to do. 

Try this for yourself next time - I think you will like the results. 

Justin Gatlin: Perseverance, Patience, and Selflessness

Justin Gatlin: Perseverance, Patience, and Selflessness

Ten years and 50 weeks ago, Justin Gatlin was suspended from professional track and field for using a banned substance. His ban, originally eight-years, was reduced to four after his cooperation with doping officials. This suspension took place at the height of his popularity: only two-years removed from gold-medal performance in the 100m during the 2004 Olympic Games, three-times a World Champion the following year, and just a few years removed from racing his way to six NCAA Championships at the University of Tennessee. 

Last night, Gatlin returned to London, England - a place where he raced to a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics - and defeated the greatest sprinter of all-time, Usain Bolt, for the 2017 World 100m Championship. His journey from doping outcast to champion, although controversial, should be a teaching moment to all of us who have failed, try and try again to be successful, and realize that a journey to greatness can not be achieved without the support of others. 

Here are our takeaways:

Always Persevere - There is a saying that Samurai are taught at an early age: fall seven, rise eight. You fail, you get back up. You loose, you try again. You screw up, you try to do better. Gatlin's poor and selfish decision making that lead to his greatest failure was so big that he was not allowed in a track stadium for nearly half a decade. But that didn't stop him - so don't let failure stop you. 

Great Things (most of the time) Take Time - Being about to bounce back from failure or lapses in judgement take time. No one can change who they are overnight. However, with a heightened state of self-awareness and clear understanding of the process of your goals, you can gain perspective, stay more engaged in the moment, and learn understand that your goals will come - if you can take your time.

Selflessness - After winning last night, Gatlin repeatedly told reporters that the difference between this championship and others where he could't beat Bolt was, "I usually sit and think a lot about myself and my plan. But tonight, I was thinking about my family, my friends, and the people that got me to this point. This race was not about me tonight - I was doing it for them." If you are coming back from redemption or failure, odds are you have a support team around you to make sure you are making the proper steps to come back (and if you don't have that type of group, you need to get one - now). People who are successful over a long period of time don't just do things for selfish reasons, they want to best represent and make proud the people that got them there. Gatlin, whose doping actions should and are considered extremely selfish, accomplished what was once that the impossible when he let is focus move away from himself (for once) and put his attention on those who got him there. Needless to say, the results where better. When you are coming back from failure, don't just make yourself better for you - focus on getting better and bouncing back because of the people that are around you. 

Whether you love or hate Justin Gatlin, it's hard not to recognize that nearly eleven-years after he was banned, going from banned-doper to defeating the fastest man who has ever walked the earth is pretty amazing. And although the actions that warranted his suspension where appalling, his comeback and teachable moments for those who have failed, are ones of true inspiration.  

 

Jenny Simpson Just Showed Us The Importance of Being Prepared

Jenny Simpson Just Showed Us The Importance of Being Prepared

On the first day of the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in London, England, Team USA's (the former World 1,500m Champion and 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist) qualified for the semi-finals of the Women's 1,500m - but it was not as easy as she hoped it would be.

With the first six athletes obtaining automatic qualifying spots to the semi-finals, the race involve lots of pushing, shoving, and in the last 120m, what should have been an easy run to the final ended up being a dead sprint for one of the last qualifying spots. After learning she had advanced to the finals, Simpson, in a post-race interview, discussed her thoughts on the race and how important a role preparation plays in her success:

"This is where experience matters. You study film on everyone in the race and learn their tendencies, and you hope that the preparation you do pays off - it did today. I think because of all that I have done leading up to this meet that if I can be there with 100m to go, I'm going to be pretty hard to stop"

What should this teach us about the importance of being prepared?

First: Even the best spend time preparing. They may be talented, but being great does not come naturally. It takes time and dedication to become one of the best at anything. So before you think you have it all figured out, realize that you don't and go do more work.

Second: The more that you prepare, the more you will believe in yourself. If confidence comes from how you talk to yourself based on the work that you have done, then if you put in the right work (remember - it's not just that you are doing something its HOW you do it) you're going to have the opportunity to be successful that you are looking for. 

Third: Preparation means little without awareness. You need to be able to recall situations that you spent time studying, understand the current situation that you are (and will be) in , and have the awareness of when is the right time to take a calculated risk. You can learn more about how to become more aware in last weeks article: Five Ways to Become Self-Aware

We will be reporting on the mental side of the IAAF World Championships each day for the next week - and we would love to have you follow us! Check us out for daily updates on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook 

5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware

5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware

In 2016, VaynerMedia CEO & entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk took part in an interview with the great Larry King.  During that interview, King asked Vaynechuk, who is a big proponent of self-awareness, how one can become more self-aware. His answer (at least to me) was surprising: I don't know. For someone who claims to know so much about self-awareness, it was amazing to me that he didn't have an answer. 

So, in hopes to help answer this ever growing question about the root of self-awareness, we wanted to present to you some of the skills that we have taught to over 175 NCAA All-Americans, 5 NCAA Championship Teams, and professional athletes from the MLB, NFL, USATF, and PGA. Here are 5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware:

First, be available. You may be thinking, what the hell does that mean? The great comedian Bill Murray talked about the importance of being available in an interview with Charlie Rose two years ago. Very few have explained how important it is to be alert and available as good as Murray does in this interview. To put it plainly, being available means that you are not stuck in a bubble and to be aware of what is going on around you. Being available also means (most importantly) that you are willing be be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Those who lack self-awareness are those who do not want to address their weaknesses and are not truthful about their strengths. Here are some things that you can ask yourself during this first step:

  • What am I good at?
  • When things have become tough, what are the activities that I have quit and what are the ones that I have stuck with?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • Other than a relationship, what is the one thing that could be taken away from you that you could not be without and why?

Second, start a mindfulness practice. We have written much about about mindfulness on this blog and how vital it is to success in athletics, business, and life. Taking the time to learn your thoughts, how you react under stress, and how well you can focus is where you can make huge strides in becoming more self-aware. 

Third, get organized - Nearly any problem can be solved through organization. When I work with political campaigns, I always tell them on the first day that "organization will solve all of your problems." Why this is so vital to self-awareness is simple: if you are not organized, you are never going to know where your focus needs to truly be. Your efforts and energies are always put into a state chaos - rather than in areas where it deserves and is needed. An organized person has a much greater chance to succeed compared to one that just does shit on the fly. 

Forth, play to your strengths -  After you determine what you are good and what you care about, then play to whatever that strength is. This does not mean that just because you are good at something you do not need to address your weaknesses. I work with a lot of track and field athletes. Some have great leg speed, some are great in the weight room, some are superior in their mental toughness. Those who lack those strengths however, although they work to improve them, don't obsess with their shortcomings. They know what their strengths are and do what they can to make those even better, while continuing to improve in other areas. 

Fifth, realize that becoming self-aware is hard - Recently, we talked about how you can fail and still succeed. This concept is really important to understand on your journey to becoming more self-aware. You are going to fail on your journey. Even when you think you have everything figured out and you know how you are - you are going to fail. You will make poor decisions. And that's ok. Just accept that this is going to be hard. Accept that all things that have great results are going to be challenging. And when you do fail, don't waste your time complaining about how hard it is, spend your time getting ready to start again.

So what are you waiting for? Get to work. 

Achievement Consulting wins 2016-17 Charleston Business Award for Sports Psychology

Achievement Consulting wins 2016-17 Charleston Business Award for Sports Psychology

On June 8th, 2017, Achievement Consulting, LLC. was named the Top Sport Psychology Company in Charleston, SC. by been given the Charleston Area Business Award for 2016-2017. 

In less just a year, Achievement Consulting has worked with some of the best athletes, businesses, non-profits, and teams from across the country. 

Here are our results in athletics:

  • 10 NCAA All-Americans
  • 19 All-State High School Selections
  • 4 State Championship Teams
  • 7 Conference Team Champions 
  • 7 MLB Draft Picks
  • 31 NCAA All-Conference Selections 
  • In 2016-17, Teams that have worked with Achievement Consulting have combined to win over 375 games

In the business and non-profit sector, we have accomplished a great deal in 2016-17:

  • Working with political campaigns to help win 4 general elections in 2016 and 2 primaries 2017
  • Teaming up with small businesses & non-profits to create advanced database systems to assist in their organization and increased effectiveness 

So after looking at all of this, the question is simple: WHY ARE YOU NOT WORKING WITH US YET?

HERE IS ALL YOU NEED TO DO TO GET THE STARTED:

Thank you so much for you support over the last year - we look forward to working with you soon and look forward to an even better 2017-18. 

Why When You Fail, You Can Still Succeed

Why When You Fail, You Can Still Succeed

Failure is a part of life. Each of us fail at something each day. It could be something as simple as not getting out of bed on time, or a complicated as failing to do a report for work. Whatever the case is, failure is always right around the corner. The question that presents itself then is this - how can you succeed in a world in which you are always failing?

The answer is not as complicated as you may think.

Whenever you start on a new journey, remember this: you are going to fail. In baseball, failing 70% of the time will put in you in the Hall of Fame. In politics, Presidents Obama, Clinton, and George W. Bush each lost their first race when running for U.S. Congress. Even the "unbeatable" Usain Bolt has lost races in between Olympic Games.

What makes these people unique is that they understand failure is always present, however their ability to be resilient and stay committed to their long term goal(s) keeps them motivated and moving in the right direction. 

That is why where others may only dream, they succeed.

Here are three ways to take failure and turn it into success: 

First, come to grips with the fact that failure is a part of life

If you are going to do anything, you need to know, chances are, you are going to fail. You may be the most fit, the most prepared, the most talented. However it does not mean that you are always going to be successful. The sooner you understand this notion, and know that there is no shame in failure (only shame if you didn't try your best or quit) the easier failure will be - whenever it arrives. 

Second, be resilient

If you loose, it's O.K. to be upset - for a while. But those who success after failure don't dwell on past loses. They use it as tinder that sets the fire, assuring that it does not happen again. Being resilient means you are never out of the fight- it means you are quick to recover. Because there is always another race to run, another opponent to face. 

Lastly - CARE

If there is one lesson that you should take away from this piece it should be that you need to CARE - especially after you don't get the results that you want. The more you care, the easier (and faster) it will be for you to get up after you get knocked down. And if you don't want to keep fighting, you need to examine how much you care. There is nothing wrong with saying that you don't want to keep fighting after a lose, as long as you know in you heart that there are other things you care more about. Once you discover that - start fighting for it. 

Failure happens. Just don't let it take you down. Be resilient and start to fight again. Because even when you fail, you can still succeed. 

Tim Tebow & Lessons from the Minors

Tim Tebow & Lessons from the Minors

This last Friday, I had the opportunity to see the Single-A Charleston Riverdogs play the Columbia Fireflies at Joe Riley Park in Charleston, SC.  What made this game different than any other minor league baseball game happening across the country that night, was that the Designated Hitter for the Fireflies was not just your typical 20 something, struggling their way through the minors – it was Tim Tebow. Yes, that Tim Tebow. Heisman Trophy winning, National Collegiate Football Champion, Florida Gator, and Denver Bronco Tim Tebow.

I didn’t go to the game specifically to watch him play, as I was planning on going several weeks prior with my family to celebrate my birthday. The rest of the crowd seemed to be there to watch him; who either loudly booed or cheered specifically for a man with a .224 batting average. I wasn’t even expecting much from Tebow (although I did want to see him hit a home run). But as the game progressed, I started to learn more from him than nearly any athlete I had watched in several years – and I have seen a lot of them.

The lessons that Tim Tebow taught that night were ones that we should talk to our kids about while at the ballpark, athletes that we may coach, and even to our co-workers. They are lessons about being doing something with a purpose, being a good teammate, and giving your best effort. And although Tebow has achieved more athletically and financially than many of us every will, he never seemed get away from the basic skills and techniques that hoisted him to such a prominent level of popularity across the America.  

Here is what he taught us Friday night in Charleston:

If you want to be successful, be inquisitive and do things with purpose

In between ABs, on the on-deck circle, even while stretching – you could see Tebow asking his coaches questions. This took place throughout the entire game. Because he didn’t play in the field, he spent most of his time while the team was on defense, standing side-by-side with the head coach in the dugout, discussing situations and asking what going on. After he his only hit, a single in the 3rd inning, he spent most of his time on 1st and 3rd base in non-stop conversation with his coaches.

During his on-deck time, he wasn’t just taking practice swings for the sake of doing it. He worked on breathing, lower-body movement, timing-up the batter, hand placement – you name it, he was working on it. In between BP swings, he worked with his hitting coach while most of his teammates sat and rested. There were very few instances, from the beginning of warm-ups to the end of the game itself, in which Tebow was not doing meaningful, purpose driven activities.

Remember, we are talking about Tim Tebow. This guy is a pretty good athlete. I would argue a very good athlete. He could rely on his natural talent and just go out there thinking that everything was going to happen the way he wanted it to. He doesn’t. He talks to his coaches and teammates about getting better constantly. When he is not doing that, he is not just over in the cage going through the motions. He is doing something with the hope of getting better. These are invaluable lessons to learn.

If you want to be successful, be a good teammate

Minor League Baseball is many things, but one thing it is not is the place where you learn to be great teammate. It’s a place that finally, after years of high school and college ball, one can focus (and get paid) on their personal growth and to hone their own skills as a ball player. Players on the team may only know the guys on their current club for a just a month or so, as they are hoping to get called up to another (and better) team. So being fired up for a bunch of guys that you are really not that invested in is somewhat of a rarity in the minors.

It was clear that Tebow doesn’t understand this concept. There was no one cheering more, high-fiving harder, or more supportive of the guys on defense while he was in the dugout. Obviously, coming from the football world, the concept of team is something that he understands a bit more than the average minor league baseball player. And if you observed Tebow’s demeanor towards his teammates throughout the game, the entire club began to follow his lead.

So, what does his high-fiving a lot teach us? The answer is simple: successful people support the people around them, even if they have had more individual success in previous situations. And furthermore, if you are around a group of people that support one another, you will make each other better. Selfishness may seem cool in today’s culture, but those who serve each other reap the greater results than those who are just focused on themselves.

If you want to be successful at something, always hustle.

Tebow only had one ground out this game, to first base, in the 6th inning (he also had two other ABs resulting in outs - one being a strikeout and the other a high fly-ball that almost left the yard). And although it was apparent to everyone in the stadium that he was going to be thrown out, Tebow ran harder to first base than anyone on either team the entire game. He ran just as fast to first base as a kid that was trying out to make the varsity team in high school.

You can usually tell how much a person wants to be involved with something by how great their effort is. If they don’t try, it usually means they don’t care. Well let me tell you – Tebow cares. A lot. And even if you know you are more than likely going to fail at something, by putting in your best effort, you can at least go to bed at night knowing you did your very best, rather than wondering what would have happened if you were to have tried harder.

After reading this, whether you work in athletics or business, take a second to ask yourself this question: do the members of your team work as hard as they could, care as much as they should, and continually support their peers? If the answer is yes – then you have one hell of a group. If you don’t (and my guess is most you reading this answered this way), then you could learn a few things from Tim Tebow.

Look, I’m not trying to get on the Tebow bandwagon and start wearing black tape under my eyes with a Bible verse written on it. In fact, there are MANY things that we don’t see eye-to-eye on. I'm not going to buy a Gator jersey or a Firefly hat. However, there is the one thing that we agree on:

If you are going to do something, don’t do it half-way. Nothing should be done in a half-ass manner.

Especially when people doubt you can do something (and nearly everyone has doubts that this baseball thing is going to work out for him in the long run), you try harder. You don’t pout. You don’t hang your head. Tebow, much like all of us, has failed time and time again. However, let’s not look at what he has done or think of the results that may or may not happen with is current journey.

Look at how he got there and is walking this path now. It’s a path paved with diligence, supporting of those around him, and an unrelenting attitude to not fail. And even if he does, you know that he will move on to the next thing, giving everything he can. Because that is who Tim Tebow is. And it is what we all should do.

3 End of the Season Rules for Coaches

3 End of the Season Rules for Coaches

As we approach the end of the year for spring sports across the country, coaches will be trying to scramble together to find encouraging words, a special workout, or hope for last-second inspiration that will help give their team the extra advantage that it needs to perform at its best when it matters most. But finding inspiration from watching Rocky for the 50th time won’t make much of a difference. Neither will one training session or the big rah-rah speech.

After being lucky enough to spend the majority of my life around teams that compete at the very last competitions of the year [aka championship time], I have concluded that coaches of winning teams do the following at this crucial time in the season:

First, they emphasize the importance of sleep. If your team is alive at this part of the season, odds are is that they have played lots of games. They have spent time on buses, dealing with classes, and hours upon hours have been spent practicing both the body and the skill that the sport demands. During this pre-championship time, sleep [unfortunately] is hard to come by. Great championship coaches understand that in order to be at one’s peak, more sleep is a must. Sleep [simply put] allows the body to recover and gives the active mind a break. Getting the team up early in the AM to do an extra walk-through will not nearly pay-off as much as giving them another few hours of rest. And this is not just for them, it is for you too.

Second, great championship time realize that no big speech is going to be the difference between winning and losing. Your time is best spent on making sure that your team is ready, not spending time getting ready to make that big speech. If your team needs a big rah-rah moment before the big game, it should be handled by the players themselves - that will help bring them together [remember, this time of the year is about them, not about you]. I am not suggesting that you go radio silent. What I am suggesting [and what we will get into more in our final point], is that the more that you spend time focusing what your players need to perform well in preparation for the moment [sleep, a better understanding of the game plan, etc.] the better off that you will be. Great speeches that make teams play well only happen in the movies. Don’t try to be a character from a movie you like - continue to try to be yourself, that is what got your there.

Lastly, coaches that win at the end of the year get their teams to focus on the moment. The majority of athletes, especially ones who are having their first championship experience, have a hard time staying focused on the task at hand. Most of the time, they will think about what will happen if they don’t win. They will make up stories in their head about how they may never have this chance again, how scholarships maybe lost, and what their family will do or say if they don’t get it done. There is nothing that was just said that could be more of a waste of time for your team to think about. Great coaches get their teams to think about what their specific job is, the process, of what needs to happen right then and their. And that giving their best effort, that is under control and purposeful, will give them the best opportunity to win. After all, if your group puts in the best effort that they can and still does not end up on top, although that pill will be hard to swallow, there is nothing more that you can ask for.

Remember that the end of the season is not about you as a coach - it is about getting the people that are on your team and staff to be at their very best. Letting go of some ego and making everything about the people around not only will get everyone to perform better, but it will allow you to be at your peak also. Because if you are not ready, they won’t be either.

Why Success is Built on Relationships

Why Success is Built on Relationships

Far too many leaders and teams rely on talent, intense training, or just simply beating the hell out of their staff or teams in order to get the results that they are looking for. That may work well if you are an entry level individual just getting into the military or a watching a non-realistic film that acts as a half-ass motivational tool. The fact of the matter is that in order to get groups of people to work well together, while also carrying out the core values set by the leader(s), success begins and ends with relationships.

Effective relationships create higher levels of drive, cohesion among team members, and strengthen the bonds of trust that are all crucial to the success of a group. Unfortunately, many leaders, especially those in athletics, don’t seem to grasp the importance of this skill.

Skill? How is a relationship a skill?

If a skill is “the ability to do something well” then just like all things [running, jumping, throwing], it has clear pieces to it that must be mastered and continually re-trained. Someone is not just “good” at relationships, because every relationship is different. Hell, you can make the argument that each moment in a relationship is dynamic - always changing, yet with a core set of principles that it relies on to make it work effectively. But those who understand its importance will see intrinsic and extrinsic benefits that far outweigh those groups that who are just talent fill or skill oriented.

Before we discuss what the guiding principles are to an effective relationship, let's briefly examine the things that lead to an ineffective one.

In athletics, lots and lots of coaches that don’t understand the importance of relationships have the following issues that act as blocks both their teams and their own success:

  • Stubbornness: “This is the way that it is and I’m not going to change. That kid complains about how hard things are for him - that’s bullshit.”

  • Unwillingness to Communicate: “I don’t need to talk to that kid. He just needs to suck it up and do what I tell him to do. If he can’t respond that what I am telling him, it’s his fault.”

  • Lack of Empathy: “I did the same thing 20 years ago and it worked for me. It doesn’t matter how or what the athlete feels.”

If you have been on a failing team, you more than likely can recall when you ran into this type of leader. These attitudes bring about the following reactions:

  • “Coach doesn’t give a shit about how bad I feel and how miserable I am right now” [both physically and emotionally]

  • “You can’t talk to coach because he won’t listen”  [either because they don’t want to hear it or because they only want to hear answers that they want]

  • “I wish coach understood where I was coming from. He doesn’t seem to get me at all” [this may be because they have insecurities of their own that they are trying to hide and having an empathetic view of the situation may show weakness]

Great leaders and managers however, possess the understanding of how important it is to have a relationship with someone who works with or for them. They get the fact that in order to get people to do their best, they have to show some vulnerability once and awhile, strike up a conversation, and show [not falsely, but legitimately present] that they give a shit. Two shits even.

The second that the bonds of a relationship start to strengthen, performance will begin to increase, levels of enjoyment will rise, and effort [which decreases drastically when teams are working with a leader that has no relationship with them] will start to grow.

Effective relationships have four core principles, each is equally important and if one of these four were to lessen in its importance, then a strength of the relationship will weaken.  

VULNERABILITY

All relationships have to start out with the understanding that either someone involved or both parties can be hurt by engaging in it. You start dating someone, there is a chance that you are going to break up. You start at a firm, there is always a chance that you are going to get fired. You make the team, no matter how good you are, there is always a chance someone else is going to take your spot and you end up cut. We define vulnerability as the willingness to open up to being hurt. When we talk about opening up, that starts with sharing stories that connect to shared values. Maybe you and your counterpart had a similar upbringing, similar family lives, or have the same religious views. Sharing these things takes vulnerability, since you may not want people to know certain things about your life. Of course there are things that you will always want to keep private, but sometimes just showing that you are you willing to talk to others about yourself outside of the situation you are in can show the other party that you are willing to talk about yourself in a deeper fashion, can get others to open up.

HONESTY

Nothing positive can begin without starting on a platform of honesty. No one wants to be lied to. Even if the conversations are tough, it’s better off for both parties to have an open dialogue with the air clear, than one where the stench of bullshit fills the room. You can’t fix a problem in which the facts are not clearly presented. You can’t help someone if you really don’t know what is going on. And although the truth may hurt at times, that truth is better than the lie.

Also, remember that honesty comes from observation, not judgement. Telling someone that they suck is judging someone. They may be struggling with something that you don’t know about. They may be doing one simple thing wrong that is leading to poor performance. Whatever the case is, by simply observing and saying, “hey, I see that you are struggling, let’s talk about that,” is the much more effective, non-confrontational way of being honest that will lead to effective and positive conversation.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION [both verbal and nonverbal]

Every relationship expert will tell you that communication is the key to an effective relationship. I believe that to be true, only after you having made the decision that you will be vulnerable and honest with your counterpart. Once these two things are established, then effective communication can take place. I put an emphasis on the word effective because you communicate with people everyday. From a simple glance across the room, to checking out at the grocery store. But effective communication that results in having a healthy and productive relationship for both sides means that you are willing to have a real conversation because you have each let your guard down somewhat, and then are willing to engage with each other physically. This does not mean sex. What it does mean rather is that no one trusts another person if they don’t look them right in the eye and fully engage in conversation.

Even if you need to kneel down to look directly into someone’s eyes, the effect of eye-to-eye contact is invaluable in establishing conversation. Think about when you had a conversation with someone who is not looking at you - how did that make you feel? Probably disrespected, upset, and feeling like no one was listening. No one should feel like that. Effective relationships start with good eye contact, and a body language that says, “I’m fully present and available for this moment we are about to have.”

When it comes to verbal communication, again, observe, don’t judge. This includes listening and speaking through an observational lens. You are not judging, you are attending to what is happening in the moment. You are responding calmly, yet firmly to what is happening - even when you have to put your foot down to make a point. When in doubt, just listen. Especially when someone is going through a troubling time, they are just looking for someone to hear their concerns, whether they are valid or not. The last thing you want to do [and the thing that could potentially damage the relationship] is having your counterpart walk away thinking that they could not speak to you because you were not listening or responding in a way that was respectful, where the conversation was good or not.

TRUST

Most people believe that trust is something that needs to be earned, just like respect. “You need to earn my trust” is a statement that most coaches say at the start of a new year. The problem with that is first, leaders need to realize that they need to be trusted as well and second, beginning the relationship under the veil of trust is better than having to constantly question themselves. Much of this comes from the idea that during the beginning phase of the relationship, promises [aka commitments] are made. They may be made when you are first hired at a new job, or when you are in the middle of the recruiting process. These commitments hinge on the fact that both parties are willing to be totally available and fully engaged, and that each person will keep their word.

Trust begins to fall apart when two things happen: someone does not hold up their end of the bargain and then commitments are broken. If you lose a starting spot on the team because you did not put in the work needed, that is fair. However, bonds of trust can begin to tear when you are benched without proper explanation and it breaking the deal that you made in the recruiting process or the start of the season. Conversations about trust issues are difficult ones to have indeed. However, if communicated effectively and fairly, whether the result is positive or not, not going back on your commitments is the key to making transitions smooth and keeping the relationship intact.

As we said in the beginning of this piece, building good relationships is a skill. Like any the journey to mastering any skill, it requires practice and failure. We have all failed at a relationship at some point. And when we do, just like we should do in everything that we fail at, we regroup, reexamine, then get back on the horse and try again. If your team is struggling, whether it is in an office setting or out in the athletic field, it is never a wrong time to start to strengthen the bonds you have with your co-workers and/or peers. Remember that you can be the smartest, the fastest, maybe even the most skilled, but without putting relationships first, you will never obtain the goals that you want to obtain. Because relationships are the glue that hold together great teams.

4 STEPS TO AN EFFECTIVE RELATIONSHIP

STEP 1: Be vulnerable. Open up to the other person, share personal stories, and find areas in which you have shared values. Those values are the building blocks of a healthy relationship.

STEP 2: Be honest. People know when they are being lied to [especially young people, who get lied to all the time]. Nothing healthy involves dishonesty. Even if the truth hurts, that pain could be the thing that helps turn a challenging situation into one in which they can start to succeed.

STEP 3: Communicate effectively. Look into someone’s eyes when you are talking to them and listen to what they have to say with some empathy. Understand where they are coming from. Being fully engaged with not just your ears, but your heart, and your body language can have long lasting benefits.

STEP 4: Trust the person you are talking to. Trust is built be first not going back on the commitments that you have made and secondly, continually communicating decisions that you make so that when tension arises, you have a clear and fair understanding of your decision making.

 

Why Decisions are About Commitment

Why Decisions are About Commitment

Everything we do is a decision. Easy decisions result in our day-to-day activities. They are decisions that we make are simple and have been ingrained in our makeup since we were young: Do I take a shower or not? Do I brush my teeth or just mouthwash? Do I eat this apple rather than that orange?

There are also decisions that we make that do not happen on a daily basis that are a bit more challenging. They are the ones that challenge us to be committed to our core values, the people that we care about, the things that we really want to do, or the person that we wish to become.

These decisions are hard. But no one ever said that doing the right thing was going to be easy.

Sadly [myself included], we have all made poor decisions at one point or another. It maybe because it’s easier to do the wrong thing than the “right” thing. It could be because making the right decision for yourself is not popular amongst your peers. Whatever your rationale is for doing what you do, it all comes down to one thing: how committed are you to staying connected to your values and being the best version of yourself.

Take a look at these examples and see if they remind you of anything you have done [or may even be doing]:

If you want to be a good father, it’s probably best that you don’t run around bars late at night with people who don’t have the responsibilities you do. What are you more committed to - being the best father that you can be or running around downtown like an asshole? I think that you know the answer to that one.

If you want to be a good teammate, would it behoove you to not just support your teammates in moments of victory, but also challenge them in times where they mess up? Being a good teammate doesn’t just mean that you are a great cheerleader - it means that you hold the people on your team accountable when they don’t hold up their end of the bargain. What are you more committed to in that moment - being a good teammate or a good buddy?

If an opportunity to disappear from work takes place so you can drink with your friends before work is officially over, knowing damn well you are not going to get your work done at all that day, what do you do? What are you committed to? People pay you good money because they EXPECT good work from you. They EXPECT you to be committed. But sometimes getting that cold one with your friends is a bit more tempting that sitting at the desk and being responsible.

I think that you get the picture.

Being committed and making the right decisions that are connected to your values all comes down to self-awareness. If you are not self-aware of who you really are, by making decisions that are not good for you at all, then becoming your best self is just not going to happen.

You are going to continue to drink with your buddies rather that get work done, be a friend rather than a teammate, and put yourself before your family.

Stay committed to being aware of who you are and what you value. And although there maybe times in which you wish you were doing something else rather than being responsible, doing the right thing in the long run is better for you and the people that want you to be your best self. When the two of those mediums are at peace, I think you are going to like the situation that you are in.