“How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens.”
Alexander the Great
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great 2017 and here’s to you having an even better 2018. Remember, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man”. Ol’ Ben Franklin said that.
I wanted to start this year off with the topic of identity or more specifically, your team’s identity. I am not necessarily talking about how others outside of your team think of your team, although, that can certainly be affected. No, I am talking about it from a psychological perspective of your own team.
Why this topic you may ask? It’s quite simple really, you might even say literal. Successful teams usually have a good or positive team identity. In other words, identity, in relation to that of a team, is when individual teammates have a positive perspective of their team. They essentially put the needs of the team before their own. For instance, I would imagine that members of Edmonton Impact walk around feeling proud of their accomplishments, which in turn, creates a shared bond of sorts between them. The team identity is one of success, winning, and brotherhood.
This sort of attitude among teammates is critical as it can and will ultimately lead to all sorts of measurable success. It should breed good performances which in turn should create a competitive edge over others. How you might ask? If you have confidence in your teammate that he will do his job, you can relax and focus better on your own. How many times have you heard Zen say, “If you don’t trust the guy in front of you, behind you, beside you, your team will lose”? If you appreciate your teammate for what he brings to the table, this more than likely, will elicit positive emotions towards them. That will then lead to other behaviors and have a positive cultural impact among the team. Trust and cooperation amongst teammates will become the norm and this should bring results.
If a team feels a sense of “family” (a term thrown around way too much, almost to the point of belittling the importance of the word so let’s change that), if they have a sense of “oneness” as a team, that environment will create more positive energy… and that can be addictive… like winning. When identity is prevalent, you will find team members putting the needs of the team ahead of their own. Vice Versa, if a team doesn’t have much of an identity, what you will probably encounter are a lot of individuals running around like a bunch of circus clowns.
When a team has a shared and proud identity, members will more effectively coordinate their efforts to achieve team goals. The whole “we” argument vs the “I” argument. It’s a powerful motivator, to know you are all on the same page, have the same goals. A feeling of team unity motivates individuals to commit more time and energy to achieve the team’s goals.
Now, it would be obtuse of me to not mention the counter to all of this. When team identity is weak or lacking, you will find a team where the members are more focused on what’s in it for them. I don’t think I have to tell what affect this will have. Let’s just say that orchestrating a successful integration of team member skills will become significantly more difficult and compromise the team’s performance.
So how do you create team identify or rather a positive one? What are some things as a coach or owner or captain that we can do or “identify”? It breaks down to three things we have discussed in the past; Purpose, Emotion and Behavior.
Purpose is simply a shared goal. How many times have we talked about goals? Everyone needs to recognize the purpose of the team and the path to reach said purpose. This can be multi-faceted or layered but I would imagine the end result is to be successful at winning. Now, there can be several sub goals/purposes but they should all lead to the main purpose/goal of winning. Everyone’s perception needs to be the same regarding what success is and everyone’s value to the end game must be clear. The purpose will have a domino effect – e.g. you must practice, the purpose of practice is to get better, the purpose of getting better is to win, so on and so forth.
Creating this purpose and value really goes back to where we talked about the team’s culture. That culture will influence the sustainability of the team identity—this includes the effectiveness of leaders’ activities at reinforcing a team’s identity. So you must create an environment that promotes this thinking. Of course, it helps to be a smart recruiter. That’s why I always look for the hard workers and coachable players as opposed to the super star. If I can find both in the same player, well, you found gold. Which leads to the next factor…
The emotional aspect each team member brings to the table is a critical component to team identity. When everyone is aligned emotionally, their playing needs are considered when deciding how to coordinate and direct performance efforts. Being aware of each member’s feelings on specific team oriented topics is basic communication and you will need this to be effective in your pursuit. Now, what does that mean really? It means when you’re hot, you’re hot. If you are bringing it at practice and playing well, you will start/play. And if you aren’t, you know it, recognize it, and are happy for your teammate. That makes sense yeah? I’m laughing to myself because there may be a few of you out there rationalizing or arguing this aspect. Remember the whole purpose thing we just talked about?
Behavior associated with team identity consists of the “coordinated” action. You know, when everyone recognizes the purpose/goals of the team and does what they need to accomplish it? See, if everyone puts what is best for the team first and all of the time, that’s like stepping on the gas to reach effective results. An example might be that you got to practice early so you start doing what you can to make sure when the rest of your teammates arrive, the little things are already done. You gridded the field, you blew up bunkers, you did what you knew needed to be done without being asked. This leads to more time practicing for the team as a whole as opposed to using some of the limited time the team has on menial tasks of preparing to practice.
Not only should team identity positively impact tangible, short-term outcomes by leading to effective accomplishment of team goals, it should also positively impacts less tangible and longer-term outcomes by solidifying effective team processes and increasing satisfaction and commitment of team members. That means the team becomes more efficient and happy. And a team that is efficient, happy, likes one another… well, they are more than likely to improve quicker. And what does that usually mean? One word: Winning.
So what will your team identity be?
Now, I want to take this topic on a slightly different route before I close. Let’s mix a little resolution and a little identity together shall we? This one is for the NXL actually…
“Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.”
Something that has really irked me over the past year is the webcast commentary. Make no mistakes; I appreciate Matty and the crew for what they are trying to do. However, something they have done CONSTANTLY since the webcast began, bothers me and quite frankly, there really isn’t any excuse for it. It is an easily solved issue but one that continues to plague the webcast event after event.
Know the professional players’ name. ALL OF THEM. How difficult is that? It isn’t! How difficult is it to have a roster in front of you with the player’s name and number? How many of you, when watching the webcast, have heard commentary like this?
“Keith Brown takes the snake but gets picked up by the Katana player at the wall.”
“Ryan Greenspan is in a gun battle with the Outlaws player who, I think may have slipped a ball in on him.”
“The Boom player just made a great shot cross field on Thomas Taylor.”
These players worked hard to get where they are. They should be shown the respect they deserve, to be recognized, to have an identity. So they aren’t household names in the world of paintball… but you could help change that. It would certainly sound more professional if you put a name with the screen shot. It isn’t a lot to ask but could go a very long way on several levels. Have each team hand you their rosters with names and numbers and if they don’t match up, hey, that’s on the team. A little work can go a long way.
Someone once said that you are your brand. You can’t build your brand if those who have the power to do so in the box don’t recognize (or care) who you are. Come on NXL… you can do better.
Okay, that’s it for this month. Here’s to everyone chasing your goals and the 2018 season. May it be awesome.
Be water my friends