[This is part five in the series on effective persuasion for sport coaches. Click here for the other articles.]
I was one of those-coaches.
I thought I could persuade a team to do something just because I was the coach. I imagined I’d roll into a practice, tell them, “Go do this,” and they’d scramble to get it done.
That dream world evaporated quickly.
Teams are tough. Y’see, persuading one player can be a challenge. But persuading a team … jeez, a team is much harder to persuade than one person. So-Much-Harder.
There are three reasons for that. Two are about the team, one is about you. You have three techniques to counter those reasons. Warning — ignore them at your own peril.
Technique #1: No Free Riders
In 1927, Max Ringelmann experimented with people pulling on ropes. Sounds bizarre, yet he discovered something important about teams. Members of a group extended less effort working as a group than when they pulled the rope by themselves. In other words, an individual’s effort reduces when a group of people are doing the same thing at the same time.
Similar experiments have studied clapping, shouting, and even in my sport — rowing. All have found similar results: when in groups the effort level of the individual reduces.
Have you noticed anything like this with your team? It’s called Social Loafing, it’s human nature, and it is enough to drive a coach nuts. Especially when YOU think you have them convinced to take positive action.
The belief is Social Loafing happens because the individual feels his effort will not matter to the group. Or, the person may want to “hide in the crowd” to escape blame if things go bust.
Regardless of the specific psychological reasons why Social Loafing happens, it happens. Here are a few things we’ve learned about it over the years:
- women are less prone to loaf than are men
- loafing becomes more pronounced in longer activities
- individuals are more likely to loaf when their peers are expected to perform well
- when you expect more out of the entire group, less loafing occurs
- loafing happens less when the group members know each other
How do you counter Social Loafing? From the list above, a few things jump out. Shorter activities, high expectations and accountability for everyone, and group familiarization.
- Article: Examining Social Loafing Among Elite Female Rowers – Mark Anshel
- Article: Social Loafing In Interactive Groups – Rune Hoigaard & Rolf Ingvaldsen
- Book: Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive – Noah Goldstein
Technique #2: Which Value Really Counts?
Value is at the heart of persuading an individual. We’ve discussed that. The same holds for your team. You need to know what they value, as a collective. When you know that answer your ability to persuade your team increases dramatically.
So … what does your team value? That’s the critical question.
Ah, but there are three distinct challenges to team values:
- A team is a living, breathing organism — one that changes yearly, monthly, weekly, heck, even daily. What a team values today, they might not value tomorrow. And don’t count on them telling you each time it changes.
- The tough part is when (note: “when” not “if”) there are conflicting values on a team. Bob wants to win so bad his teeth ache or it. Sam just wants to learn the sport, while Jack values being with his friends. Values for people in the groups vary, you have to find the common value.
- The team’s values could be in opposition to your values. You want to win the conference champs, they just want to get the season over as soon as possible. Sense trouble there?
Here’s two tools that might help. One, find a common team value. Is there one or more values that the entire team wants? Ask, then listen, LISTEN, to what they want. Grab onto something that the team values as a collective.
Second — compromise. Coming to a compromise when there is a wide range of values is hard. Compromise takes action, understanding, empathy. Yet, compromise may help you overcome conflicting values.
- Book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert B. Cialdini
- Article: Successful Coaches’ Views On Motivation and Motivational Strategies – Brent Hansen, Wade Gilbert & Tim Hamel
Technique #3: No Energy Shortage
It takes energy to persuade someone — a lot. Even more energy when dealing with groups.
I can mentor 6 individual students a day, but a one hour practice with those same athletes can wear me down. Have you noticed that with groups? With your team?
Many coaches I talk to acknowledge their energy can fade, especially if the team is challenging. But you need energy to persuade. It takes juice to fascinate — the harder to fascinate the more juice you need.
What do you do to avoid an energy shortage? Normal health and exercise will help. Along with focused planning, helping hands, and recharging during practices.
There are other factors that can make team persuasion challenging. Things such as fear of public speaking or poor presentation skills. Yet, Social Loafing, team-values, and lack of energy can sink your persuasive powers. You need to nail those techniques to counter attack.
As a review, here are four suggestions you can do to improve your effectiveness in persuading your team:
- Invest time in getting your players to know each other (reduces social loafing)
- Find common value for your team (reduces conflict)
- Come to compromise (focuses intent)
- Energize yourself (improves ability to fascinate)
Persuading is what we do as a coach. Seldom easy, always important. Be mindful of these 3 anchors and you may find yourself a much improved persuader.
I’d like to persuade you to do two things. First, try one of my This Old Coach podcasts. Short, sweet, helpful. Second, if you enjoyed this article or the series please Tweet it. Or share it on Facebook. Coach well, we need ya!