These days, it seems that the same common concepts are stressed over and over in order to ensure team success. But I believe, from pee-wee to pro, that this standard coaching paradigm is simply not bringing out the best in our athletes. For evidence, just look at the erratic behavior of many well-known players. Not to mention that consistent excellence on the field — i.e., dynasties (yes, I am aware of salary caps) — has become a thing of the past.
So, if you and your team, company, or family are after steady achievement, reflect on these ten surprising concepts. Then see if any of them make sense for you.
1. Keep goal-setting to a bare minimum, if instituted at all.
Goal-setting narrows focus, which, contrary to popular opinion, limits opportunities and shrinks the perceptual field (awareness). It’s okay to possess the burning desire to win. In fact, I prefer that teams do. However, because winning has no ability to regulate your happiness or self-worth, relish the journey and experience instead of single-mindedly setting your sights on a title. If you do, the imaginative path to success will become evident on its own.
2. Recognize and embrace individuality.
Even within team environments, it is essential that individuality be fostered and encouraged. Why? Free will is the number one ingredient to productive behaviors and performances. A person will simply not perform to the best of his or her ability if the person’s inner wisdom (intuition or personal thought system) is compromised.
3. Limit rules and expectations.
To me, codes of conduct do not work. The inner conflict between what a person thinks is right, and what an organization tells the person is right, binds and confuses all individuals. This bewilderment creates dysfunction. Rather, here’s a freeing alternative: Hold individuals accountable to acting from elevated states of mind and pulling back from deflated states of mind — stop telling them which actions are, or are not, acceptable.
4. Encourage love for, and respect of, opponents.
Love and respect are the ultimate symptoms of a high level of consciousness — “the zone.” Hate and disrespect are symptoms of the opposite mind-set. So, just ask yourself, “How do I feel when I am not considerate of others, when I resent my opponents, or when I hold them in contempt?” Now why would you ever want your team to perform from this insecure psychological perspective?
5. Discourage the creation of a pecking order.
When people operate from low levels of well-being, they dwell on their differences. They become insulated and egotistical, and, in a team setting, it often appears that certain members are more valuable than others. Not so. Although roles vary, if you remove one piece from the puzzle the team ceases to be whole and its natural chemistry and functioning become impaired.
6. Do not stress communication.
Believe it or not, one reason that teams fail is because people overcommunicate. They speak when they are not capable (they are in a low mind-set), and listen when they should not (they are in a low mind-set). Lack of communication is never a real issue. A person’s state of mind when he or she communicates, or he or she does not communicate, is the only key to productive interactions between teammates.
7. Do not adhere to a specific team “culture.”
When forced to adhere to the edicts of once-successful traditions, ethics, or customs, a team is adopting someone else’s recollection of the way to perform, which has no relevance now. Buying into a culture binds a person’s thinking, thwarts free will, and creates followers who are not capable of coming through in the big moment.
8. Leave the past in the past.
The past, like a culture, is simply a thought system carried through time. No matter how hard you try, you cannot replicate a former triumph, technique, or feel. They are smoke; they no longer exist. Keep in mind, young players don’t care about the good old days. They intuitively live in the present — don’t lead them away from it.
9. Drive effort with freedom.
There is a huge difference between hard work and best effort. Yet, teams continue to promote a grind-it-out paradigm that has little to do with success. Achievement is the result of fluent thinking, passion, and freedom. Why, then, when a team isn’t in this mind-set, do coaches preach diligence, desperation, or hard work? If a team isn’t giving its best there’s only one reason: The players are trying to control a natural instinct — effort. The biggest mistake a team can make.
10. Teach that state of mind is relevant, while behavior irrelevant.
This last characteristic is the foundation for the rest of the list. The most clear thinking leaders recognize that judging a person’s behavior serves little purpose. So, since errant behavior spawns from internal suffering or a low state of mind, demonstrate the importance of understanding and supporting all members of your organization — no matter their behavior or how much playing time you give them. Remember, a high level of compassion always leads to a high level of consciousness, and, in turn, a consistently high level of performance.
Garret Kramer, author of Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life, is the founder and managing partner of Inner Sports, LLC. His revolutionary approach to performance has transformed the careers of professionals athletes and coaches, Olympians, and collegiate players across a multitude of sports. Kramer’s work has been featured on WFAN, ESPN, Fox, and CTV, as well as in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other national publications.