2+2=5? Personality of a Team

OF course 2+2 does not equate to 5. But I believe the sum should always be greater than its parts, just like the teams I work with.

A few years ago I was asked to present to a group of coaches and discuss “Team Chemistry” and the importance of understanding all the different pieces that make the whole. I began by telling the group that much like a jigsaw, there needs to be an image of what the finished product should look like before we begin to put the pieces together. However, unlike a jigsaw our pieces don’t always come with compatible edges that seamlessly slide together to collectively form the finished product.

Rinus Michels, the creator of total football said “Teambuilding is a theoretical, well structured process in which the coach has to understand the logical cohesion between the parts – like a mechanic with a car.” He’s not wrong – imagine having to drive your car with no engine, or not having windshield wipers when its raining. If you’re able to picture that, now picture what your team would like without the physical and motivational engine you have playing in the center of the pitch – Who happens to be the driving force of encouragement, who barks their orders out like a drill sergeant, fueling the rest of the team with their positive words and actions. Or the holding midfielder who sweeps away any problems before they happen and breaks up the flow of the opponent, allowing the back four to breath a little easier.

These are just two roles that I look to fill on the teams I coach. But…it may not always be possible to find the player who can identity with being a turbo charged v8 engine with fuel lines that extend to all the other players. So what do I do to fill that void? I understand the personalities of the players I have, what characteristics and traits each has and what they bring to the team dynamic. Then the process can begin.

Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) wrote about the character ethic vs the personality ethic. He discusses the personality ethic as opposed to character as the driving force behind an individual’s success. The way we dress, interact with others in social settings, have a positive mental attitude along with skills and techniques needed in our line of work, etc. What I find interesting about that, is we may find ourselves so caught up in what the perception of our personality should be, that we lose sight of who we really are. Each person on a team brings so much more than their personality to the fold. It’s who they are today and who they’ll one day become that I look for when putting the pieces together. I want players who are not afraid to learn from mistakes and listen to their teammates advice, who can manage situations without seeking help from the coach, who are self critical and self aware, and have a commitment to their individual growth and development. Recognizing how important self-motivation is, I bring the players together and discuss the process of what motivates them. We go over the three components of motivation – 1. Activation 2. Persistence 3. Intensity, and we see how our core values relate to the three. I want the team as a whole to remain focused and motivated on the day to day process and not any expected or desired future outcomes. Our target is always to know more today than we did tomorrow, to do the small things right and let the bigger picture on the front of the box take shape.

Managing different personalities is never easy, but I have found one of the simplest ways to do so is by listening. Understanding my players, their needs, their habits, and what drives them allows me to help them as individuals, but also see how best to use them in the team dynamic. I allow my players ownership of their team, and in doing so I see relationships forged and a sense of team identity soon follows. I merely set the conditions  by creating an environment where everyone has equal roles and responsibilities, and I demand a go-for-it atmosphere during training. I encourage players to ask questions of themselves and look for and offer positive feedback. The challenge is not so much adapting as a coach to cater to so many different personalities, its getting them to believe that their strength lies in their diversity. David Nolan, a close friend and the Head Women’s Soccer Coach at Georgetown University wrote the following “Team Chemistry is an intangible that separates all great teams from good ones. It ranks up there alongside talent as one of the primary ingredients of being successful. As a coach I try to invest as much time as possible building the chemistry on my team.” 

Chemistry (chem.is.try) 1. the branch of science that deals with the identification of the substances of which matter is composed; the investigation of their properties and the ways in which they interact, combine, and change. 2. the complex emotional or psychological interaction between two or more people.

Thoughts? Ideas? Please share, its makes us all better.2013 NPL National Champions