Imagine that you get in at work in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, say hi to your co-workers and sit down at your desk. You are ready to start the day and feel motivated about doing your job as good as humanly possible. Your boss comes walking up besides you, stops, looks down at you and say ”Last week you didn’t look sharp. Can you try to be a bit more sharp today?” before moving on to the next desk. You sit there at your desk with your coffee cup and a blank stare of chock and thinking, what? What goes through your head after your boss’ comment?
Now, imagine that after lunch your whole department has been called to a meeting in the conference room, your thoughts from this mornings strange encounter has finally gone away and you’re feeling good again. It was a good lunch and you are talking to some of your co-workers, one of them is who is telling a joke that’s kind of funny and that makes you have a big smile on your face when you sit down at the conference table. Your boss comes rushing in and stands before your group at the whiteboard portraying a body language that you struggle to interpret, you think it’s probably stress, or maybe fear. The boss starts drawing something on the whiteboard that starts to look like a re-organization of your department when words finally appear that confirms your assumption. Before starting on this project, that by the way is the most important one of the year and one that the existence of the company may depend on, the boss tells you to change your desk to the other side of the office. In addition your boss gives you new responsibilities that you have never done before.
Now, just imagine that your boss starts speaking to the group and says ”This project is all about who wants it the most. If we want this more than our competitors, we have a chance of winning this contract. What I want to see from you today is that you fight, stay sharp and have confidence. And don’t loose the data. Take the data with a high tempo forward. That’s what will make us win. So go out in the office and be really sharp!” and then walks out of the conference room.
Naturally it’s impossible to imagine a boss at your workplace to talk like this to the employees, but this is happening in workplaces within football (soccer) every week. Bosses, or football coaches as they like to be known, communicate with players of all ages, boys and girls, amateurs and professionals, in this non-contextual way every week and before each game. When you think back to the time when you played the game you will recognize coaches you have had that communicated in the same way as the example above. Of course, far from every coach talks to their players in this way, but it’s definitively too many, and maybe you are one of them? Perhaps you talk to your players this way because that’s the way your coach talked to you, which means it’s correct, right? Maybe you don’t really know what to say to your team before the cup-final game against your rivals but you have to say something, right? Wrong.
However, the good news is that you are not alone in using words without meaning when communicating with you players. And if you recognize that you are using non-contextual bullsh*t, you have already come a long way and given yourself a big opportunity to improve as a coach. The first step is to change from being a bad boss to start becoming a leader. Your players deserve someone who leads them through ups- and downs, guides them to the answers and through the learning process while picking them up when they stumble. In stead of throwing non-contextual words like ”fight”, ”confidence” and ”sharp” at your players, they deserve to know what you as their leader really think they should do in order to improve. Your players want to do everything they can to help you and to make you succeed together. So, get started today and practice becoming a leader, start by communicating to your players in a way that you expect from your boss, and make sure that you tell them what you (really) mean!