Improving verbal communication

One of the major components of leading in football is communication. If you as a coach have a clear reference for your communication and take the game and the action that takes place within it as a starting point, the chance that everyone understands you increases. In the posts Being a role model and Leading by example the importance of what your body language, behavior and actions communicate to your players and staff was highlighted with some examples. The importance of verbal communication to players and staff where highlighted in the posts How do you communicate with your players and How do you communicate with your staff. In these posts some suggestions for practical application like  using a common (football) language and defining words and the terminology that is used are made. Doing this together with the players and staff regularly will increase the chance that everyone understands what you are talking about. However, even though you have done this there might still be room to improve your communication.

When you want to improve as a coach and execute better leading, one integral part is to increase the quality of your verbal communication with your surroundings. Imagine that you come to the office and are leading your staff through a short meeting. When you leave you do so with a feeling of certainty that everyone on your staff knows what to do next. Even better, when some of your staff leaves the meeting you overhear a comment that confirms that they really got it and feel motivated to work. One of the consequences of a higher quality in verbal communication is that your time spent in meetings will decrease. However, it can of course also improve your relationship with your staff, players and external stakeholders in an array of different ways. But how do you improve the quality of your verbal communication?

The first step is to increase your level of your self-awareness of verbal communication, meaning that you have to get an idea of the what and how of your current level of verbal communication. The What being the knowledge and content that you are communicating and the How being your application of your knowledge verbally. Maybe your theoretical knowledge of verbal communication and your content is very good and it’s your application that need improving. Or perhaps it’s the other way around, that you need to acquire the theoretical knowledge or improve the content that you are delivering verbally. But how do you know what it is you need to improve, or in different words, how do you increase your self-awareness of verbal communication?

There are several different ways to reach a higher level of self-awareness when it comes to your verbal communication. One is to reflect on what you say, how you say it and what the response of the person or persons your are communicating with is. You do this by taking notes of your verbal interactions during the day and take time to reflect and summarize your reflections into learning points and/or action points before going to bed. You can also ask the people that you are verbally interacting with to give you feedback in different ways. Maybe you have a mentor or someone you trust in the club or on your staff that you ask for immediate feedback after for example a team meeting or press conference. Another way of receiving feedback from the people you interact with is to use a questionnaire that can easily be distributed and answered anonymously online. Both of these methods have their advantages and will help you raise your self-awareness of your verbal communication. However, there is a third method that is probably the most effective one of them all.

You should, if practically possible, film your verbal interactions as often as possible to review yourself afterwards. Ideally you should also have two angles, one of yourself and one of the person(s) you are interacting with. That way it is possible for you to see the effect of your words on the receivers of your communication in realtime. Now, this ideal situation is of course very difficult for most to achieve, but something almost everyone can arrange is filming of a lecture, press conference, team meeting, staff meeting and even one on ones with staff and players. Maybe you are thinking that it’s a crazy  idea to film a ’personal conversation’ with a staff member or player. However, if you explain the reason for doing so, most staff and players would probably say yes given that the nature of the conversation is not perceived as a threatening or difficult for the participant.

Seeing yourself on video is as real as you can get it and something that will raise your level of self-awareness to another level. Use your newly found knowledge about yourself to identify what it is you need to improve and act on it.

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