3135102614_748ba182ed_mRight now the world’s eyes are on international rugby, football, cricket and other sporting competitions.  Each match is “to do or die” for the players, with money, prestige and national pride riding on the outcome.

What do successful coaches say to their teams when they’re losing and are often frustrated and demoralized?

Is threatening the most effective strategy? In other words, motivate them by kicking their butts. Or is it more effective to find something that they are doing to praise? In other words, motivate them by making them feel good about themselves?

The answers to these questions are critical for sports coaches, but also for business leaders who deal with under-performance and for parents whose children are not performing to their potential.

Let’s start off with what we know (more here). It has been clearly established that harsh criticism, no matter how well deserved, isn’t a good motivator. On the other hand, trying to make them feel good about themselves also has been found to be an ineffective motivator. In brief, both threatening and trying to restore damaged self-esteem don’t result in sustained improvement of performance.

So let’s look at what sports coaches do and learn from them. It turns out that all coaches hold the players accountable and don’t shrink from tackling under-performance. But it’s the way that they do it that differentiates the successful coaches. They use a simple two-step process to motivate their team members learn, bounce back, and recover.

The two-step process for success in sports

The first step the successful coaches’ use is to point out what is working and going well. They do this because they want some important correct behavior to be repeated and not lost in the drive for improvement. For example: “Jean, your defensive tackles are really working. Keep on doing that to prevent the opposition making further progress”

The second step is to identify mistakes and lost opportunities that have prevented the athletes doing what they are good at. For example: “Jean, you were distracted by the foul, and you took your eye off the ball. That’s when they changed tactics and scored. So concentrate on marking your opposite number and that will prevent them from getting through again. Okay? ”

In summary, the successful coaches praise the things that team members are doing well, encouraging them to continue. They also identify specific mistakes and lost opportunities, and give alternative ways of dealing with the situation. Here’s how it works:

The two-step coaching process for success

Step one: identify what is working that you want to continue. This is what they are most likely doing naturally and effectively, that you don’t want them to stop. Say things like: “What’s really working is the way you are sticking to trying to solve the problem. You’re taking it seriously and you haven’t given up. Continue in that way and you must eventually succeed “. It’s much more effective to highlight positive aspects of the processes they are following, rather than emphasize the importance of the outcome.

Step two: identify the mistakes and lost opportunities, explaining how they are preventing the individual or team doing what they are good at. This is where you hold them accountable and tell them what they need to do to get back on track. Say things like: “You are spending too much time analyzing the problem. You’re looking at more and more issues, getting caught up in doing wider research. You have enough information, and its now time to move on to identifying what you do and how you will do it. That’ll help you move on to finding a solution.”

In summary, using this two-step process is what differentiates really successful coaches. It also works well in business and in parenting. It helps motivate people stay task-focused and productive during difficult times — enhancing their resilience.

Do you have a problem with under-performance in sport, at work or at home? If so, try these two steps to change under-performance to high-performance. It works!

Image courtesy  of Connor Millin  https://www.flickr.com/photos/connormillin/

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