As a coach, you should always be aware of what other teams, both within the organization and outside it, are doing. It seems that Belichick did not want team members looking forward and outside the organization – and he took the Giants lightly because of the wide popular opinion against them. It stands to reason, then, that an effective coach will not underestimate the competition’s preparation and determination – even if they seem to be losing.
Communication within teams is extremely important. Just as Coughlin created a communication strategy, Belichick could do the same thing in the next season. Each team member needs to know his or her role in the big picture, no matter how big or how small. When a coach takes the time to communicate this, either personally or through senior team members, the entire team takes on a new life of ownership and accountability.A coach’s ego has no place in a team. Belichick has taken quite a bit of constant criticism on his abrupt style and egotistical manner. Improvement to this situation should take on a balance between ego and non-ego, so that the public persona is not seen as an overly egotistical and unflinching person. It’s easy to become proud of a team that consistently performs – and as coaches we should certainly communicate our pride at all times. But when the pride turns into outright egotism, it’s time to tone it down.
Big problems should be addressed right away. When Belichick became involved in the spying scandal in 2007, he gave a quick admission but then refused to deal with the problem any further, saying that it created distraction. Not only does this give into the ego issue, it also shows an unwillingness to deal with a large issue at the time – and move on. Sometimes we may underestimate the impact of large problems on our teams, so coaches should move to deal with these problems right away – address them, answer questions about them, and even admit failure before the problems have an opportunity to fester.
Two of Belichick’s biggest issues can be detrimental to any coach and his or her outward perception. First, good coaches and leaders must have a total sense of self-awareness. In Belichick’s case, he may have self-awareness and just not care about the perception side of it. But what we have to remember as coaches, leaders, and managers is that perception is often a reality. With just a few seconds to go and a final play still to come, Belichick walked off the field at Superbowl XLII. Even though he gave a half-hearted hug to Coughlin, his breach of sportsmanship definitely sounded a negative tone. Simple acts such as walking off the field can cause major problems for others’ perceptions of us, so always be aware of how you’re being perceived by your team – and its opposition. In fact, poor choices that affect perception can expose any of you or your teams’ weaknesses. Coaches should be keenly aware of how they are perceived.
The second big issue Belichick should deal with is a lesson for any coach, manager, or leader. One leadership style does not fit all. In fact, “bad” leaders are seen as people who consistently stick to one style, be it authoritarian, democratic, or laissez-faire. What Belichick can do, and what all coaches and leaders should learn, is to modify style based on the situation. A coach can do this through careful analysis and evaluation of both the problem and the team members who are involved. If the situation deals with a team member who has been known as a wild card, like Randy Moss, a coach or leader can react in an authoritarian fashion. On the other hand, if team members have a level of maturity, the coach or leader can allow some leeway by taking a more participative stance.
Remember to be aware of the opposition, communicate and acknowledge each team member’s role, leave your ego behind, address big problems right away, be aware of perception, and practice a situational coaching style. When you do, you’ll find that a high performing team can transform into a winning team – and stay that way.
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