Culture doesn’t change overnight, but a shift in belief, focus and attitude can be seen in a team as soon as they decide to commit to making it happen.
What can a 45 minute conversation between coaching staff and best selling Author and speaker Jon Gordon and 20 copies of his book The Energy Bus do for a team on the brink of destruction? I just had the privilege of finding out exactly what can happen and it wasn’t a season of gradual change, it was only a week.
A small college team facing undertones of negativity, some that have been building from past seasons, combined with brand new players, two new coaches and a recipe for disaster. With players quitting on a daily basis and others ready to do the same, a phone call to Jon Gordon clarified exactly why the coaching staff needs to set the culture, rather than the staff reacting to a team set culture the whole season.
It went a little something like this..
day 1 – team is given the energy bus books and told that we need to make our culture a priority. Most of the players feeling like they really don’t want another book to read.. But they (most of them) reluctantly agree to read the first 1/4 of the book. Several eye rolls were spotted…
Day 3 – we meet and discuss the chapters before practice. Some of them have clearly read it and were enthusiastic, some have definitely not even read the first page. No major noticeable changes except a few do participate in the conversation. Still some eye rolling going on from those who didn’t read. Practice is still low energy, players still hanging out in small groups rather than all together. Some Negative self talk still going on.
Day 5- everyone seems to be reading the book, we are halfway through and more people are joining in the conversation. They are starting to relate the characters in the book to themselves. A vision is created by the players. Practice is still low energy but there is a little less drama going on. Coaches are starting to wonder if this is going to work inside of a week when the tickets will be sent out to get on the bus…but strive to remain positive.
Fast forward to the last day. The team is sent a bus ticket via email and told to sign it and return it to coach’s office if they are on the bus. Lots of breath holding and hoping…
Every player turns in a ticket. This is when the magic happened. Practice that night was clearly changed. The atmosphere was light, the players were no longer grouped into cliques, there was encouragement, laughing, and individual skills were even looking better. There was a shift in the atmosphere, in the self talk, in the purpose of being there. The talk was about the future rather than complaining of the past or present or about each other.
No, we didn’t right the Titanic in a week, but it felt like we patched the holes that were trying to flood our foundation and bring it down. The ship needs to be maintained throughout the season and we have work to do, but we’ve gotten a hold on the situation.
I know that if we had tried to work on each player individually and not brought our issues out in the open together, it would have taken a lot longer. By bringing the team together, creating a vision, and getting that commitment from them together to get on the bus- make a commitment to each other in writing, make the choice to be positive- we unified a team that appeared to be beyond repair.
Is your team on the bus this year? It’s not too late! I read this last year and was drawn into it immediately, and I’ve seen the effect it has on teams. You can read more about it here:
Happy Team Building!!