by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com
Our brains are hardwired. Firmly fixed in the ways we perceive the world.
For coaches, you ignore these hardwires at your peril. If you do ignore them, odds are your coaching efforts will fail.
We have numerous hardwires, but there are 3 critical ones you need to know about because every time you work with people these hardwires start buzzing.
Hardwire #1: People crave stories
Think back to your early schooling. Remember the story of Columbus sailing the “ocean blue in 1492?” Or Aesop’s Fables? Or those books like “Captains Courageous?” Stories were the way we learned.
Today, it’s stories like Harry Potter, House of Cards, and The Martian that grab and hold our attention — because we are hardwired for them.
How this impacts you. First, a story will help get your point across. Telling an athlete to “eat a good breakfast on competition day” won’t inspire habit-breaking action. Yet, your story of Bobby, who skipped breakfast and on his way to break the Conference record ran out of gas and collapsed 10 meters from the finish line, just might inspire the action you want.
Second, people hate story-vacuums. If they believe a story is missing, they will create their own.
For instance, years ago, I removed a member from the team for disciplinary reasons. I believed it best to only tell the team, “Betty Sue will no longer be with us as we try to win a championship.” I thought, “That’s that!”
Not even close.
Team members filled in the vacuum of what I didn’t say with god knows what. Her dismissal became a “drama-point” for weeks, and drained the team of critical mental energy.
Since then, I implant a story in other’s minds before they create their own.
Hardwire #2: People are the center of their stories
This story thing gets more involved because we are hardwired to be the center of our stories. It is, no kidding, all about us. We are the center of our own Universe.
It doesn’t matter if you are the most giving and selfless person in the World, it is still your-story.
How this impacts you. Each athlete has a story, and he is the center of that story. Going one step further — you are the center of your own story, Coach.
Again, so what? Well, think about that for a moment. Constantly running through our heads are me-stories. Your athletes see their time with the team from their perspective. You see your coaching from your perspective.
Understanding this hardwire gives you insight into athlete behavior, and also yours.
For instance, going home torqued because an athlete disappointed you at practice? That’s your-story. At this very moment the athlete is creating her-story. Understanding both stories will help you be better prepared for the next outing.
Hardwire # 3: People value approval over results
“I’d rather be liked than be right.” I heard that a while ago in a locker room.
I get it.
We are hardwired for approval. Okay, some folks don’t have this wiring, but I bet many of your athletes and peers do. Odds are, you do to.
How this impacts you. Let me share two perspectives. First, relationships, especially with youngsters, are often more important than winning.
Second, wording is critical. Read both of these:
- “I liked your effort. Next time, with some improvements, you might win.”
- “You are not playing the way we want. Play better so we can win.”
The first one has approval, the second is about results. Think how each of those plays out in the athlete’s me-story. If you want better performance from me, give me the first one any day.
How about you? And what if results get you approval? How does that play out? There’s a question to chew on.
Action You Can (and should) Take
As a coach, you take on the role of a lay-psychologist. You benefit when you understand the working of your athlete’s mind.
Interesting, to thrive in coaching, you need to understand the workings of your own mind, also.
For better understanding, try each hardwire:
- See how stories resonate with your team.
- Ask yourself what your-story is. Ask an athlete what his-story he is telling himself.
- See how approval comments do or don’t impact the quality of action you get.
Knowing what goes on in the other person’s mind makes you a better coach. Knowing what goes on in yours, makes you a better person.