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Cal South E-News // September 2009 COACHING EDUCATION

September 15, 2009

Coaching Education content provided by the NSCAA

Eight "Don'ts" of Leadership

1. Don't stray from your mission and vision.
Mission and vision are crucial to team effectiveness. A mission statement defines a team's purpose, while a vision statement describes a desired future state that fulfills the mission statement. Once established, mission and vision guide teams in developing and using specific strategies and plans. Teams can lose sight of the big picture and get lost in details as pressure for results increases. When that happens, remind team members of their mission and vision by asking, "Is that consistent with our mission?" or "In what other ways can we achieve our vision?"

2. Don't tolerate unacceptable behavior.
Behavior is so crucial to team success or failure that a willingness to abide by agreed-upon values and norms should be a qualification for membership. Making that expectation non-negotiable sends a strong message: when people refuse to abide by expectations, they are deciding not to be on the team. Members allowed to remain in spite of their behavior will undermine the team's morale and performance. Typically, values and norms evolve over time and remain unspoken and unwritten unless they're violated. Though a team leader can't control how the members feel about each other, he/she can make behavioral expectations clear. Team members often test limits to see whether the leader is serious about the standards. A leader who champions positive behavior gains respect, while a leader who ignores negative behavior loses it. A leader's credibility hinges on modeling the values and norms and holding members accountable.

3. Don't allow self-interest to prevail over mutual interest.
A team can outperform individuals working alone, but only if the members suspend self-interest in favor of mutual interest. Some people have trouble working in teams because they're unwilling to share control, while others are unable to make the adjustment from independence to interdependence. Team members can sense when someone has a hidden agenda or is seeking personal gain. The result is resentment, competition and conflict. A leader can deal with it by making teamwork a criterion for satisfactory performance. If self-promoters aren't held accountable, they have no incentive to behave differently. Once they realize that they can't succeed without contributing to the team, they must reassess their actions.

4. Don't allow fear to control team behavior.
Fear focuses on preventing negative things from happening instead of making positive things happen. It is an invisible barrier between people and keeps them from developing effective work relationships. A leader can help team members neutralize fear by championing norms like honoring confidentiality, encouraging risk-taking and honest communication, sharing opinions, agreeing to disagree without taking it personally, treating each other with respect, dealing with issues face-to-face, supporting decisions everyone doesn't agree with and giving all team members the same story.

5. Don't allow cliques to control team dynamics.
Cliques are troublesome because they prevent a team from becoming a cohesive unit. Cliques tend to compete with each other and exhibit self-interest over mutual interest. By their nature, they work against the larger team mission. A team leader should inform team members that cooperation is expected. Cliques don't usually go away on their own. A leader should convey that identifying and resolving clique differences is non-negotiable. Sometimes, you need an outside consultant to deal with those issues.

6. Don't shy away from conflict.
A leader shouldn't be afraid of conflict; cohesiveness cannot emerge without it. A team must learn that it can handle conflict, otherwise the members will never fully trust each other. Rather than avoid conflict, team members should resolve or manage it. Sometimes it's better for the whole team to discuss an issue. Other times it's better for the members directly involved to discuss it privately. Either way, there should be norms guiding how to handle conflict, and team members should expect to abide by them.

7. Don't accept lack of trust as an excuse.
Mistrust leads to fear and defensiveness. On the surface, it can appear as though people are getting along fine when in reality their relationships are calculated and controlled. It is much easier to build and maintain trust than it is to lose and try to rebuild it. Once in place, mistrust is a permanent fixture unless there's a determined effort to get rid of it. Because people almost always consider themselves trustworthy, a team leader may have to challenge their assumptions that others can't be trusted. When trust issues surface, the leader should insist that team members face them head-on and never accept mistrust as a reason for lack of cooperation.

8. Don't neglect process in a rush to get results.
When under pressure, people tend to forget team norms and use methods they think will get fast results. To prevent that, a leader must remind the team of its goals and stress the importance of abiding by them.

Reprinted from NSCAA.com's Educating Coaches on Leadership section.