For those of you who read my recent blog “A week is a long time in rugby” you will have noted that after a bad week at the office and an uplifting experience on the pitch, despite a heavy loss, I alluded to an upcoming team meeting.
The meeting was primarily player led – by those who had put their bodies on the line the weekend before for the benefit of those who were not present – but, based on the general theme of honesty, I asked the players to complete a simple form, honestly. The requirement was for every player to write both positive and negative comments on every other player in the squad.
The only ‘rules’ were that they had to be honest comments and that, if you genuinely did not have anything to say you should not just fill in the gaps. The only other point worth making is that players did not have to put their name on the form.
It was a high risk strategy, but I felt that if we are trying to create an environment where the entire group (players, coaches and management) feel they have a voice, will be taken seriously and be accepted for who they are and what they can contribute, it was a risk worth taking. The ultimate goal is for players to feel able to give ‘honest’ feedback to everyone in the club (as long as it is done in the right way) without feeling that they will be rebuked, ignored or castigated. The result, I hope, is a group whose work rate, desire to improve and, ultimately, performance will all improve due to the fact that there is an improved and collective willingness to succeed.
Some found it hard to compile, some clearly have huge time management issues (interestingly, those who are habitually late for training were also those who were unable to complete the form in the time given) and some flew through it.
It took over four hours to compile all of the information that was then distributed to all of those in the club (including those who were not present at the meeting but who had comments written about them).
I prefaced the completed document by reminding everyone that it was perception based and that, even if individuals disagreed with what was written, it was how they were perceived by others. I asked them to metaphorically pat themselves on the back for the positive comments and to read the negative ones with an open mind, rationalize them and decide how they could positively try to change these perceptions with the aim being that the next time we complete the exercise that the same negative comments are no longer evident.
There were some fairly pointed comments made.- Egocentric, never listens, interesting that he is never available when the tough games are played, a whinger, lazy. Other comments were less acerbic, but nonetheless clear in their sentiment:- always late to training, unfit, needs to work harder in the gym etc etc.
We have now had a week since the exercise was completed and the initial response has been remarkable.
I have had a number of calls from players asking me how they can overcome some of the negative perceptions that are held, others saying that they had no idea that this was how they were coming over and how it explained their interactions with certain players and a few who had been worried about the potential comments and had been pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
The impact in the three training sessions since then has been interesting. Noteworthy benefits have been that the minimum number at the sessions has been 20 (squad is only 27 strong), the normally egotistical have been keen to show that they are team players too, the timid have all, without exception, contributed vocally to the sessions and even those that were not able to attend training have all contacted me in advance to explain why they could not come.
I have yet to have a follow up session with the group (even though I have spoken to a number of individuals) so there is still work to do just to close the loop on the initial exercise, but the actions of the group thus far would suggest that it has had a positive impact and, to date, nothing negative has come from it.
I am a genuine believer that a team that has amongst its core values “honesty” is a team that will develop in confidence, feel empowered to offer feedback and help drive a positive work ethic forward.
For more information on Moscosi Rugby visit our website (admittedly in Italian) at http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/asdmoscosi2008/ or you can follow us on Twitter @moscosirugby (again mainly in Italian but am happy to do it in English as well). My views and comments are on @ready4rugby