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Why We’re Not Leading Teams

Bo Hanson
Director and Lead Consultant

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Next time you’re considering using a sports consultancy to improve your team’s performance, make sure they can deliver what they’re promising. How do they intend to work with you? And, what’s their track record?

Often in our work, we’re asked if we’re leading teams. Our philosophy is that we are not leading teams; instead we’re working collaboratively to help them lead themselves and drive performance through the levers that truly make an impact on results; productive relationships, team culture and accountability systems.

Here is an important distinction:
“True leaders do not create more followers. True leaders create more leaders.” J. Sakiya Sandifer

Ensure that you know exactly HOW the consultants intend to work with you and your team. As in everything, you need to make sure you understand the philosophy behind the process, as philosophies differ and some may not help you at all. Others may even hurt your team.

Starting with Philosophy

When I refer to a philosophy, I am firstly talking about the values of the organization and then the values underpinning the approach to working with a client to improve performance. Here at Athlete Assessments, we’re sometimes asked how we differ from other sports consultancies that also claim to improve performance. Let me outline who we are and how we do what we do.

Relationships are fundamental to team success.

The most important relationship in sport is the Coach-athlete relationship. This has been proven time and time again.

Any program that segregates the Coach from the athletes undermines this relationship, the most critical performance factor. Remember, relationships are not ‘touchy feely’ or ‘nice to have’, they’re proven as the key performance factor in elite sport.

Logically, we work through the Coach.

When you’re comparing consultancies ask the question; how is the work delivered? And, who is it delivered to? We work through the Coach and we believe that the Coach is the most important person to live the work. This means the Coaches become the expert in understanding the needs of their athletes as opposed to me, the consultant.

Now, if someone is suggesting that the athletes are more likely to be honest with a third party than with their Coaches, this is a reflection of a poor culture, a culture which lacks trust. In this instance, there is even more need to bring Coaches and athletes together, to create more aligned behaviors, through mutual understanding and eventual valuing of each other’s needs.

Conflict within teams is inevitable, but we never attempt to create confrontation through our feedback process. Hearing someone’s opinion of my performance can ONLY help me improve IF I’ve given them permission to give me this feedback and, if they’re capable of being an objective observer to my performance.

Most athletes want their Coach to be the bearer of critical feedback.

This has been my personal experience at every one of the four Olympic Games or multiple World Championships I’ve competed at. It’s also been by my professional experience working with thousands of teams.

Most athletes want their team members to be supportive and show them leadership by building a connection with them. They want their teammates to aspire to mutually agreed team standards. Athletes are poor at handing out consequences or punishment. As well, these consequences tend to diminish trust and inappropriately extend the actual role of the leadership group.

We do work with athletes directly and/or with the team, and this is always (with the occasional rare exception) inclusive of the Head Coach or Coaches. We work collaboratively with the Coaches and athletes as we strongly believe in the Coach-athlete relationship and always work to be supportive of the on-going development of these relationships. By the way, research backs this up.

Accountability is Key

We believe in accountability. We know what works and how. What works are very specific processes and systems for upholding standards that the individual players and teams have agreed on. We also believe in rehabilitation. Rehabilitation works like this; if I fail to live my standards, it’s more helpful if I find a way to rebuild trust than to be persecuted, “prison” style for my poor actions. Give me a chance to EARN back the trust I have eroded.

We find the strategy we use to be different to other consultants who prefer to confront in a more direct and hostile way and then have the leadership group dish out the prescribed punishment.

Finally, self-awareness is the only true driver of behavioral change.

Building self-awareness is at the core of our work. We’re the global experts in using DISC Behavioral Profiling in sport. Others use it, but we hinge all our work on helping people solve their own challenges. We work on growing their awareness about what is, and what is not working with their behaviors. When people CHOOSE to change, this change occurs at a faster rate than through any other method. Having personally worked with over 40,000 athletes I’ve seen the impact of learning to understand yourself.

What’s Most Important to You – Values

Values underpin behavior. They represent more than just a trademark. Anyone can have a trademark, but what sits behind the trademark is the substance or the thread within the fabric of what the organization aspires to be and how they behave. Our core values are Serve, Perform and Love for what we do – which is sport, and people through sport.

I’ll explain these values a little further, SERVE means give to others unconditionally. It means work for the team, it means serving internally and externally. We’re here to give to all those we engage with, inside and outside of our own organization. We believe those who serve others are rewarded emotionally instead of just financially. Serving others is the most positive way of contributing our strengths to the world we live in. In sport, it means giving of yourself to those who matter most to you and doing so in the most generous way possible because fundamentally we love to see each other grow and we love to see our clients grow. Growth is a fundamental human need and we love to feel that we can facilitate the opportunity for this to occur.

PERFORM means to chase the 0.01% improvements. This value is driven from my own experiences winning and losing races at the Olympics by the smallest margins. It taught me to go after the little elements. I know how most people focus on doing the obvious or big-ticket items well, while lacking the work ethic to perfect the details. As much as we love it when a client wins National Championships or Gold Medals, the reality is, you will never see us take the credit or plaster their success on our website. We know we’re a piece of the puzzle, and there are lots of pieces to create a winning outcome.

The great part about chasing the smallest improvements is the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done all you could. Sometimes this means you don’t get to bring home a gold medal, but you’ll know you did your job as well as you could. You can feel fulfilled. Sport is a tough business, as is working in the industry we’re in and it’s not possible to control every outcome. No matter who our client is, clients are respected in their need to be the best version of themselves and we don’t rest until this is achieved.

We are very clear that our goal is to help our clients win.

It’s very important to know that a winning mindset is part of the commitment to perform. Know with certainty, that our business thrives when our clients win, so we’re all in to help our clients win. You might think that all sports consultants want to win. I encourage you to test this. Often consultants can be driven by ‘their way’ or ‘their strategies’ and not by helping you win, on and off the field. We want you to win because our business depends on it.

Our third value is Love. We LOVE what we do. Love is a powerful emotional driver. It deeply connects people to each other and to the role or team they belong to. For our team at Athlete Assessments, every one of us is involved in sport at some level outside of our ‘day jobs’. We have all played sport but more importantly, we all contribute back to sport through coaching and volunteering our time to ensure sport imparts the most critical life lessons to those who need it the most, young people. We love seeing our clients have phenomenal experiences in their sport. We love to contribute to this.

Look at the Scoreboard

‘Look at the Scoreboard’ isn’t only a great chant from the stands when your team is winning, it’s also a very useful criteria in evaluating consultants. A final (or possibly first!) question to ask any potential consultant is, what are the details of their own track record?

One of the great things about sport is that it’s precisely measurable. Whether it be race results or the scoreboard, the outcome is clear. Being a company who specializes in helping our clients create and sustain winning results, we’re extremely proud of our own track record. Ultimately our success is measured by the results our clients are achieving and we’ve had the opportunity to celebrate many. In the last 18 months alone, we’ve worked with six clients who’ve won Division I National Championships within the NCAA (Tennis, Golf, Basketball, Men’s Rugby and Women’s Rugby).

Within the professional ranks in Australia, we’ve worked with two NRL teams who won their Premierships and a professional netball team who won three of their Championships. Prior to the last 18 months, we worked with another four different NCAA Championship clients in the US.

(Also, when it comes to professional teams, we make the commitment to only work directly with one team within that league. This way we can ensure there is no question of loyalty or conflict of interest.)

Over A Decade in Business

In early 2017, Athlete Assessments celebrated 10 years in business. On the face of it, starting our business at the height of the Global Financial Crisis may not have been the best timing but instead it drove us to be lean and effective in delivering only the highest quality work. We backed ourselves and it’s paid off.

Much has happened in sport over the last decade, but what hasn’t changed is the need to be constantly focusing on the elements that truly deliver top performances. As you know, an enormous amount goes into achieving successful results and numerous elements contribute. One critical element is our area of focus – the people side of sport.

Sport is played by people, Coached by people and managed by people.
It’s imperative to get the ‘people side’ right.

We acknowledge that someone who has to choose a consultant places significant value in choosing a well-qualified, experienced and reputable provider who has a proven track record. We also recognize the importance of choosing a partner that you enjoy working with and can trust.

We could spend money on flashy advertising, but we know as well as you do that honest feedback directly from clients is the most reliable and credible way to gauge how good a product or service really is.

Trusted by the Big Names in Sport

Tim Walton
Florida Gators Softball Head Coach
The most valuable thing that I gained from Athlete Assessments was that the understanding of who I was helped me better coach who they were.

Softball Coaching Staff
University of Notre Dame
Through this understanding and the guidance of Bo Hanson, we have been able to better connect with our athletes and have more effective communication to get the very best out of each athlete that is possible.

Tim O’Brien
Saint Mary’s College of California’s Rugby Team
It was through Bo’s assistance that we found a way to get closer to team synergy. He helped us look deeply into the mirror and build honesty with one another. Ultimately, the trust we created was what provided immense value to the end result.

Andrea Gaston
University of Southern California
Bo is very engaging, upbeat and personable. His presentations are informative and extremely useful for all coaches. It’s one thing for coaches to recruit top talent, but it’s even more important to find out how to coach them successfully.

Dan O’Brien
Santa Clara University Baseball
Right around the time we started working with Bo Hanson and his company, I changed my focus from winning games to really caring about our student-athletes. Ironically as soon as I started caring more about our student-athletes we started winning more games.

Where to from here...

Teams who achieve success time and time again, all have key factors in common. These must-haves are backed by research, proven in the game and result in winning Championships. Read more about this in our article, 5 Must-haves of Championship Winning Teams.

At Athlete Assessments we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and to help you be your best. If there is anything we can do to be of service, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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