Minda Zetlin recently published an article on Inc.com titled “5 Small Changes that Will Make You a Much Better Communicator” in which she outlined some tips for those looking to improve their communication skills.
Here is my interpretation of each key factor for coaches and how they can apply that to their program:
1. Identify (and make peace with) your own communications style: Coaches have to be themselves. Too many times I see coaches trying to emulate a favorite coach of theirs and/or taking something they learn at a clinic and trying to implement it THE EXACT SAME WAY as they presenter. This usually never works. Of course coaches should be learning new techniques and strategies, however, coaches must coach what they are comfortable with.
2. Learn to be a really good listener: Everyone knows a person who does not really listen to them but is just planning their next response to the conversation. DON’T BE THAT GUY! Really take pride in your listening, just as you would to your thoughts and responses. Without listening, there really is no communication. If coaches are a true listeners, players will see that and will be more apt to take the coaching staff up on that “open door policy” that they preach.
3. Know what you want to achieve with every communication: Every communication is an opportunity for coaches to get to know their players better and build personal relationships. Coaches should approach this as such. EVERY EXCHANGE IS AN OPPORTUNITY A CHANCE TO IMPROVE.
4. Find a role model: Most coaches have a role model or someone they admire in the coaching ranks. Do you have a communicator who you admire? It doesn’t have to be a coach. Some coaches honestly are not very good communicators. Consider former professors/teachers, authors, etc. whose job it is to communicate. If not, maybe a friend or relative that makes others feel special and important is a good strategy.
5. Get personal: THE MORE COACHES SHOW THEIR HUMAN SIDE THE MORE ADMINISTRATORS AND PLAYERS WILL BE ABLE TO RELATE TO THEM. College football coaches, such as Nick Saban, have often been criticized for not enjoying the victories and are seen to be robotic for their “on to the next one approach.” Again, the more coaches that open up and are honest and vulnerable to those they communicate with, the more others will see the “off the court” side and can make them more likeable and easier to communicate with.