Key Takeaways:

  • Empathic Listening
  • Ethos, Pathos, & Logos
  • Synergy

Last week’s #BookClub finished up with the discussion of Habit 4: Think Win/Win, a philosophy geared towards finding an optimal resolution for all involved. In a very simplistic hypothetical from a coaching standpoint: strong practices lead to winning performances. Players want to play in games, coaches set-up practices to evaluate who is most prepared to be successful during competition. The Win/Win proposition is if you practice well, then the reward is playing time that can lead to a winning effort during games. Everyone plays. Everybody wins.

Unfortunately, basketball by transformative property is not reality.

Perspectives get in the way of what is considered a “strong” effort during practice. Perspectives get in the way of who has prepared the most for an upcoming game, or who has warranted the opportunity more to play during certain situations. These altered perspectives can create confusion or conflict that could disrupt the individual from reaching their goal and the team from future accomplishments.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Unless you’re influenced by my uniqueness, I’m not going to be influenced by your advice. So if you want to be really effective in the habit of interpersonal communication, you cannot do it with technique alone. You have to build the skills of empathic listening on a base of character that inspires openness and trust.

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The action of coaching is synonymous with influencing, not to be misunderstood as manipulation. To its core, holistic player development is facilitated from the influence of a coach monitoring and guiding an athlete towards improvement. The level of effectiveness of that influence depends upon how well we understand them.

  • What are the preferred methods of learning?
  • How do they respond to positive/negative feedback?
  • Identifying particular habits that are helpful or hurtful given the situation.
  • Are they audibly interactive or more inclined to speak through body language?

Recognizing any or all of these responses takes intentional listening (observation). In more familiar terms, they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. The author from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, John Wooden, sorry Stephen R. Covey defines empathic listening as getting inside another person’s frame of reference.

Empathic listening involves much more than registering, reflecting, or even understanding the words that are said. Communications experts estimate, in fact, that only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say. Another 30 percent is represented by our sounds, and 60 percent by our body language.

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I’ll admit, as a coach I try not to presume to interpret body language. It doesn’t always work out this way because in accordance with the quote above body language can scream at times. That being said, during my playing days, I had a tendency to wear my emotions on my sleeve. Similar to many athletes, I was my biggest critic, yet hardly my biggest fan so confidence became an issue in college. As a result, there was a conflict of communication between body language and engagement.

Fast forward to being on the bench, for coaching purposes; I have had many players that walk off the court seemingly frustrated and there is an open interpretation for what their body language suggests: upset for coming out of the game or internalizing a previous play?

The author references four autobiographical responses to common with such interactions:

  1. Evaluate – either we agree or disagree
  2. Probe – ask questions from our own frame of reference
  3. Advise – to give unsolicited counsel
  4. Interpret – guessing motives from behavior

When it comes to the aforementioned situation with a disgruntled player coming off the floor, how do you typically respond?

Notice the sequence: ethos, pathos, and logos – your character, and your relationship, and then the logic of your presentation. Most people, in making presentations, go straight to the logos, the left brain logic, of their ideas. They try to convince other people of the validity of that logic without first taking ethos and pathos in consideration.

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After digression, the point being – the better we understand the uniqueness of each of our athletes, the more effective our communication can be to influence a future response. To be honest, this is where having great assistants comes into play. Instead of trying to presume body language as soon as they come off the court or gauge where the athlete’s head is at prior to re-entering (if decided), an assistant can have a quick conversation to learn where the frustrations stem via conversation. It allows the athlete time to decompress to gain a better understanding of how to create a win/win approach moving forward. While it may be considered 60 percent of our form of communication, there is a lot lost in translation without verbal exchange, and making presumptions could exacerbate the issue.

Habit 6: Synergize

This is where it all comes together. From proactively (Habit 1) attending coaching clinics for professional development to conceptualizing a mental plan (Habit 2) for the upcoming season; synergy is the sum of efforts being greater than the parts.

Above is a diagram provided from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People illustrating the relationship between trust and cooperation reasonably suggesting a positive correlation towards a win/win result.

Synergy works; it’s a correct principle. It is the crowning achievement of all the previous habits. It is effectiveness in an interdependent reality – it is teamwork, team building, the development of unity and creativity with other human beings.

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