Hire talented people. Let them go to work.
That is one of the most popular philosophies in the workplace, and for good reason: In an article in the Harvard Business Review, author Paul Zak, a psychologist, wrote that: “Once employees have been trained, allow them, whenever possible, to manage people and execute projects in their own way. Being trusted to figure things out is a big motivator: A 2014 Citigroup and LinkedIn survey found that nearly half of employees would give up a 20% raise for greater control over how they work.
“Autonomy also promotes innovation, because different people try different approaches. Oversight and risk management procedures can help minimize negative deviations while people experiment. And post project debriefs allow teams to share how positive deviations came about so that others can build on their success.
“Often, younger or less experienced employees will be your chief innovators, because they’re less constrained by what ‘usually’ works. That’s how progress was made in self-driving cars. After five years and a significant investment by the U.S. government in the big three auto manufacturers, no autonomous military vehicles had been produced. Changing tack, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency offered all comers a large financial prize for a self-driving car that could complete a course in the Mojave Desert in less than 10 hours. Two years later a group of engineering students from Stanford University won the challenge—and $2 million.”
Now, is your volleyball team going to be making self-driving cars or go win championships if you simply let them get to it? Of course not. But the same philosophy applies on the court as in the office: Allow your players to be creative. Don’t micromanage. Doing so will only chip away at the most valuable intangible in sports: Trust. And without trust, the odds of you achieving success, of making that playoff run or beating your rival, plummet.
There is another element of trust, too, that you, the coach, have in your control: Job crafting.
When companies trust employees to choose which projects they’ll work on, people focus their energies on what they care about most. As a result, organizations like the Morning Star Company — the largest producer of tomato products in the world — have highly productive colleagues who stay with the company year after year. At Morning Star (a company I’ve worked with), people do not even have job titles; they self-organize into work groups. The gaming software company, Valve, gives employees desks with wheels and encourages them to join projects that seem “interesting” and “rewarding.” But they’re still held accountable. Clear expectations are set when employees join a new group, and 360-degree evaluations are done when projects wrap up, so that individual contributions can be measured.
Dan Fisher, who was named the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 after going 39-0 winning a NAIA championship and then added to that and won a gold medal in the Pan Am games, is an excellent example of a coach who employs this strategy to achieve success.
A week before the NAIA finals, he would begin practice with this series of questions:
What would you like to work on as a team?
Does anyone have individual goals that you would like to accomplish in this practice?
Are there any individual reps you would like help with at the end of practice?
Three powerful questions! And how about the timing: Right before finals! Most coaches would want complete and total control over the practices at such an important juncture in the season. Not Fisher. Instead, he chose to empower his players.
And his players performed at a championship-winning level winning the NAIA championship and going 39-0 for the season.
Trusting your players to figure out their own goals and how to improve the team is a massive motivator. And it works!
As a coach, once players have been trained in the Volleyball1on1 systems, it is vital to then turn the leadership back over to them.
Examples of this Using the Volleyball1on1 Coaching System include:
- Allow the players to choose the music for the first third or half of practice.
- Allow the players to choose their own warm up, or a warm up from a list that you have provided. We teach our players 20-30 skill building warm up drills (S.B.W.U.D.) and then let the players pick a few for each practice.
- Once a week or once every two weeks after you have established the team culture, allow your players or leadership council to decide what to focus on in practice.
- After a match create a space where you ask the players what they think they did well, what they think needs improvement, and what they can do in order to improve.
- Ask your leadership council for feedback on practice and match planning.
- Give your players some autonomy on how they would like to prepare for matches.
Ceding control in manners such as this will help forge trust between you and your players, and result in a more successful program.
Just ask Dan Fisher.
He trusted his players. They trusted him.
They won a championship and a gold medal.
1) See Dan Fisher’s “Reading the Game” practice we filmed the week before the NAIA finals. (Includes the videos where he ask the 3 questions!)
2) Contact Andor Gyulai to learn more about our Volleyball1on1 Coaching System.
3) Learn how to successfully build a leadership council for your volleyball team.
4) See some examples of “Skill Building Warm Up Drills, (S.B.W.U.D.) for volleyball.
5) Learn more about our Volleyball1on1 Summer Camps and how we train you and your players in your gym using our Volleyball1on1 Coaching Systems.