We do not allow players in our basketball program to wear headbands, leg sleeves, or arm sleeves. I’ve been questioned on this a few times over the years, but the explanation to our players is always the same. Typically a player wants to wear one of these accessories because they like the way it looks and they subscribe to the mindset of ‘look good, play good’.
I do not subscribe to that mindset. My mindset is more of a ‘work and prepare as hard as you can, care about your teammates, and compete like crazy’ but that’s not as catchy. In any case, after some simple questioning the real purpose of the accessories is soon discovered - to look different from their teammates.
One of the core values in our program, and for me personally, is being unified. For me, being unified goes beyond teamwork or merely working together. While those are certainly an aspect of being unified, they don’t quite reach the depth of commitment being unified requires.
Unified means to “make or become united, uniform, or whole.”
We want to be whole.
Why Should We Care?
I think you could say all leaders want their teams to be whole. We want our families to be whole, the teams we lead at work, even our social groups are best when they are whole. But, we have to work in order to get, and maintain, the quality of being unified.
It certainly doesn’t just happen by chance, yet that’s exactly how most leaders go about creating a team. We put a bunch of people together, with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives on the world, and hope for the best. Then, when it doesn’t work, we’ll cite the individual struggles each person brought to the table and the gaps their talents left in our team.
I’ve certainly fallen into this category from time to time with teams I’ve led. In reflection I can see the failure came down to my unwillingness to do one thing - speak up. I know what needs to be done in order for a team to be a team, I think we all do. But, knowing isn’t doing. We get what we allow in leadership, and that axiom certainly holds true when it comes to being unified.
The behavior I attach to my core value of unified is speaking and acting with urgency. The speaking and acting parts of the behavior are critical, but it’s actually the urgency aspect that is the most important to me. My issue is rarely knowing what should be done or being able to actually do it, the issue for me saying or doing it now.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Holding any standard is difficult, but this one is especially demanding because it is always being challenged. The individuals on our teams want to think about themselves. Heck, we want to think about ourselves. But, in order to be unified we must strike the perfect balance of considering the team as the priority while caring for ourselves enough to bring our best self to the group.
Here are a few ideas on topics to be sure you aren’t flinching on when it comes to being unified.
Right is right and as leaders of a team, unified is right. Don’t flinch in holding that standard.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.