Before I went to work in the church I was the director of a company that did experiential education to teach leadership, teambuilding, and character development. We worked with school groups and businesses but most of our work was with athletic teams. Basically, I led groups through a series of challenges and games that would test their group dynamics. Because it was away from the sport, teams had an easier time seeing their chemistry (or lack thereof), and because there was no score teams felt comfortable trying on new behaviors.
I have worked with hundreds of teams and still do some of that work to this day. For all of those teams there was one issue that came up more than any other and one issue that every coach wanted help with—CONSISTENCY! I have found that:
- Some teams would play good against good teams but then turn around and play poorly when they play a bad team.
- Some teams would play bad when they played a good team that they thought would beat them but then play really well when they were expected to win.
- Some teams played well to start games while others started slow and finished strong.
- Some teams played well with leads, others blew leads, and still others did not play with urgency until they were behind.
- Some teams you just never knew which team was going to show up because their play was so inconsistent.
I don’t think this struggle is only true of athletic teams. How many times do we live our lives by responding to how we feel or what is going on in the world around us? Are you trying to work out more, write a book, develop a business, or pastor a church? Then you need consistency. Working with all of these teams, I found that it takes 2 things to be consistent—an incredible amount of clarity and resolve.
CONSISTENCY REQUIRES CLARITY. Great teams know how they like to work. They know what they want to accomplish and have a clear sense of why. They are crystal clear not only about their goal but also how they need to play to attain their goal. This includes the pace, the style, the roles that the players take, and the balance of focus and relaxation. Great teams and athletes try to impose their will on the game and play it in their style.
This is why you never wanted to play Michael Jordan when he was sick. When he knew his illness was going to bring down his play he stepped up all the more. He was not competing with the opposing team as much as competing with his own picture of what he need to do.
CONSISTENCY REQUIRES RESILIENCE. If a team or athlete has a clear sense of what they want to do, then they need to find the resilience to play that way in different circumstances. It is easy to play your game when you are winning or when things are going right, but what about when you lose, when you have an injury, or when a ref makes a bad call? Great teams have the grace to not fall apart but still be there together in the bad times. They also have the truth or the accountability to call each other back to what is necessary.
I worked with a women’s college basketball team one time that had a new coach who was trying to change the culture and take the program to the next level. As I worked with the team, I noticed how often they said “sorry” to each other and how slow they were to help each other. I asked them about this and they said that they did not want to offend each other or step on each other’s toes. I challenged them to rethink their view because in a game they needed to be more direct. Not only was it faster but they needed to be able to hold each other accountable. They were able to hear that. They coach had been making the game plan very clear. Now it was time for them to be more resilient.
If you want to be consistent, find a way to be crystal clear on what you have to do and build systems and find teammates to make you resilient.