Building Team Culture Using a Great Communication Framework

Whether you are in the pre-season phase or have taken over a team in midseason, developing a system that allows for smooth flowing communication within your team will do wonders for team culture.

At the moment, we are going through the experience of taking over a team that already played 46 of their 68 regular season games. Even at this late point in the season, we immediately set out to change the framework for the type of communication flow we wanted. This was the starting point to build a new team culture.

The first step we took in building our communication framework was to address the entire team and clearly outline what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, on and off the ice. Discipline, good habits, and such topics were outlined to the team. But the starting point was communication.

We stressed that communication needs to be based on respect and common courtesy. One point we made, as basic as it may sound, is the use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; basic common courtesy words. We also set up a scenario where players and staff were encouraged to vocally greet each other when they came in contact with each other for the first time each day. The act of saying ‘Good Morning’ to each other was a positive starting point for us.

The next step was to have one-on-one meetings with each player. We allowed 15 minutes for each, with the ability to go longer if needed. Here we identified individual player strengths and weaknesses, and with player and the coaching staff interaction, we agreed on the role each player would play on the team. Highlights of the meeting were written down for future reference. Free flow between each player and the coaches has to happen. A one-sided conversation is hardly a desired situation.

As the head coach, be sure to do the same with assistant coaches, trainers, staff, and team personnel.

Trainers are of particular interest in setting the communication for your team and building a positive culture. They are typically the daily first point of contact for your players as players arrive at the rink. This needs to be positive interaction for all to set an upbeat mood for the day.

Having a positive communication system is essential. Sure, there will be times when there might be a need to reprimand, address negatives, and yell a little. All these situations can be handled in a respectful and constructive way.

Dealing with every situation in a consistent way will help keep the lines of communication in tact and information flowing in all directions.

Taking the time to clearly define acceptable behavior within your team, taking the time to meet individually with all involved, and focusing on positive reinforcement will help establish a strong team culture.

Making a Coaching Change During the Season

Few can imagine why a coaching change would be made during the season unless those in power felt compelled to do so. Regardless of the reasons, here are some points to consider by those involved-management initiating the change, and the coach coming on board.

  • Do your homework.

Have all avenues to correct the existing situation been explored? Communication is the key here. If all have been explored, it is time to pull the trigger on the change.

Have the players been playing to their ability and is the team framework allowing this

to happen? If not, then a change likely is necessary.

Does the new coach know what the goals of the organization are? He had better!

Has management addressed concerns to the new coach?

Have resources been made available to allow for success?

  • Watch the team play with an analytical eye.

Management should know the level the team and individual players are capable of.

The new coach should take the opportunity to watch his new team as an objective observer.

  • Plan for a smooth transition.

Be sure all the right people have been contacted in advance and there are no surprises after an official announcement has been made.

Have a plan to move the old coach along in an expedient and dignified way. This can be done in a professional and classy way, with planning.

  • Get up to speed quickly.

Know exactly what needs to be changed and immediately start making changes. Players will want to see things happening in a new and improved way.

  • Define roles.

Meet with each player and staff member as soon as possible and have all very clear

on their role with the team.

Don’t assume that people know what you want and expect from them. You need to

clearly communicate what you want to each person individually.

Expectations need to be established and shared throughout the team.

  • Build a new culture.

Start with respect for each other. Demand basic things like common courtesy to each other and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. This might sound corny, but it works.

Lines of communication should always be clearly defined and free flow of information will follow. Lots of little meetings and informal chats work well.

I took over a team two weeks ago. There were 22 games left in a 68 game schedule. The team was not in a playoff spot and sliding in the opposite direction.

We have two wins and a tie in our first four games and we followed the plan laid out here. Hopefully it will continue to work.