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Rules of Engagement

From business to sports, everyone talks about the importance of culture and building a strong culture. At that same time, culture is never really defined and no one is particularly clear about what is being built.

I’d like to offer the idea that effective culture is really just about consistent engagement in the process of furthering improvement and accomplishing goals. When individuals are engaged in the process of moving themselves and the team forward, all of the characteristics we attribute to great culture take care of themselves.

In the book First, Break All The Rules, Gallup presents the results of 80,000 interviews with employers and employees. They found that level of employee engagement was directly related to the number of positive answers to the following 12 questions. The questions are slightly modified to make them appropriate for swimming.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at practice?

  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to train effectively?

  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

  4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

  6. Is there someone at practice who encourages my development?

  7. In sport, do my opinions seem to count?

  8. Does the mission/purpose of my team make me feel my role is important?

  9. Are my teammates committed to doing quality work?

  10. Do I have a best friend on the team?

  11. In the last 6 months, has someone talked to me about my progress?

  12. This last year, have I had the opportunity at practice to learn and grow?

Take a look at the questions. If you could answer an emphatic ‘Yes’ to every question; how much fun would your job as a coach be? How much fun would being a swimmer be? How hard would you be willing to work?

Now look at the questions from your swimmers’ perspective. How many do you feel warrant a ‘yes’. Are you sure? Would they have to think about it? Would there be any doubt?

Now, think about the questions where you hesitate. In all cases, what could you do, SIMPLY, on a daily basis to ensure that you and the swimmers you coach can answer each question affirmatively?

Instead of talking about building a culture, using catchy slogans, mission statements, and creeds, it might be useful to start focus on small, daily actions that make a big difference. Creating an environment where swimmers can answer yes to all of the questions above might be a great place to start.

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