Focus on the Whole Team: Communicate to Win

November 28th, 2017 | by Walt Whitfield
Focus on the Whole Team: Communicate to Win


Every university and athletic department relies on a communication staff. They communicate their brand, their message, key dates and times, and handle all media and public relations for the programs. Within the department walls, communication is the key to the staff knowing how they fit on the team and their responsibilities. Communication is important enough that the NCAA has an article called “Communication Skills (Internal vs External)” and a “Difficult Conversations Workbook” on its website. Here are a few tips for better communication.

Listen First

In my time as a Division I track athlete, I had dealings with coaches, doctors, communication staff, and athletic trainers. Great coaches listen to their athletes. Great doctors listen to their patients. Great writers listen to their subjects. And on, and on. Communication is just as much about speaking as it is listening. It is a two-way street. How can one give sound advice with only limited information? Take your time and hear people out. Mirror their emotions. If they’re excited, you show excitement. If they’re concern, you show concern. It is important that they know you care about their feelings.

Aim for Consistency

In college athletics, fans like to know what to expect from a program. An inconsistent product is in many ways worse than a poor product. In communication, inconsistency is a killer. Be consistent in your approach, tone, and timing.  Your co-workers should know your boundaries in situations. Be open about where they stand, how you feel about them, and your expectations. The workplace is better when everyone knows the situation and mood daily.

Stay in the Moment

Coaches are synonymous with the “one game at a time” mantra. They understand that they are dealing with a season of games, but don’t want to get caught thinking too far ahead. When communicating with co-workers, especially those you supervise, it is important to not complicate things by looking too far in the future. At times you may need to address the big picture, but your daily communication should be on the small tasks that will build the big picture. This is not micromanaging. This is communicating in a way that motivates your team to stay focused daily.

Always Communicate

I know what you are thinking. I just wrote a paragraph on not over communicating. Now I want you to always communicate. Exactly! But in this sense. Keep an open dialogue with all those involved in the department in ways not directly related to work projects. It is important that you greet coworkers daily. End the day with a good day or good night. Remember birth dates or special occasions. The little things matter when working as a team.

Communication is the pathway to success. Winning can only be accomplished through understanding the game plan and talking through the implementation. Great teams have great communication.

Walt Whitfield About Walt Whitfield
Walter Whitfield is an employee wellness consultant and founder of Lavoro Workplace Wellness where he helps businesses improve their workplace through employee wellness strategies. He has worked with corporations like Chevron, BP, and Seadrill. Walter is a former college athlete for Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns where he competed in cross country and track, winning Sunbelt conference titles in the 3k Steeplechase and 5k. He is married, has 3 kids, and loves all things New Orleans Saints and Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns.

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