Last week I wrote about “Intentionally Creating Your Culture.” In that post I talked about the concept of “Core Covenants” that Proactive Coaching’s Bruce Brown discusses in his booklet “First Steps to Successful Teams” – www.proactivecoaching.info. Today I am going to talk in a little more detail about covenants. Core Covenants could also be called “Guiding Principles” or “Team Standards” or “Program Values” or any other moniker that indicates a similar concept. The reason why we like “Core Covenants” is because “covenant” is a stronger, word. As I said last week, a covenant is a binding agreement where action is visible. There is a similar concept here to a promise. However, promises come more from the world of distrust, so people feel the need to say something along the lines of “I promise that I will fulfill this obligation.” But covenants are based on trust. For instance, when two people get married, they enter into a covenant with one another. The sacred wedding vow is a covenant.
The biggest key to a covenant, though, is the second part of the definition – you can see it in action. Covenants are only as strong as the actions associated with them. When teams establish covenants, if they are merely making statements about what they want to be known for, but they are not willing to follow through and “live” those covenants through their actions, it is worse than not having covenants at all. Teams without covenants (standards) are certainly a problem; but teams that claim they have standards but do not live by those standards are hypocritical, and they are living a lie.
Establishing covenants and then living by those covenants can be one of the most important things that any team does, for it sets a tone for the season. It says, “This is who we are. This is what we stand for. Because of that, this is what you will see from us.” When all members of a team buy in to the covenants that have been established, it is an extremely powerful force in helping a team become all that it is capable of becoming. In essence, team members are saying, “I commit to living my life the way that we as a team have decided we need to live in order to be the best we can be.”
There are all kinds of things that can make up a team’s covenants. However, we believe that the best covenants are behavior covenants. While certain physical and mental skills and traits are important and have their place on teams, when it comes to establishing your team’s standards, it is best if you focus on behavioral characteristics that every member of the team can uphold and live in their daily actions. The beauty of these kinds of covenants is that they are a choice that every team member can choose to live by. They require no specific physical skill or no highly developed mental capacity to perform them. They just require that players make the choice to commit to them.
For example, if a team decides to adopt “Work Habits” as a covenant, they are saying, “We will work extremely hard all the time.” Many teams that adopt this covenant will often use the phrase “100%-100% of the time” as an “action statement” about work habits. They are saying, “To be on this team, you must give 100% effort, 100% of the time.” This is where the second part of the definition for a covenant comes into play – you can see it in action. Team members are saying, “If you watch us, you will see our team giving maximum effort at all times.” They will often then give some specific examples – going full speed on all sprints, not just on the first couple; touching all lines on all sprints; pushing oneself and one’s teammates as hard as possible in practice and in the weight room; diving for loose balls; and many more.
This concept of Work Habits is a choice. Every player, from the best player on the team to the player who gets the least amount of playing time, can make the choice to work his hardest at all times. The beauty of the concept is this – when your best players talent-wise are also the best workers and best teammates, you have a chance to have a great team because the maximum potential and capability of your best can be realized. Unfortunately, too often we find the best players on teams don’t fall into the best worker and best teammate class. These teams rarely, if ever, achieve all that they could because the players with the most physical talents hold back, and so the team does not achieve its potential.
When it comes to establishing and then living your covenants, choose to create behavior covenants for your team that everyone can commit to. Then work on them throughout the year to keep them in the forefront of everyone’s mind. You will be amazed to see how hard your players will work to become the best they are capable of becoming when they have a direction in which to go that they have total control over.
Do you have covenants for your team? If so, what are they? If not, what would you like your team to be known for?
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