Change Your Coaching Staff Dynamic (in 20 minutes)

By Stephanie Zonars


A team can’t develop healthy team cohesion if its leadership isn’t cohesive. [Tweet That!]

Seems logical, yet somehow coaches believe they can still build a unified team despite distrust and other fractures among the staff.

Won’t happen. Can’t happen.

Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business reviews some of the key points of his other best seller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. 

Namely, that the core issue on dysfunctional teams is a lack of trust.

That’s so obvious that you’d think leadership teams and coaching staffs would be pretty good at building trust. Yet, more than often, they aren’t.

In The Advantage, Lencioni says it may be because they have a misunderstanding of the kind of trust needed on teams:

Many people think of trust in a predictive sense; if you can come to know how a person will behave in a given situation, you can trust her….The kind of trust that is necessary to build a great team is what I call vulnerability-based trust. This is what happens when members get to a point where they are completely comfortable being transparent, honest and naked with one another, where they say and genuinely mean things like “I screwed up,” “I need help,” “Your idea is better than mine,” “I wish I could learn to do that as well as you do,” and even, “I’m sorry.” (p.27)

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve watched vulnerability completely change a team dynamic. One person willing to “go there” gives everyone else permission to open up a little more.

Compassion and empathy develops, resulting in a stronger ability to trust.

I worked with a business team on which many of the individuals had worked together for a number of years. It seemed like they knew one another well and genuinely liked one another. I was a little nervous that my trust-building exercises might fall flat.

What happened blew my mind!

During one of the exercises an individual shared a hardship she was going through. Her co-workers had no idea—even someone on the team who had gone through something similar.

Through tears deeper connections developed that took their team to a new level of trust.

One 15-20 minute exercise Lencioni uses can give your team the opportunity to develop that kind of vulnerability-based trust.

At your next coaching staff meeting, have each person share three things*:

  • where they were born
  • how many siblings they have and where they fall in the order of children
  • the most interesting or difficult challenge they faced as a kid

This simple exercise helps individuals feel more comfortable being vulnerable in the group and develops a new level of understanding, admiration and respect.

Even if you are rolling your eyes right now, and think you know a lot about your staff team, give it a try. It never disappoints!

Then shoot me an email to let me know what happened.

*I recommend having the leader go first.

Change Your Coaching Staff Dynamic (in 20 minutes) appeared first on Life Beyond Sport.

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Stephanie Zonars helps coaches build and maintain championship cultures through her business, Life Beyond Sport. Teams at Penn State, Notre Dame, West Point and over 65 other schools have built stronger trust, communication and teamwork through her workshops. Stephanie spent three years on staff with the Penn State women’s basketball team, assisting the team to back-to-back Big Ten Championships. An author of four books, she now serves as Assistant AD of Marketing & Promotions at Cedarville University. Learn more at

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