9 Steps to Improving Team Performance

The tried and true method of “fixing” and rebuilding a basketball program in decline is – push all members of the program (coaches, players, support staff) for increased productivity and improvement; bring in new, more talented members of the program; increase technology to increase each members abilities and productivity; identify greatest weaknesses and plan development ideas to improve those weaknesses. We use this model because we have seen at least for some time period it works.

What happens when, no matter what you do – no matter what you have tried – the team does not improve, the recruiting does not improve or – the team gets worse?

photo credit: Impact Hiring Solutions

photo credit: Impact Hiring Solutions

We see in our profession where this scenario is repeated over and over even though it doesn’t work. Call me crazy, but the definition of  insanity is

“doing the same thing but expecting different results.”

You have to look at things differently; look at a different way of handling this situation. To do so, we must re-think the “who”, determine “who” needs to be involved in improving this situation first. Every team member, each member of the program, must engage all their energies in defining the problem areas, contributing to potential solutions and committing to finding a way to move forward with progress.

The next steps are simple:

The next steps are simple:

1. Make a comprehensive list of everything that impacts your program’s ability to be successful.

2. Divide your list into two groups:

a.) The things WITHIN your program.

b.) The things OUTSIDE your program.


3. Organize your WITHIN program list into the following five categories:

a.) Knowledge

b.) Strategy

c,) Non-Human Resources

d) Structure (Physical)

e) Human Process (People, How they work)


4. The next part is vital… You MUST be completely honest and impartial in this step…

Assess each item in each category of your list as to whether it:

a)  ACTIVELY ENHANCES your success

b)  IMPEDES your success

c)  Operates in a way as to PREVENT success


5. Determine immediately how to ELIMINATE from your program those items that PREVENT success and CLEAR any items that IMPEDE success.

6. Evaluate the items that ENHANCE success and list out significant ways you can further develop and support those items.

7. Next, organize the OUTSIDE your program list into the following categories:

a) Items you CAN INFLUENCE



8. Now, formulate a clear and concise plan for positively influencing every item you CAN influence, while developing a means for handling those items you CANNOT influence. Follow the below process for completing this step.

9. Lastly, your “coaching,” “mentoring” and “recruiting” skills come into play… YOU MUST GET EVERYONE IN THE PROGRAM INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS AND TO BUY INTO THE NEW PLAN.

This time of year, at the conclusion of a particularly rough season – your mind is never more focused than when facing the reality of being fired. If you have one more season, you as the head coach must accept the writing on the wall. You have NOTHING to LOSE. It’s time to lock in, go for it and try something completely out of the box and trust what you and your staff will make happen.

If what you have been doing is not working, own that. Accept it and prepare for a different approach. Gather every member of the program who is invested in the future. Gather those that are NOT invested in the future and get them on the same page, get them to invest or get rid of them. Share the problems, complete details and brainstorm solutions. Present the complete picture to everyone. Empower all members of the program to commit to engaging in the process and ensure to them that every idea, every opinion will be considered and valued. There are no “wrong” answers. It will take some time for total trust to develop, but it will develop if you are all committed to open communication. (*For a greater insight into the ways in which to build and grow Trust, I recommend reading The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R, Covey. An outstanding guide with real life examples.) With every member of the program committed to the common goal – returning the program to a high level of success and saving jobs – a completely new trusting relationship will emerge. This process and the empowerment it develops through high trusting relationships leads to a completely new focus and ultimately the desired results… SUCCESS!

It may very well take the fear of losing your job for a new direction and plan to occur. It does not have to be that way! I witnessed a program in the last year of a contract go through this process this past academic year, re-evaluate, re-define, chart a new course, develop new relationships, bring in new people and trust. The result… winning a conference championship, securing contract extensions, signing better – higher-level prospects than before and lay a solid foundation for future success. Arguably one of the best coaching and leadership jobs I have ever seen.

The world of coaching at any level is highly competitive and grows more competitive each year. The technology advancements alone make X’s & O’s knowledge, recruiting contacts, organization, communication and knowledge and the development of trust, leadership and successful processes more readily available than ever before.

This information may be real, perceived, accurate or not… it doesn’t matter. The growing talent in our coaching ranks takes any information as a thought stimulator and runs with it.

Families, Coaches and prospective student-athletes themselves have become more and more educated to the process and thus more demanding. There is a huge pressure for cleaner, more detailed and deliberate processes across the board. Many of the “traditional” methods of dealing with all of this are not as successful as they once were. Thinking and getting outside the box has never been more necessary. No longer can members of the program be so concerned with themselves and not the organization, university, head coach, staff and players as a whole. Selflessness is a must!

The concepts and ideas proposed above give you an approach that will enable you to handle the problems of declining success within your program in an entirely new way. A way that involves and empowers every member in the evaluation, ideas, solutions and ultimately the achievement of positive results.


[1] The full story of this company is found in Long DG, Personnel Management in the Post Capitalistic Age, 1984, Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, Vol 22 (4), Australia.
Adapted from: 9 Steps to Improve Performance, Douglas Long: http://www.evancarmichael.com/Leadership/5178/9-Steps-to-Improve-Performance.html



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