Communication is a separator. Good teams talk. Great teams communicate.

Effective communication is a skill.   Like any skill, it can be learned and can be improved with proper practice and repetition. The key is making successful communication a habit.

I have developed the following rating system to help evaluate and improve communication this off-season (this can be applied to sports or with slight adjustments to your business and team):

  • 0 – Silent (unacceptable at any time)
  • 1 – Noise (players who clap their hands)
  • 2 – Contact (players who give ‘high fives’ and ‘fist bumps’)
  • 3 – Generic Talk (players who shout phrases like ‘good job!’ and ‘pick it up!’)
  • 4 – Specific Talk (players who use names and examples like ‘nice cut James!’)
  • 5 – Directing (players who are ‘coaches on the court’ – they constantly say it all)

As coaches and leaders, we need to strive to get every player to a level 4 or 5.  We need players who talk on both ends of the floor.  We need players with a vocal presence. We need players that encourage teammates when they make a great play as well as correct (help) teammates when they make a mistake.

When we put 5 players on the floor, we need their collective communication rating to be > 20. If not, they won’t maximize their ability to play as a unit.

Over the course of a few workouts or summer league games, subjectively rate each player on your team and give them a score between 0-5 using the above criteria.  Make it a point to constantly praise the 4’s and 5’s.  Make it an equal point to ‘call out’ the 0’s, 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s.

If a player was just going through the motions during practice and not giving a good effort, you would say something, right? If a player constantly traveled during a footwork drill, you would address, wouldn’t you?

So why wouldn’t you say something to a player who isn’t effectively communicating?

Hall-of-Fame Coach Bob Hurley often closes his eyes for a minute in the middle of practice… so he can hear what is going on.  He wants to hear shoes squeaking and players talking!  That is one sign of a great practice

Legendary Coach Phil Jackson wanted to prove to his team how important it was to communicate. So for one entire practice, he didn’t let his players talk.  If anyone said anything at all, they had to run.  He wanted them to practice in complete silence – so they could see what they were missing! Needless to say, they got the point.

As coaches, we get what we emphasize.

If you want your team to be as successful as possible next season, you need to emphasize effective communication.