I’ve been coaching national and club hockey teams for X years and I’ve seen just how important it is for athletes to take on responsibilities and take the initiative to up their own game. It isn’t always down to the coach. When individuals take ownership of solutions and answers they have developed themselves they perform much better.

Here are my eleven tips:

1. If you don’t have a common goal, you won’t need another

In many companies each department (e.g. Sales, Marketing, Purchasing) has its own goal. Management then complains that there is a lack of cooperation, but this is simply because the different departments don’t know what the common goal is. In a nutshell: if the director or the manager knows what the goal is but the players don’t, it won’t work.

2. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

Organisations need to dare to let their employees make mistakes. By daring to experiment – even if this initially costs money – they are making sure that their employees don’t make the same mistake twice and that their performance will improve. Employees learn from their mistakes, not from all kinds of advance warnings. If three out of ten innovations fail, it means that seven have been successful. Without trying and experimenting, there wouldn’t have been any innovation at all. You have to invest in new things and in mistakes.

Picture of the Dutch women's hockey team waering their orange dresses
A bad decision, a lapse in concentration, a poor ball can put any team on the back foot but lessons are always learned to make the team stronger. ©Ben Haeck/Photo Press Agency Fotex
five teammates of the Dutch women's hockey team gathering after winning a match
Set the bar high for your team and give them the tools to jump over it. Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was our goal and the final against China was the toughest challenge we could have faced. The team had had a winning mentally and showed that on the day. ©Ben Haeck/Photo Press Agency Fotex
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3. People are prepared to change, but they don’t want to be changed

Employees obtain that ownership if the manager asks open questions so that they have to think about the answers themselves. Because they are responsible for the solution or improvement that they have chosen, and that the manager has also approved, employees are more motivated and will work harder. People remember just 10 percent of what they hear, but 70 percent of what they say.

4. From feedback to feed forward

Hockey coach Marc Lammers is coaching the Dutch women's team. Marc and his players are gathered in a circle.
At half-time in your game or project feedback by looking forward to what’s needed in the coming 35minutes.

Don’t feed back, look forward. Looking back often generates complaints and negative energy and often serves no purpose. It has happened, nothing else can be done about it and the circumstances can’t be compared to what will happen in the future. The only thing that is important now is to learn from it. It is much better to fast forward and to think about what is needed to be the future champion or market leader. As well as creating lots of energy, it also generates masses of positivity and solutions. You can do such a lot with this and everyone has the chance to contribute, which makes everyone feel involved and included.

5. The body achieves what the mind believes

You can achieve a lot if you believe you can do it. That counts in sport as well as in business life. Again, taking ownership and setting your own goals are very important in this.

And in nine out of ten cases that is what will happen. And the opposite applies also. If a coach or manager sets the height of the bar, it is often too high for their employees, who will immediately think that they won’t be able to achieve it. And then indeed, they won’t.

6. I have never yet won a match through my weak points

In business, you should focus on what people are good at, or even excel at, and then let them do it more often. By doing this, you build up their confidence and they will get into the flow of things.

7. Winners make something happen, losers wait until something happens

Organisations that keep on learning and improving will win the competition in the end. They take initiative and responsibility and do what they say they will, but they are also prepared to leave their comfort zone and to think outside the box. The motto is: don’t wait for someone else to do it, take that first step yourself.

Marc Lammers sitting on the hockey field stretching
Train smartly to maximize the return on investment.
Marc Lammers is giving one of his players a high five
If you want to lead a team you have to show what you can do with the team and ask for the responsibility.
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8. Don’t work harder, work smarter

Some companies still keep account of how many customers the sales managers visit per day to check how hard they are working. If they have seen ten customers but they haven’t achieved one sale, they have worked hard but they haven’t worked smartly. It could have been better to visit just three customers who they thought they had a chance of closing a sale with; through making contact with them beforehand and spending more time on them, for example.

9. You don’t get responsibility, you have to take it

It is better for an employee to take the initiative and show what he can do, rather than wait until his boss gives him responsibility. In turn, the director would be better to offer something to his stakeholders and shareholders than to wait until they ask for it. In other words: the leader should ask open questions, the employees or implementers should take on the responsibility that goes with their task and thereby show that they can do it.

10. Winners often say ‘Possible’, losers often say ‘Difficult’

When visiting companies, I often hear that there are problems. I then say:

They have the same kinds of problems and are performing under the same economic conditions as you. So you should be thinking about how you can do better than the others. That doesn’t mean look at what can be done, but look at what you and your team can do. If you look at what you can improve you will win.’ Here’s an example: A company’s turnover is down by ten percent on the previous year. Drama! Turnover in the market as a whole went down by twenty percent. I consider that to be a reason to party. You have done better than the market by ten percent; that is fantastic! You should be giving your people gifts and not letting the situation have too much of an influence. Don’t look at last year’s results; instead compare this year’s results with those of other similar companies in the same sector.

11. Winners have a plan, losers have an excuse

This tip needs no explanation!


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