The Key to Engagement


Why do Grassroots clubs with volunteer, unpaid coaches, helpers, committee members and parents have massive levels of engagement while current businesses who pay substantial salaries with great benefit packages, making good profits suffer from low levels of engagement?

As Simon Sinek says, let’s ‘Start with Why’ In our club and most community grassroots clubs there is a clear ‘Why’ These why’s might vary to some degree with some clubs reason for existence being to win trophies while many follow the development route. Our over-arching WHY is we want to nurture and develop our children both as people and players. As Whitney opened her classic song with:

“I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier”

Now I have put that song in your head, you will be singing it as you read this!

At our club we see ourselves as guardians to the many kids under our influence. Having this clear WHY allows us to try and create the best possible environment for our players to develop. Do we always get it right? Of course not, but if we always revert to this meaningful WHY then we have a chance of getting it right more often than not.

While over in the workplace, research has shown that industry has the most disengaged workforce in history. One survey reported levels as high as 85% of employees being disengaged.

So how do we deal with this apparent paradox?

As demonstrated, our club and many others have a clear WHY, while many businesses struggle with articulating their WHY. They have clear mission and vision statements stating what they do and how they do it but rarely delve into the WHY. Most employees go to work to earn a salary to pay bills, support families while trading their time for a pay cheque. This is all fine but it doesn’t happen at GR clubs. We give our time for free with no expectation in return.

So having a clear WHY would be a start in any business in addressing this paradox. There a few and Simon Sinek explains it far better than I ever could but companies like Costco, John Lewis and Southwest Airlines spring to mind. There is one thing that needs to be stated that this WHY needs to be authentic and lived by the people, there is no point on it being handed out by higher management. Enforcing a WHY just won’t work. It needs time to develop and form, just like at a GR club the coaches, helpers, and players will be the standard bearers and it will then slowly diffuse throughout all parts including the surrounding community.

I truly believe we all want to leave a legacy in some way. I have said before ‘Your Influence Is Never Neutral’  so I want to leave as positive a legacy as possible. In whatever field you operate in, I believe legacy is important. In James Kerr’s classic book ‘Legacy‘ which features the New Zealand All Blacks leadership lessons, he states ‘True leaders are stewards of the future’ We need to put things in place now which will bear fruit in years to come. This is the joy of coaching, you may not always see it mature but the seeds you plant today will ripen and flourish sometime in the future. We can make a difference in people’s lives through our coaching but remember it is long term change and not short term results!

Just to further reinforce the point on the differences between a grassroots clubs and businesses, I would like you to consider the following paradoxes and then consider why one gets barrel-loads of engagement while the other struggles. I will leave you to work out which ones work and which ones don’t!

Grassroots Club Business
Minimal Rules Rules for Everything
Principles Policies & Procedures
Values from Players Values from Management
Direct Communication (face to face) Indirect Comms (email, presentations)
Self-organised Teams Hierarchical Structure
Action Planning
Working Together Working in Competition
Long term Development Short term Results

So, how can we learn from each other. I am heavily involved in both these areas and I truly believe a legacy can be left in both if we can break down the barriers and really delve into what creates engagement in both. I have spent my career trying to simplify things, therefore here is my attempt in 3 simple steps:

  1. Define your ‘WHY’
  2. Engage all the people
  3. Just get on and do it.

There are literally hundred’s of Simon Sinek quotes but here is a favourite of mine to sum up and finish.

simon 2

The Key to Engagement

One thought on “The Key to Engagement

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