Q: What's the best way to deal with a Coach (or any sort of person in a leadership position) that is absolutely wrong for a team? How would you suggest getting them to "step down" or explaining to their boss that they should be "let go"? Especially if it's gotten to the point where everyone on the team is going to quit if this coach is there next year?
A: Dr. Fayr Barkley, Ph.D. responds:
Sometimes people or situations are just not a good fit for whatever reason, and we are left with the uncomfortable task of having to move forward without them on board. In the end, it really is best for both parties as mutual frustration is not healthy for either side, so seeing the solution as a "win-win" for both sides is important. Many people are fearful of what they think is "confrontation" so they tend to avoid it at all costs instead of seeing it for what it really is: a viable solution for moving out of a situation that is or will become even more uncomfortable should you do nothing and stay in it.
The reason most people shy away from divesting themselves of non working, dysfunctional or plain abusive situations or relationships is due largely in part because they don't have the skills they need to feel comfortable about doing what needs to be done.
Let's break down this "problem" and then move through it one step at a time.
- Write out WHAT is not working in this situation. Give clear cut examples. (Ex: The coach gives players mixed messages. The coach's expectations are unrealistic. The coach is passive and ineffective.)
- Where possible, write out WHY it doesn't work and WHAT the team really needs. Give clear cut examples. (Ex: It makes each player feel defeated. It frustrates us and we waste time trying to second guess what he wants. The coach's lack of direction and leadership leaves us rudderless.)
- Write out WHAT the team really needs in order to mover forward. Give clear cut examples. (We need clear, supportive communication. We need weekly meetings to track progress and stay on track. We need someone who understands our limitations and supports us with proper resources to improve. Without this support from a coach, our morale continues to decline and our desire to stay together as a team under this leadership is dying.)
- Write down HOW the overall situation is being hampered, damaged or held back due to #s 1, 2 and 3 above. (Ex: Moral is suffering. The team members feel controlled and helpless. The team has lost its passion to win.No one wants to show up for practice. Communication with the coach has totally broken down and is irreparable.)
The point of the above is to not be personally critical of the coach or to produce an emotional rant, but to use logic and reason to assess the situation, how it affects the team and what is needed to improve the situation. You don't want to come across as whiners, but you do want to let superiors know that your frustration level has reached the point where something must be done or the team will quit. You want to prevent emotions from escalating and feelings from being hurt. The way to do this is to be calm, factual and remove any words of emotion from your lists.
Here is where you want to explore your options for solutions and present them in a cogent, non emotional and logical way. Again, keep in mind that the person you want to replace may not be aware of his shortcomings and may be clueless that the team is unhappy. He may be aware there are problems but just be incapable of remedying the situation. It does not really matter. What matters is that the team has made a decision not to continue with things the way they currently are. State your cause below clearly, succinctly and briefly.Each team member should sign it, if it is given in written form, and it needs to go to the coach's superior only, as it is that person's job to work with you to effect the solution.
A sample letter might read:
Dear Mr. Superior,
After trying unsuccessfully to work out differences between the team and Coach Wrong, we have regrettably come to the conclusion for the following reasons that we as a team do not feel we can continue with him at the helm for the following reasons:
(Here you will want to insert the information you put together during The PROBLEM exercise.)
After having discussed it among ourselves and after trying to work through the situation with Coach Wrong, we have exhausted our options and our patience. In fact, we have put it to a vote and unless he is replaced, we will have to quit and not return next season. If we thought there was a way to make the situation better, we would; but we are resolved that this is just not a good fit for us nor for him, and continue would be increasingly draining for both sides. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and appreciate the efforts Coach Wrong has made, but none of us is willing to continue with him under any circumstances. We don't want time to pass and for us to lose even more morale and time practicing and competing, so we would like to meet with you as soon as possible this week or next to discuss a replacement.
Please understand that this is our last resort and although we did not want things to come to this, we feel it is the only way to hold the team together.
Thank you in advance for your understanding and helping us to find a suitable replacement. We look forward to hearing from you regarding a best time to meet and discuss.
Signed: (Captain of the team, Co Captain and team members.)
This is far less painless than stewing in a bad situation with someone that is causing morale to deteriorate and frustrations to flare. Notice how I have kept any hint of emotion out of the letter and kept it on a fact basis; presented and outlined the problem, noted that options have been tried and exhausted, and suggested the solution and asked for assistance in accomplishing the solution.
Having your problem and solution spelled out eliminates having to rehash things from many individual perspectives and helps prevent finger pointing, blame and emotional escalation. It makes you look professional, mature and shows that you have followed a protocol for remedy. Now the ball, so to speak, is in the superior's court and they can handle the situation accordingly.