Getting to the end of “Building an Identity” topic, we are going to summarize everything we have talked about so far by putting it together into three major characteristics of this process. We have talked about how to start with your identity idea, how to communicate it and even how to implement it. What are the following steps, then? Does one’s identity just reveal itself as the season goes by? Ideally, yes, but we can’t just trust time to the job for us. I talked about the importance of different people having specific roles in the team, as well as sharing responsibilities and our own leadership with the players. Why is this so important? No matter how good the message is, if there’s only one person spreading it, the image (or the voice) of the leader will fall apart and lose its meaning, which is why I think it is so important to share our roles, not over communicating and be aware of how valuable it can be to step aside sometimes.
Starting with the first of three main characteristics and principles that I value in the process of building an identity: consistency. While this can be considered obvious for some, it is massively important to not undervalue it. Consistency about our identity comes in all shapes and forms. If you want a team to follow a specific behavior, you must act like it, all the time, and keep it consistent no matter the environment, circumstances, or sports results: in our language, our actions, our attitude, and emotional reactions. As I mentioned last week, words can be very meaningful, but they only become real when they are followed by actions. Consistency is also a key factor to end any doubts that players might have about why you want to implement an identity.
Secondly, vulnerability. This is something that gains an extra value with younger generations: they are used to question things, to not take orders “just because”, and for them, a leader does not only show respect by demanding or giving orders, but also by sharing an emotional value with everyone. Being put in vulnerable positions is the nightmare for many coaches, but that’s how we grow as leaders and how players become connected with the message and values we work on. Vulnerability does not have to be related with emotions or personal life, it can come through understanding who is on the other side, showing sensitivity towards other people’s problems and being the first one to be the example when it comes to the identity we are trying to build.
Lastly, and connected with the previous two, patience. Studies say that it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. On the field, off the field, talking tactics or about life, this is something very important to always have in mind: habits take time to be created, and everyone is different from each other. For some people the message is comprehended in a couple of days, for others it might take longer, not because they are not trying, but because we are all different and do things differently. This is where our patience is important to keep things on track, but never pushing people away if things don’t work immediately.
After a month talking about identity, I couldn’t get away without mentioning “consistency”, “Vulnerability” and “patience”. For every situation, I am sure I’ll get closer to success if I keep these three things on my mind. As people usually say: “if you want to go faster, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Building an identity is the same way.