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From Locker Room to Boardroom – "Shut up, man."

The importance of direct communication within high-performing teams 


"Keeper, come out!" "Step to the left!" "In the deep!" "Play sooner!" "Shut up, man!" Those words hit hard when, as a young goalie, you first get the chance to train with the first squad. I remember the first sessions, my stomach tied in knots, afraid to hear those kinds of remarks again. I still hear these phrases daily, but they no longer fill me with fear. Ironically, I regularly use them myself on the football pitch. In fact, I see their value. These are all examples of direct communication. These words might shock you at first, but are essential for the performance and results of nearly any team.  


However, you rarely encounter such direct communication outside the football field, like at work. More often, we see prolonged discussions, efforts to maintain harmony or hesitations to speak one’s mind... situations we can likely all recognize.  


I won't suggest that playing a football match is the same as attending an important meeting, but the concept of working in teams brings up enough similarities between top sports and the business world. Secretly, I am quite curious about how a meeting would go with (extremely) direct communication. "You missed the deadline!" "This needs to change!" "You didn’t follow the agreements!" "Shut up, man!" The last one is a bit too much, but seriously, direct communication holds enormous value, even for teams in a business environment. What is the value of direct communication? How does it contribute to a high-performing team? What are the conditions for success? And what can we learn from (top) sports? 


1) The Value of Direct Communication 


Direct communication contributes to a high-performing team in several ways.  



First and foremost, direct communication ensures clarity within teams. "Behind you!" A clear and well-formulated message communicated straightforwardly leaves no room for doubt, ensuring you keep possession of the ball. In the business world, direct communication ensures that expectations, assignments and tasks are clearly expressed. This contributes to the efficient execution of tasks and the achievement of team goals.  



"Keeper, come out!" "Striker, get to the ball more often!" "Defense, maintain a straight line!" These phrases might sound destructive but are typical examples of direct, unfiltered feedback that can enhance team performance. Additionally, this feedback is good input for conducting a constructive conflict (see blog 1). When we all sit in the locker room, during halftime or after training, there is a moment to discuss the direct coaching. There’s more room for each other's opinions and explanations and conflict can be used to improve as a team. Direct feedback followed by constructive conflict ensures an efficient way of communicating and collaborating, also for teams in a business environment.  



Direct communication is like a brainstorming session with your best friends, everyone can say what they think and everything is put on the table. Once team members communicate openly and honestly, they can quickly address problems and come up with solutions together. It’s no longer about who made the mistake on the first goal against, but about how we’ll do things differently in the second half to be successful. It’s not about assigning blame, but about finding the right ways to move forward. Don’t forget to directly communicate positive feedback. Especially when something goes well, this increases the likelihood that it will happen again in the future.   


2) Conditions for Success 

When building high-performing teams, we as the Transformation Team ensure that conditions for direct communication are created. Two examples are:  


Working towards a common goal:

One of the first steps is creating and committing to a common goal. This fosters a shared focus and a results-oriented mindset. This way, you know that as a team, you are all working to win the game. When such a common goal is firmly established, direct communication can be seen as a means to achieve that goal without it becoming "personal".  


Engaging in performance dialogue:

Another example is having conversations based on numbers and facts. Clear feedback based on video analysis showing that the right-back let his man go, followed by the message to do it differently in the future, ensures better handling in a new situation. Since the focus is on performance dialogue based on facts and figures, instead of feelings and emotions, it’s easier to communicate directly. 


How do you communicate within your team? Take a moment with your team to reflect on how you and your colleagues communicate. Is it direct and effective, or are you mainly trying to maintain harmony? 


Just like for constructive conflict, trust within your team is essential to harness the added value of direct communication. In the next blog, we will explore the fundamental importance of building trust within teams and discover how a "poop incident" can contribute to this. 


Chayenne Heide 

Daan 't Gilde  

Niels Neering 

Do you want to build high-performing teams? Get in touch:

Peter Hardy

Director Transformation

T: +31650929204


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