improving self-esteem

Once when I was coaching high school football, I had a very talented punter. But in a crucial game, he kept booting the ball off the side of his foot. His first punt went only 10 yards before slicing out of bounds not at all the way I wanted it. So when the kid came to the sideline, I grabbed him and said, “Hey, stupid! You’re kicking the ball off the side of your foot! Go sit down and think about it.”

So the kid sat down and visualized kicking the ball off the side of his foot, over and over again. And, no doubt, he felt that awful, sinking sensation in his stomach, too.

Later in the game, the same kid had another chance to get us out of a hole with a good long kick. But he shanked another short kick off the side of his foot. It made me madder than the dickens. Hadn’t I told that kid what he was doing wrong?

I grabbed him when he came out of the game and said, “Hey, you did it again! You didn’t pay attention to me, did you? Go sit down again and think about it.”

The same kid kicked three more off the side of his foot in that game. When he came off the field the last time, he tried to hide. But I found him, grabbed his shirt, and said, “You did the same dumb thing five straight times! You’re not playing for the rest of the game! You may not play for the rest of your life!” I was serious. I added, “Besides that, you don’t even get good grades!”

Now, who should have been benched? The player was doing exactly what he was being coached to do. And he was being berated and belittled for doing it.

esteem development

know now that I should have told him calmly, “That’s not like you. You’re better than that. Next time, drop the ball with the nose up.” The job of the coach is to tell players what he wants them to do, and how to do it right. That creates a positive feedback loop a positive way to manage people. You recognize that everybody has scotomas to their faults, but they see the right thing to do if it’s pointed out to them.

When coaches use game films to point out their players’ mistakes, even slow down the film to focus on everything the players do wrong, they not only reinforce the mistake but they also reduce team esteem. When the player makes the same mistake, the coach says, “You don’t listen! I’d be a great coach if it weren’t for these players.”

Ask yourself, “Am I leading people toward success and excellence? Do I visualize what I want and then clearly describe to them what I want them to do? Do I build or destroy individual and team esteem?”

When you, as a team leader, say negative, sarcastic, cynical, or caustic words to your team members, you damage their esteem.

Suppose you have two water buckets representing a positive negative esteem balance. You start most seasons and ventures with nothing in either bucket. But if you put most of the weight in the right bucket, soon it gets so heavy that you lean in that direction; eventually, you may topple over. The same thing will happen if you put most of the weight in the left bucket. You will lean, and then topple, to the left.

Every time you make a positive affirmation a positive statement of belief or fact to your team, imagine that it adds weight to the right bucket. Conversely, every negative, destructive affirmation you make adds weight to the left bucket. If you accumulate more weight in the left bucket, your team will lean in the negative direction. If you accumulate more weight in the right bucket, you’ll lean in the positive direction.

When you build beliefs and attitudes through smart team talk, you lean toward the positive. Of course, you must always monitor your lean and learn how to redistribute the weight if necessary.

esteem problems

By using two statements”that’s like us” and “that’s not like us”you constantly affirm the future positively for your team. As you add positive weights to your balance scale and update the “truth” about your team, you change the direction in which you lean, and start using more of your collective potential.

When a member of your team makes a mistake, you don’t beat the person up or run yourself down. You manage the negative emotion by laughing and saying, “that’s not like you,” and then looking forward to “the next time.” Affirm what is right with you and your team. Imprint competence and high performance by affirming “That’s just like us” until every team member believes it inside.

Team Talk and Team Esteem

Teams, groups, and organizations have self-talk. I call it team talk.

Smart team talk is positive, affirmative talk. It’s smart because it builds team esteem. If your team talk is negative, your team performance reflects it.

And yet in your social and professional groups, you will hear negative talk constantly around you: “Ain’t it terrible?” “Things can’t get much worse, can they?” When people start faultfinding and complaining, you must learn to say, “Stop it. I don’t buy that.” Otherwise their self-talk could overwhelm your own.

As a teacher, coach, leader, or manager, you need to understand that to have high-performance teams and organizations, you’ve got to elevate the image, standards, and esteem of your members. Rule one in your organization ought to be “constructive feedback, yes, but no cheap shots, no negative backbiting, no belittling, no sarcasm, no cynicism.”

What’s it like now in your organization? Are people running it down, always pointing out what’s wrong? Low performance organizations have a constant stream of negative self-talk going through them. Most of us tend to tell the people we care about the most everything that’s wrong with them, pointing out their faults constantly. And if we think and communicate in pictures, they’re thinking and recording pictures that we don’t want. In a sense, we’re like the coach who videos the games and shows the players their mistakes over and over until they get them down good. Then we wonder why they don’t perform better. We run our people down, and then tell them to go out and win.

Effective leaders treat people with dignity and respect; they see and build potential in them. Leaders speak to people as they see themas if they already are what they are supposed to be. The male child of royalty is treated royally because some day that kid will be king. You don’t run him down, beat him up, and then tell him to go out and act like a king. You affirm his greatness.

In the military, they sing affirmations: “Off we go into the wild blue yonder, flying high into the sun. Down we dive, zooming to meet their thunder. Atta boy, give ’em the gun.”

Listen to this one. “We live in fame or go down in flame. Nothing will stop the Army Air Corps.” Such songs use the power of affirmation, and strong emotion, to unite peers in a noble cause.

General Burn Loeffke once shared with me four simple keys he uses to influence people in different countries: he learns their names; he learns their songs; he learns something of their language, history, and culture; and he shares a joke or a laugh with them. All of this is very affirming.

i am awesome

Paradoxically, we might be very successful at launching many campaigns and influencing millions of people worldwide, and still have problems with our own children. You can imagine how disappointed Diane and I have been with some of our kids, and how sad we’ve been because of the tragedies some have gone through. But you know, there’s a way of looking and talking about the failures of our families and teams that lifts the spirit so you don’t quit, give up, or make yourself a mess. You can’t live in a world of gloom and doom and pessimism and do great work. You need to boost team and family esteem. But how do you correct yourself and others, so that you keep moving on instead of damaging your self-image and self-esteem and getting overwhelmed by disappointment and grief?

Again, it gets back to smart self-talk and team talk. You can control your self-talk to the point that it doesn’t matter whether your spouse gives you positive reinforcement or whether your boss says you’re doing a good job. Of course, it’s much easier when you get it. But don’t become dependent on the positive affirmation of another to affect how you’re going to grow. When you do get it from others, it will help you grow much faster. If you sit around and wait for people to praise you, you won’t even begin to reach your potential.

When people do applaud you or praise you in a constructive way, learn to say, “thank you.” Learn to accept compliments graciously. Learn to accept praise. You’ve been taught to be humble. But humility doesn’t mean pushing away praise: “Ah, we’re no good; it was nothing.” You give credit to God and to people who have helped you. If you have anything to do with it, you must say “thank you,” and then affirm to yourself, ”I’m good.”

Smart self-talk and team talk will elevate your team image and esteem. I work with athletes and teams who struggle with negative self-talk. When they understood the importance of self-talk, they make great strides. Young athletes tend to show emotion quickly when they perform badly. But when they perform well, they often deny that they’ve performed well. They may perform well all day and make just one mistake, but then they focus on it. They may even deny that they’re any good and put themselves or their team down. Now, they may need to handle it that way on the outside, but on the inside, they need to reaffirm their worth, potential, and positive performance.