image by MPR529, flickr artist

coaches — especially head coaches — are vitally important to a team’s success. they’re the ones that provide the vision, strategies, and leadership for a team. if the players don’t buy into that vision or if they don’t understand the strategies, undoubtedly you’re going to experience problems on that team.

just look at the philadelphia flyers and their performance under john stevens in his last year. just 13-11-0-1 through 25 games, the flyers were near the bottom of the nhl’s eastern conference. this, after 2 straight seasons with nearly 100 points and a playoff appearance in each, including a trip to the conference finals in 2007-08.

as a head coach, there are many ways that you can lose a team: changing routines mid-season without warning or providing purpose, working players too hard, openly calling them out in front of their teammates, not being responsive to your players’ feedback and suggestions, and dozens more. but you don’t generally lose a team in a gradual fashion; typically it’s not a slow, building process. there’s usually a tipping point with a very sharp decline afterwards. the problem is there’s not much you can do to bring your players back around once they’re gone.

a coach losing his or her team doesn’t only happen in sports; it’s anoccurrencethat can happen in business just as easily if you’re not careful. in either case, communication is paramount. providing a clear vision which everyone can support, explaining strategies so that they make sense and tie back to the vision, and doing all this with one thought constantly in your mind — that your ‘players’ are

professionals, people who have trained for and perform a certain kind of work for a living, whose thoughts and suggestions matter — is extremely important to keeping the team on your side.

if you do hit that tipping point, however, and you start to lose the team, only one of two things can happen: (1) you admit to yourself that you’re just not the right person to lead the team anymore and resign your position, or (2) you’re fired.

poor team performance isn’t necessarily the symptom of a poor team. you may have a really good team that’s just missing the right leader. once peter laviolette replaced stevens as head coach, the flyers enjoyed a resurgence making it all the way to the stanley cup finals before losing to the chicago blackhawks in 6 games of a best of 7 series.

is your team not performing well? maybe it’s time to turn it over to someone else. here’s looking at you, bruce.