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Psychology of Cricket Front Book Cover A Free Chapter from:

The Psychology of Cricket: Developing Mental Toughness

by Dr Stewart Cotterill and Dr Jamie Barker

Psychology of Cricket Stars

 

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Man-Management as a Cricket Captain

Another important aspect of effective leadership and effective captaincy is your ability to work with individuals. This ‘man management’ is crucial. We all know that there are different types of people, and as a result different sorts of players. Some players are very extraverted (loud and talkative) while other players might be introverted (think more, and like their own time and space). Some players make decisions based on logic and reason while others prefer to go with their gut instinct. There are those who want to understand the bigger picture with other players who are happy focusing on the here and now. A truly effective captain and leader needs to be able to understand and communicate with all of these different types of people. This is important because what motivates one person will not necessarily motivate another. The key is to be able to get the most out of each individual player.

Central to this idea of man management is the ability to build relationships and to get to know people. You will not really know the best way to talk to a player, or how to motivate them, if you do not first take the time to get to know them. This, in turn, requires you to ask questions to find out about them and to actually listen to the answers they give. Now this might seem like a strange thing to say but it is important. There is significant evidence that what actually happens in most conversations is that two people talk at each other and have almost their own separate conversations. This is because, for many people, they use the break in their speech to think about what they are going to say next. Unfortunately this also happens when the other person is talking, and as a result you don’t hear everything that each person is saying. So, the first step in effective man management is getting to know the other person through listening and actively making an effort to get to know them.

Once you listen and learn, you will start to develop an understanding of what makes a person ‘tick’, and in doing so will know what their strengths, preferences and weaknesses are. You can then start using this information to get the best out of each individual and out of the team as a whole. This is most important when the team is not doing very well.

When a team is winning it is far easier for players to stay motivated and to be committed to the team. This is far more difficult when the team is not doing so well. The captain needs to be able to ‘take the team with them’ and prove able to resolve any issues that arise on an individual basis with the relevant players. This can only really be done through knowing the individual. Otherwise there is the potential that you have the opposite effect and either demotivate, alienate or patronise the other player, which will be detrimental to the team going forward.

Communication

We communicate all the time, but are not necessarily aware of the messages that we are sending. Understanding the nature of communication in the team can help to develop strategies to enhance the team thanks to improved communication. This is important as a lack of good communication can result in a lack of cooperation, reduced coordination, and increased confusion amongst the team.

Of particular interest to cricket teams are interpersonal and group communication. Interpersonal communication is simply communication that takes place between two or more people. Group communication refers to communication that takes place between a number of individuals who are members of the same group or team.

Communication can also generally be further divided based on whether it is verbal or non-verbal, and whether it is intentional or unintentional. Verbal communication, as you would probably expect, is quite simply communication through the use of spoken sounds and words. Central to this are the words that you use to express yourself.

Non-verbal communication is a generic umbrella term that includes a number of specific components. These include:

  • Facial expressions
  • Eye contact
  • Body language and posture
  • Physical appearance
  • Proximity (how close you are)
  • Gesturing
  • Touch

Non-verbal communication is very important in cricket. The captain (in the field) uses gestures to direct the fielders. Also, umpires use signals and gestures to give a batsman out, signal a four or a six, wides, no-balls and free hits.

Good communicators need to be aware of both the verbal and non-verbal ways they communicate to be really effective leaders. If your mouth is saying one thing, but your body is saying another - the strength of the message you are trying to communicate is lost. So to be most effective as a communicator you need to ensure that verbal and non-verbal communications are saying the same thing.

Intentional communication (as the name suggests) relates to messages you deliberately mean to send. An example of this is when the captain uses their finger, to point to where they want a fielder to move to, on the pitch. Unintentional communication occurs when individuals inadvertently send messages that they did not mean to. Body language is a good example of this. In a game when performance is going against you in the field, heads and shoulders can drop; this in turn sends a clear message to the batting team, who will seek to capitalise. It will also make the batsmen feel more confident which will make your job harder.

All aspects of communication can be improved. If you are not great at sending the right messages non-verbally - work on practicing the relevant behaviours to send the right messages. You can also become more aware of the non-verbal messages you send through video analysis where you watch back how you present yourself.

A good example of the use of non-verbal communication is through ‘active listening’. This is where you demonstrate you are interested and engaged in what the other person is saying. You can achieve this by sitting forward, sitting still, looking them in the eye, nodding, and focusing on the person you are listening to. If you laugh, or look away, or yawn, or fidget then you are just encouraging the other person to stop talking. As a result you might never know what they thought or had to say.

Finally, many captains, coaches, and leaders in general, often search for the ‘golden’ team talk. The sort of thing that you see in the movies. This is where the leader (who has usually been through some degree of hardship) is able to stand up and give a speech that both motivates and inspires the team to win (and inevitably the team then goes on to win). As a result many captains get side-tracked by the wrong question. You should not be asking ‘How do I give an inspirational and motivational speech?’ Instead, you should be asking ‘How do I motivate and inspire the team?’ These two things are definitely not the same thing.

Some people are naturally great speakers, so for them, talking to the whole group might just work. However, for most people, they should look to inspire and motivate each individual player separately. This can, in part, be achieved by leading by example (be an inspiration). This can also be achieved by understanding what makes each player in the team tick and being able to motivate and inspire them based upon their personal philosophy and values. This represents more work for the captain (you need to get to know all of the team), but can ensure that you are able to both motivate and inspire the team through effective man management.

Resolving Conflict

A key aspect of any leadership role is the ability to resolve conflict. In cricket teams there is always a degree of ‘banter’ in the dressing room. But sometimes this banter can go too far, or players can fall out either on, or off, of the pitch. To ensure that the team keeps on being as effective as possible, a key job for the captain is to help defuse and resolve these potential conflicts.

But it is also important to remember that conflict can also be helpful rather than just a hindrance. Whilst conflict might harm performance and the togetherness of the team, it can also help the team to question current approaches and practices driven by a desire to move forward. So, in a sense, conflict can be both constructive and destructive.

Teams should look to encourage constructive conflict while reducing destructive conflict. Constructive conflict has been shown to be beneficial to teams as it can enhance team decision-making quality and acceptance, increase performance and lead to a greater degree of creativity and innovation. The main sources of conflict in a team relate to differences regarding the task at hand, and personal/relationship conflicts.

Task conflicts can include different viewpoints, ideas, and opinions. Relationship conflicts usually arise because of an incompatibility between teammates and can include tension, animosity and annoyance.

In conflict situations, one of the roles of the captain is to defuse, manage and resolve the situation. Five specific approaches to conflict resolution have been identified in the psychology literature:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Competition
  3. Accommodation
  4. Avoidance
  5. Compromise

The approach adopted depends upon the people involved.

Collaboration In this approach you should state your views, listen to the other party’s views, and then come to a negotiated solution. In this approach the solution should incorporate the views of both parties and be acceptable to both parties.

Competition In this approach the two parties have differing views regarding the situation and the relevant solutions that are either available, or desirable. It is up to one party to convince the other party to accept their point of view, and ultimately their solution (either/or).

Accommodation In this approach, whilst both parties have differing views regarding the issue and potential solutions, you deem there to be strategic reasons why accommodating the alternative view or solution is advantageous.

Avoidance In this approach the issue that forms the basis of the conflict is largely ignored, hoping that with time, the issue will resolve itself.

Compromise In this approach both parties have different viewpoints, but are willing to make concessions in order to resolve the issue.

Summary

The leadership that a team receives is fundamental to the team’s success or failure. This is true for, coaches, captains and informal leaders. Effective leaders influence, inspire, and motivate both individuals and the team. Mike Brearley has suggested that fundamental to the role of captain is the desire to understand what makes people tick.

Whilst understanding the characteristics of the individual and the situation are important the interaction between the two appears to be critical to success. The more the captain is aware of the situational demands the more likely they are to be successful in a variety of environments. As a result, the self-awareness of the leader and in particular their style, strengths, and weaknesses appears to be important.

Understanding the tactical aspects of the game is important, but even more so is the ability to communicate, organise, make decisions, man-manage, and resolve conflicts. So, captaincy should not just be about the best player, but about the best leader. Sometimes, these are not the same thing.

Key messages:

  • Leadership is an important aspect of cricket
  • There is no one approach that works best, play to your strengths as an individual
  • Get to know each individual and become an effective man-manager
  • You don’t need to have all the answers, make sure you use all the skills of your team
  • Always look to lead by example
  • Pay particular attention to your communication skills (including listening)

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