How to “Win the Locker Room”

How to “Win the Locker Room”

 Dave Anderson


“Losing the locker room” is not a condition limited to athletic teams. Any leader engaging in destructive, selfish, or other counter-productive behaviors risks losing the hearts, minds and esteem of his or her team. Following are five ways to be a leader who wins your “locker room,” and consistently draws the best effort and results out of your team.


Three Signs You Have yet to “Win the Locker Room,” or Have Outright Lost It


  1. Team members comply, but they don’t commit. They routinely do just enough. They don’t initiate. They appear more indifferent about what they are doing than passionate about it. In fact, you can gauge your success in winning your locker room based on the amount of discretionary effort you routinely receive from team members. Discretionary effort is the above-and-beyond effort you get from others without having to ask for it, threaten them for it, or bribe them to get. Without discretionary effort, you may be losing, or have already “lost the locker room.”


 2. Team members aren’t engaged. A “happy” or “satisfied” team member isn’t necessarily engaged. After all, droves of folks are happy and satisfied to do the bare minimum each day, never be held accountable, and expect a maximum return. Engagement however, is when your people are emotionally invested in the company’s goals; they care deeply about the organization and their ability to contribute to it. If they’re not engaged, you may be losing, or have already “lost the locker room.”


 3. Team members don’t buy into new changes, processes, strategies, and more. They overtly, and covertly, resist anything new. Their attitude is mostly cynical, and sometimes hostile to your ideas. When people don’t buy into anything you try to do or change, it’s often because they haven’t bought into your leadership, which indicates you have lost or are “losing the locker room.”


Five Ways to “Win the Locker Room”


“Winning your locker room” starts with having credibility not only as a leader, but as a person. You also “win the locker room” when team members can see and feel the positive impact you’re having on their growth and development. Here are key actions that address both of these factors:


  1. You “win the locker room” when you “own it.” Owning it includes taking responsibility for the team’s results, admitting your own mistakes, and giving away credit to others who deserve it. These high-integrity actions build trust and belief in your leadership. Owning it also includes personally renouncing excuses, and setting the right example by focusing yourself and your team on the aspects of your job you can control; and, not allowing yourself or team members to become “victims.”


2. You “win the locker room” by keeping your commitments. If you commit to do something with—or for—a team member, you are obligated to do it; even if it takes more time, inconvenience, or expense than you first estimated. If you “talk right and then walk left” you break trust and leave your people behind. At the end of the day, if people can’t count on you, they won’t trust you; and, if they don’t trust you they won’t follow you.  And who can blame them?


 3. You “win the locker room” by making team members feel part of something special. People spend immense amounts of their adult life in the workplace and are more engaged when they feel part of something special—a meaningful team mission and vision. High quality people want, and expect, meaningful work. Making people feel part of something special also mandates you make their own contribution towards that end very personal, so they more clearly see their role in helping the organization’s success. How clear is your mission and vision? If we were to survey ten people at random today and ask them what the mission and vision are for the organization, would their answers be identical? If not, you potentially have chaos in the cubicles, competing agendas, people with “jobs” rather than “causes,” and are on your way to losing, or have already “lost the locker room.”


 4. You “win the locker room” by helping team members grow personally and professionally. When people feel they’re getting better on your watch, loyalty kicks in. Training them, giving fast and candid feedback, increasing their latitude and discretion, and letting them make decisions on their own are essential steps to helping leave people better than you find them. Helping your people grow also means you set personal growth objectives for a quarter, year, etc., and then resource that growth as is necessary. Human beings develop to their potential in structured environments, buttressed by intentional growth objectives—not by chance, or simply by showing up each day. If your people aren’t growing, not only will their ability to contribute to the team plateau, their own self-esteem will as well. Team members who feel stale or stuck become apathetic and indifferent—a sure and eventual recipe for “losing the locker room.”


 5. You “win the locker room” when you develop a team that wins. Little unifies a team and builds buy-in to your leadership faster than winning. Getting results as a team builds unity, momentum, morale, as well as your personal credibility. People may like you, but if they don’t eventually feel like they’re winning, that they can win, or that you’re a winner, they will mentally check out on you. Winning, winning often, and doing it the right way, go a long way in helping you win the affection and respect of your team, and to “win the locker room” as a result.