Following endless hours of watching March Madness, we have all had a chance to see how teams behave under the pressure of competition. Some operate as a seamless unit while others blow their opportunity at reaching basketball nirvana. It all caused me to reflect on my own choices in sports. Over the years, I have always chosen to play individual sports over team sports. I originally thought that the reason was because I was more of a loner and wanted to be the one solely responsible for my own wins and losses.

In retrospect, however, I realize that the real reason I have never chosen to be part of a team is because I have seen too many teams that are not managed properly – players not treated fairly and coaches who don’t take responsibility for the choices they make. Realizing that, I decided to look at what it takes as a coach to create the best team possible. And it turns out that whether you are leading a team to the championship game in sports or you are leading one of the top Fortune 500 companies, the rules of creating a great team are always the same.

The easiest way to erode a great team is to play favorites. A majority of the time the person who the coach favors is not necessarily the best team player. When the favorite player skips practices and expects the rest of the team to pick up the slack left behind, it breaks down team unity. Another bad idea when creating a team is to add family members to the team. Whether you are playing favorites with your family members or not, it will often appear as though you are to the rest of the team.

Let’s face it, as a coach or leader of a team you are inevitably going to make mistakes. But the key to this is how you handle these mistakes! Do you take full responsibility for the mistake and own it or do you blame another individual or even your whole team for not delivering on your vision? If you make a decision and it falls flat – even if you feel it was your team’s fault – own it, take responsibility for it and move on. Don’t dwell on it and don’t place the blame elsewhere. Your team will lose respect for you as a coach if you choose to play the blame game.

It does not matter if you are the most highly regarded coach or leader in the world, if you disrespect your players you will not get respect back from them nor will they turn in a good performance for you. Although your team may be mesmerized by how many championships you have won as a coach or how successful you have been, none of that will matter if your team feels mistreated by you.

Under no circumstances should you ever force or allow a player to play while injured. It does not matter whether or not he or she is your star player. A player should never feel like he or she HAS to play! Forcing injured athletes to play makes no sense on any level; they are not going to be 100 percent effective and it is possible that continued play could make their injuries worse. That creates the ultimate lose-lose.

Additionally, team members should never feel that they are going to be punished if they don’t deliver the win. Ruling in fear is never an effective way to coach. Show your team that you are honest and fair, that you truly care about them as well as the game outcome and they will respect you for that. They might even love you for it. But either way, they will want to do a great job for you.

It doesn’t matter how great your team is if there is someone weighing it down. As a coach, you need to know when to cut that dead weight loose. If you have a player with great potential who never maximizes that potential year-after-year, you have to know when the time is right to replace that player. Even if the player does have great potential, you may not be the right person to coach them. Cut the player loose so he or she can find a new team and coach with a different environment that can help develop that talent. Although a tough one, that decision also helps your team from being completely weighted down by this weaker link. It is never fun being cut loose. But if it becomes necessary, keep in mind that you are opening up new possibilities for that player.

Black-Shirt-SmileBy Bryan Lee

Bryan Lee is a National Exercise & Sports Association (NESTA) certified personal trainer, life coach and author who has lost over 130 pounds. Please check with your personal physician before using these health and fitness tips.