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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wolverhampton Wanderers and the language of motivation.

A hero of mine is the Second World War General: George Patton. “Blood and Guts” was a larger than life character, controversial and with a tendency to upset people. He delivered results. He was a motivator. Check out the opening scene in the Hollywood film Patton to get a feel. In the World Cup, the Algerian manager took a motivational leaf from his book before the England match.

When things go wrong powerful and persuasive language to motivate others can be a game-changer.

You see this every week in the Premier Football League. Managers come under pressure to give an account of themselves. Media and fans are just waiting for those quotes. Managers must hate the process and cringe at the interrogation.

The pity is that the interviews are not as well prepared and delivered as they ought. What is reported lies in the memory long after the game has been forgotten.

A recent interview by the local Express and Star with the Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy is a case in point. This was after the Villa match. Assuming the report was a fair representation of what was said, the reader was presented with this.

“I still feel we’ll get out of it, with whatever we’ve got and whatever we do, because I think we’ve got good players…. They keep going and they will get us out of it… There’s nothing more that could have gone wrong against Villa…. It has to turn because our lads worked dammed hard and they’re a great bunch…. We just need to play like we did on Saturday, but not give a penalty away, not get one sent off and not get one carried off…. I’ve signed everyone and there’s not one who would let me down intentionally…. They’ve all got a great work ethic. I believe in the same group of players and getting the best out of them, and that’s what myself and Terry Connor will carry on doing….. We might not have beaten Villa but if we get the level of performance we did on Saturday, that’s all I can ask. We’ve got more chance of winning if we play like that…. The way we played, not just against Villa, but against Arsenal, Bolton, Tottenham and Chelsea offers encouragement…. The biggest reason as to how I cope is that I don’t listen to the backdrop of what fans are saying….. I do not go around in a glass cabinet – I am fully aware of what is going on. If you listen to it, you would go off your head anyway. But I cannot question the performances at all….. I would not have done anything differently against Chelsea and Tottenham and I could not have done anything to make us any better….. I am not going to change anything – I’ve not got a magic wand.”

The cumulative impact of the words is a killer. Notice the high frequency of that magic word “Not”. “If”, “But” and “Can’t” add to the mood. These are killjoy words to close you down. Notice how the passive words are often the shortest.They are negative. Everyone involved is an observer hoping that something will turn up. In a difficult situation you can understand why they were uttered but they are not assertive.

Motivational language is about the right choice of words. It is about energy levels. It is about the creation of virtuous circles of optimism. Words are one part of the equation. Delivery and body language complete the threesome.

This professional sport spends millions on wages, fees, grounds and whatever. It seeks to buy instant success with the acquisition of a new player. What is needed is organic growth stemming from developing communication skills for motivation. Only then will physical, tactical and technical skills have a chance. This is a game where you have to use your voice and mind as well as the feet.

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