Apr 6, 2016
Four Letters for Increasing Buy-In

Even the best strength and conditioning program will struggle to be effective if athletes don’t buy into it. As outlined in this column on elitefts.com, Bryan Mann, Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Missouri, uses four cues he picked up from a book to help better connect with athletes, which ultimately increases buy-in.

The book, recommended to Mann by former Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden, is Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by leadership expert John C. Maxwell. According to Mann, Maxwell outlines four keys areas that people are most likely to enjoy talking about—family, occupation, recreation and message (FORM).

“His point is that people will usually talk endlessly about these four things, and in these four things you can find commonality and then establish trust by showing that you care,” Mann writes. “FORM gives you a roadmap of how to connect and how to get to know the person in a short time. Are there other methods that may be better to doing this than the FORM? I’m sure there could be, but I know this is what has worked for me. Is it perfect? Probably not, but I will tell you this: it IS effective.”

Mann also explains how he uses each of these four areas when connecting with athletes. Here are some samples:

Family: “You can relate as you may have a family member who did the same thing. Sometimes you get athletes with circumstances that led them to not be raised by their parents, but their grandparents (I have a similar situation). You can talk about these commonalities, and it makes you more relatable to the athlete and it shows them that you care.”

Occupation: “These college athletes have an occupation—they are students with a particular major. Why did they choose that major? What did they enjoy about it? What classes did they like? Who is their favorite professor and why? What are they going to do after college with that major? These questions lead a lot to the inner-workings of the athlete. What makes them tick? What set them into the direction that has led them to where they are today? For me it also led to what can I do to help this athlete outside of strength and conditioning?”

Recreation: “What is it that they like? This isn’t something that you can use to drive them, but again establish commonality. When I run across an athlete who likes to build stuff, we can talk all day and share pictures of carpentry stuff. Some will be hikers, rock climbers, gear heads, and who knows what else. What of these things do you know something about or have done personally? If you have been in the area for any amount of time, you can point them into an area where they can enjoy their hobby in town.”

Message: “What is it that drives the athlete? What is it that they want people to know? What is it that drives them? Some athletes won’t really know right now, and that’s fine. Maybe they’re holding out because you haven’t earned their trust, but many of them just genuinely won’t know because they are still trying to find their place or path in this world. Sometimes it’s great to be able to know that you’re with them at the start of that path. Some athletes, however, will have this very clear and concise.”

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