Conquering Resistance to Change
The following editorial is written by Dave Marcello, Chief Marketing Officer of PlayMetrics, theclub management platform trusted by forward-thinking youth soccer leaders. It is an excerpt from a free Club Management Guide, which you can download by clicking here.
Change is inevitable. You’d think we would understand that by now. We’re not shocked when Spring shifts to Summer or Fall turns to Winter. But seasonal transitions are only one type of change in youth soccer. In recent years we’ve seen the Development Academy close its doors, new league programs sprout up, local clubs join national affiliates, other clubs shut down, and lest we forget, a global pandemic that upended everything we knew about running a youth soccer club.
Far too many clubs were unprepared for such a rapid transition to fully digital operations at the onset of COVID-19. Many of their problems could have been mitigated — or even avoided entirely — with proper change management, a structured approach to leading organizational change.
When change is foisted upon us, be it anticipated or by surprise, action is required. Whether that action is measured and sturdy or haphazard and frail depends entirely on the systems already in place at your club. Successfully facilitating change means properly managing expectations, preparation, communication, and collaboration.
Here’s a look at how you can do that.
EXPECT IT TO GET HOT
Today’s club leaders are feeling the heat of higher expectations. Parents and players want premier experiences on the field and off, including college recruiting and professional pathway opportunities. Coaches and staff are demanding more skills training. Club stakeholders want to see more sophisticated and efficient business practices that save time and money. Yet, few are ready to embrace the changes required to meet these demands.
Temperatures can rise quickly when club leaders attempt to introduce and implement new procedures, standards, and technology without setting a proper foundation. Organizations don’t change — people do. And those working hard to facilitate change are often met with a chorus of negativity and flat resistance when they fail to manage expectations.
Setting and dealing with expectations is essential to successful change management, regardless of your club’s size or status. Youth soccer executives, directors, and administrators taking a strategic approach to change can better manage expectations across clubs if they:
● Clarify the reasons behind changes well before they happen. Never assume that everyone sees the logic in club choices or will respond to challenges in the same way.
● Establish a specific goal or target you want to achieve as a club – and make sure all key stakeholders agree.
● Anticipate problems. Change is difficult even when it’s essential. Plan for the best results — but prepare for the worst.
● Expect resistance. Recognize the personal investments and fears of individuals. It will take significant time and effort to persuade those who are reluctant to change.
Preparation is foundational for forward-thinking club leaders — especially for those introducing new ways of doing things. You can’t charge ahead without a clear plan of action and expect a positive reaction. Big changes can lead to emotional (even irrational) responses, thoughts, and moves. Excitement, expectations, and high-pressure situations can all contribute to poor decisions.
Real change requires calm, proactive leadership in conjunction with proper planning and tools. When club directors and executives can oversee workflows, dive into data for better decision-making, and keep their tech stack as simple as possible, they are better equipped to address what’s happening right now and stay ahead of what’s next.
● Start with a vision of where you want your club to be in the future and make sure stakeholders agree on first steps.
● Share the value of potential change, be it a new digital app, process, or system. If it will make life easier for parents, players, and staff, be sure to show them how.
● Secure commitment from everyone who needs to be involved in the decision-making process. The more buy-in you have before making actual changes, the better.
DON’T FREEZE UP
Communication can serve as your club’s lifeline during times of change. Cut it off and you’re lost. But if you hold tight to the connections and rapport you’ve built with coaches, players, and their families, you can move forward together with confidence.
Confusion and fear often accompany change. You’ll have to make the case for club changes. Everyone is used to doing things “the way we’ve always done them,” or according to their personal preferences. It’s not just shifting technology and general resistance to change that can freeze a club’s progress.
Club managers, parents, players, and coaches may have vastly different attitudes toward change. Some are quick, even eager, to embrace new methods, while others are slower to trade in the familiar way of doing things. The way you communicate with each unique audience within the club will determine whether you can bring everyone together as a more collaborative, future-focused organization.
Communication can inspire forward motion even for those seemingly stuck in place. Whether you are reaching out before, during, or after club changes, be sure to:
● Repeat important information. Be ready to explain (and re-explain) the reasoning behind club changes and their potential benefits, how change will impact individuals, when it will happen, and more — multiple times.
● Tailor your messaging to connect with your audience. The tone and format of communications with parents and players should vary from your outreach to employees, club colleagues, or board members.
● Keep the lines open. Communication must flow in both directions to foster change. That means listening as much as you are speaking or sending messages — and empowering others to share their thoughts. Short, simple messages that get to the point quickly work best.
● Use a variety of tactics to deploy key messages, such as email, chat and messaging apps, online meetings, one-to-one conversations, etc. Look for unified tools to support multi-channel communications across the club that are easy to use and protect valuable club data and information. You’re going to need them.
READY FOR ANYTHING
How does it feel to practically be a change management expert now? You understand how important it is to manage expectations, proactively plan for changes, and properly communicate with stakeholders.
But you can’t expect (or be expected to) enact club change on your own. Real change requires coming together on all fronts. And you need to be ready for anything. To empower club-wide collaboration, don’t forget to:
● Check the radar. Look for resistance to change within your club and address it immediately. And be sure to keep your eye on industry changes and challenges that could impact your club.
● Enlist change advocates. It takes a team to advance change. Find the people who embrace change easily and ask for their help in supporting and encouraging other club members to do the same.
● Monitor and measure results. Change isn’t a singular event. Continue to collect feedback, perform audits, diagnose issues, and address gaps as you move forward. You’ll also want to measure results to prove that the changes you’re instituting are beneficial to the club (and the club’s bottom line).
● Embrace future-focused tech. Change relies on people, processes, and technology. If you haven’t already, it’s time to embrace technology in all areas related to running a youth soccer club. Look for unified, easy-to-use tools to enable true collaboration, measure results, and modify future actions.
Progressive clubs are turning to High-Performance Club Management (HPCM), a framework for modernizing club operations using cutting-edge technology and progressive workflow
techniques. A powerful foundation for collaboration, HPCM brings people, technology, and new processes together to drive results — and ensure your club is prepared to take on any challenge.
Even if clubs could avoid change entirely, everything around them will continue to change as youth soccer matures. Your ability to manage change at every level of the organization will ultimately be a deciding factor in your club’s success.
So, ask yourself and your stakeholders:
Is your club ready for its next season and the future of youth soccer?
The PlayMetrics Club Operating System helps youth soccer leaders run your club with more clarity than you’ve ever had. It’s been called “the best product in youth soccer” and responsible for “helping us be a better club.” Click here to request a free demo.
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