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Eyes on Me – A Positive Leadership Approach to Communicating Under Stressful Situations

Based on my many years of experience in working with youth and adult teams in business, community, athletics, and scouting, I found the saying “eyes on me” to be a quick way to gain the team members’ focused attention. By saying “eyes on me” and by making eye contact, the ability of my teams to internalize my critical instructions during intense situations increased.

“Eyes on me” works in youth athletics. Anyone who has worked with a group of youth athletes (ages 12-18) knows that even in a tense situation the players may not all hear what the coach is saying during critical moments. For example, during an intense time-out in a championship game I needed to diagram an out of bounds play. The energy of the girls as they ran to the huddle was high 먹튀검증. As is typical, they wanted to get water, a towel, congratulate each other on their latest play, and attend to a host of other business. On the other hand, I wanted them to quickly huddle around me and listen to my instructions. In 30 seconds a lot can be communicated. Or, in 30 seconds the entire time-out can be wasted resulting in an unprepared team susceptible to mental mistakes. I use the “eyes on me” technique in these situations.

In a strong commanding voice, but with calmness and a positive nature, I say: “eyes on me.” This phrase immediately draws the person’s attention to the speaker and if the coach makes frequent eye contact with each player while the instructions are given, the intense interpersonal connection is sustained and results in increased information retention. By the way, because of this technique I was able to modify an existing out-of-bounds play, assign players to a spot, and cover a few strategic points beyond the out-of-bounds scenario in less than 30 seconds. If you are wondering, the team ran the play to perfection and we won the championship. Winning was of course wonderful. However, as I reflect on the season, and that game, I find the ability for us to communicate quickly and efficiently as a team, and to execute instructions given under duress was an amazing highlight.

Youth do not purposely try to ignore their adult coach or leader. It just so ha

Youth do not purposely try to ignore their adult coach or leader. It just so happens that inside the youth psyche a lot of messages are moving around all at once. By providing a phrase, such as “Eyes on me” the team can be conditioned to snap out of their current set of random thoughts and refocus quickly on the coach.

This same technique works with boy scouts and varsity scouts. Often, in the middle of an adventurous activity, the leader needs to get across something important. I have used the “eyes on me” phrase to help the boys reorient to my instructions, address safety issues, and to reinforce critical learning points.

The beauty of the “eyes on me” phrase is that there is no threat, there is no critical comment, there is no message being sent that negatively implicates the youth. Sometimes as adult leaders of youth we can become extremely frustrated with the sporadic adolescent attention span. This frustration may cause us to lapse into giving off angry energy and put the audience into a defensive posture. “Johnny, why can’t you listen.” Or even more subtle, but still ineffective is, “Johnny, you are not listening.” These types of corrections only serve to stimulate a defensive rebellious attitude that, by the way, potentially lies within each of us. By simply having a way to get the focused attention of the youth, and doing it in a way that does not put them into a defensive or embarrassed posture, leaders enjoy a higher probability of getting a message across successfully.

This technique works in the classroom as well. The other day, I taught a class and had two students carrying on a private conversation. While speaking, I subtly moved closer to them. They continued. I continued my lesson and moved even closer to them. Eventually, I was right next to their desks. I was giving my lesson, they were still chatting. Finally, while speaking, I used my knee and nudged their desk. They looked up and smiled, and while continuing to give my lesson, I looked at them and smiled. The class was not disrupted, nobody was put on the defensive, and the lesson continued. If I had followed my initial instinct to ‘call them out’ and say: “Johnny and Jacob, why aren’t you paying attention,” they would have potentially been pushed into the negative zone. By using a subtle technique combined with the power of a smile, I was able to regain their attention.

When leading a team use techniques to gain a drifting team member’s attention without causing embarrassment and defensiveness. This is especially important when working with youth. Use a catch phrase such as “eyes on me” when you absolutely need everyone’s focused attention. With a long history (over 27 years) of working with youth, I have found this positive approach highly efficient and a contributing factor to long-lasting and enjoyable team atmospheres. The negative approach simply results in the team member(s) feeling like he or she cannot wait to get out of your presence. Keep your communications positive, stay in command, smile, and use catch phrases which trigger attention responses needed for team success.

About the Author: Dr. Gordon E. Whitehead was raised in the small rural town of Dayton, Oregon where he grew up heavily influenced by high school sports and that special, but sometimes quirky, environment unique to a small town. Gordon was a four-sport varsity letterman and the captain of the football and basketball teams. Following high school, Gordon enjoyed 13 years of adventure in the Marines serving both as an enlisted man, and then as an officer. His Marine career was followed by a substantial business career in technology and leadership with companies like Nike. Maintaining a connection with youth, and youth sports has been a life-long passion for Gordon, and his coaching experiences include everything from little-league to high school varsity sports. Gordon’s writings not only draw on his vast set of professional experiences and his active research in youth studies, but also are intimately influenced by his own childhood and athletic activities as well as his role as a husband and father. Gordon earned his Doctor of Management from George Fox University. Gordon’s website provides tips, ideas, and includes other articles valuable for those interested in leadership.

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