Management styles: tell, sell, consult, participate

Leadership behaviour can be expressed along a line (The Tannenbaum-Schmidt Continuum), ranging from “boss-centred”, where the leader sets the tasks, to “subordinate-centred”, where the leader builds relationships among subordinates. Here we adapt the thinking to coaching, with the coach as the leader and the players the subordinates. The emphasis is on how much responsibility the coach takes on.

The Tannenbaum-Schmidt Continuum

Tells: The coach presents the team strategy as the final decision and is totally responsible for all that entails.

Sells: The coach persuades the players about the team strategy.

Consults: The coach asks the players for their opinions, then decides on the team strategy.

Participates: The coach involves the players. The team strategy is decided jointly and responsibility for the results is shared jointly.

Tips from the T-S Continuum

Each type of coaching style has its upsides and downsides. Communication of direction is a personal preference based on your coaching and delivery skills and the ability, experience and age of the players in front of you.

The more you are “telling the players,” the more you take responsibility for the decisions. This is more advantageous for younger and more inexperienced sides.

The coach who “participates” may find that players are more motivated by the interaction. However, participation needs to be genuine and followed through otherwise there is a loss of trust.

In reality, a training session might carry all four main types of style. You may want to tell players what rugby drills you are doing to get the session moving and maintain momentum. You then might consult them on what they are doing wrong with a drill, before participating in what might work next time you do this type of drill.


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