3 Communication Keys After Defeat

Blame and grievances within a team shouldn’t be aired for the entire world to hear.

It was a costly mistake.

David Beckham had pulled down an opponent and was ejected with a red card in a critical 1998 World Cup match.

His England team would go on to lose in penalty kicks to Argentina — but the lingering damage really came with his coach’s postgame remarks.

“It cost us,” England Manager Glenn Hoddle said of Beckham’s actions. “It cost us dearly.”

When a reporter pointed out how just much Beckham’s loss likely impacted England, Hoddle added: “Of course it has.”

The comments, highlighted in the popular new Netflix series Beckham, were a critical snapshot into the potential damage our words can do when we as leaders act on emotion and badmouth our own players.

Hoddle was fired a year later while Beckham, who was just 22 at the time, would go on to become one of the most famous soccer players ever.

The truth is that Beckham’s behavior in that match likely did cost his team. After all, he was a superstar, and England had to play a man down after the red card.

But no matter the mistake or gaffe, coaches and leaders have a duty to shield their team members from the firestorm of criticism from outsiders that typically ensues.

It’s critical in these instances that we:

1. Take a little time to gather our thoughts

While “speak from the heart” is common advice, it’s not usually practical in the moments after intense competition. We’re too wound up on emotion to think clearly, and we can do irreparable damage to our teams and even careers by saying what’s really on our minds. Pause and take some time to craft an articulate message that’s not fueled by anger.

2. Avoid pointing the finger

Even if we’re frustrated with an individual team member, our remarks can’t convey this. We win as a team and we lose as one — and our message needs to reflect a cohesion and unity that no matter someone else’s blunder, we’re all in this together.

3. Protect our stars

The best talent is usually the biggest target for criticism when the desired outcome isn’t achieved. But for us as leaders, it’s imperative that we shield our key names from the blame that others will likely throw at them. We need to own whatever went wrong with our messaging — even if it’s not really our fault.

The lesson here isn’t that the player is always right or that we should be apologists for poor behavior or decisions.

But blame and grievances within a team shouldn’t be aired for the entire world to hear.

The tough message of accountability is almost always best delivered behind closed doors.

Scold in private.

Shield from the public.

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