They start out as interested friends, family and club mates. It’s the group of people who, for one reason or another, follow your team’s fortunes as it makes its way through the curling season. As one success follows another, then another, the size of this group becomes proportionally larger. Should your team reach the pinnacle event in its competitive environment (i.e. provincials, nationals or worlds), the group of stakeholders can be large indeed with a dizzying array of interests in your team’s fortunes. To make the statement that the team needs to deal with what could be a major factor in its potential success is a gross understatement of reality!

In that larger group of stakeholders is that core group referred to in the opening paragraph. They’re the ones who have been with you through thick & thin. Now that you are in “rarefied air”, they want to support you as best they can. But just as playing in this dream-come-true event is “uncharted territory” for you, it’s also “uncharted territory” for them. You, hopefully, will have a trained group of performance specialists to assist you. Who does that for the stakeholders? And trust me on this, your stakeholders need some guidance. They might “think” they know how to support you but there’s absolutely no guarantee that’s the case!

If you (singular and plural) don’t clearly define their roles and the rules and regulations that go with them, it will be left to the stakeholders to “assume” what they do is appropriate. That assumption is not worth the risk to you. You need to take the time to gather, either in “real time” or “electronically”, the individuals in your group of stakeholders who will be in attendance and provide crystal clear instructions as to the best and most appropriate ways to support you. Be blunt!

As an illustration, four men won their province’s championship and qualified for the Brier. The team did not exactly break from the starting gate. By day three, their w/l record had only the numeral “1” on the “w” side. Family and friends who had accompanied the team began to dissect the team’s troubles in the stands and at the host hotel with much “blame” being passed around. Even after a couple of wins, the “sniping” among the group of stakeholders got to the point that the team finally got the entire group together at the hotel and basically told the stakeholders that if the infighting did not stop, the team was going to withdraw from the Brier! Yikes! The team went on to explain that despite the less than stellar w/l record, all was well with the team. They had learned the lessons the losses provided and were actually much more pleased with their performance. The team ended the meeting by explaining how the group could support the team in a positive manner. Fortunately everyone got the message and the week ended in a much different fashion than it did when the event began.

I’m of an age whereby I can recall a very effective TV commercial for Fram oil filters. The commercial spot was only of 30 seconds duration and depicted a vehicle with hood up and steam billowing from the engine compartment in the background. In the foreground was a mechanic holding the aforementioned Fram oil filter. His words were short and to the point, “You can pay me now (gesturing to the Fram oil filter in his hand) or, you can pay me later (looking at the vehicle over his shoulder)!” My friend from CBC’s “Under the Influence“, Terry O’Reilly, I think would agree that the commercial sold a lot of Fram oil filters.

That same message was not lost on that team and its stakeholders at the Brier. The team did indeed learn a valuable lesson. Deal with your group of stakeholders BEFORE you leave for the event, so you don’t have to do it DURING the event causing a huge distraction! Would those four young men have actually withdrawn from the Brier? No, of course not but it was the team’s way of putting an exclamation point behind the message it now realizes it should have delivered long before the event began.

When I had the honour of taking four young women to a Scotties, I composed a letter which each player forwarded by email to individuals they knew would be attending. I explained who I was, why I was going with the team, what my role at the event was, what I expected of the team members AND what the team and I expected from them in the way of support. It was only one page but it was worth every word on that page and the most grateful were the stakeholders themselves. They now knew what to do to positively to support the team and what not to do.

In about one month, I’ll have the honour once again of taking ten senior curlers to the World Senior Curling Championships, this year in Fredericton, NB. As I do each year, a will compose a letter to those family and friends who will be in attendance at the event outlining the nature of the competition and how they can best support us. I’ll do this by email and even though many of those stakeholders already know what to do and what not to do, it’s just too important not to put it into black and white.

I’m especially pleased that one of that group of stakeholders will be Cathy King’s father. If you read the post of 11/29/12 (“The Great Escape – The Rest of the Story“) you’ll know why. I’m very much looking forward to shaking the hand of a real hero and telling him personally how thrilled I am to meet him and coach his daughter’s team!

A meeting with the stakeholders. Don’t leave home without one!