Building a Cohesive Team

If you read last week’s post then you know I’m doing a series over the next few months to use storytelling as a way to teach influence. If you missed it, take a moment to read it so you have context for the continuation below.

Coach’s First Lesson – Liking

True to his word, Coach was sitting at the same table the following week when Pat walked into the coffee shop. With book in hand, she enthusiastically waved to him as she walked to the counter to place her order.

She sat down and, after a few pleasantries, true to form, Coach said, “We have a lot of ground to cover. What do you say we get going?”

Pat replied, “Absolutely Coach!”

He began, “Pat, in order to create a successful team, you need to care about the people you lead, and they need to care about each other. The foundation has to be a strong relationship. It was apparent to me from the start of your senior season that there wasn’t a deep connection between the players, but it was my job to help foster that. There were two principles in the book that helped me build a strong relationship with that team. 

Pat said, “I started looking over the book and I’m a little familiar with the different principles but I’m not sure which ones you used.”

Coach replied, “The principles of liking and reciprocity. The principle of liking tells us it’s easier for people to say yes to those they know and like. That means it’s critically important that your players like you but more importantly, that they know you like and care for them.” 

Pointing to his head he went on, “Everybody understands this, but few people know how to thoughtfully apply it. I’ll tell you three things that I did. First, I made sure to learn as much about each player as I could so I could connect with all of you on things we had in common. It’s very natural for us to like people we see as similar to ourselves. Next, I made sure to let each of you know things about one another that might get you talking outside of the gym. I did this so you could foster better relationships between yourselves.”

Pat remarked, “So that’s why you told me about Jane’s Boxer pup?”

“Exactly. Because you grew up with a Boxer, I knew you two would bond over that,” he said with a grin.

Taking a sip of his coffee he went on, “The second thing around liking that I put into play was to pay genuine compliments and encourage all of you to do the same.”

Pat said, “You did have a knack for looking for the best in people.”

Coach said, “I always felt like I was that kind of person, but I became more intentional about it after I realized paying compliments was another way of getting people to like each other. It didn’t just get you to like me, it was working on me because, the more I looked for the good in all of you, the more I liked and cared for you.”

He went on, “The third thing I did around liking was to put people in situations where they had to cooperate in order to succeed. You may recall that quite often I put players who clearly didn’t seem to like each other together in certain drills. I made it a point not to put them in drills where they had to compete against each other because that would have only heightened their competitive nature against one another. Instead, I put them in situations where they had to consciously work together. When you work together successfully, you’re more apt to acknowledge the contributions of the other person and liking naturally occurs. Is this making sense?”

Pat was busy taking notes but paused and said, “It makes total sense. It brings back memories about how you were implementing it throughout the season. And you’re right, the further we got into the season the more we sensed you truly cared for us. And I can recall times where some of the players who didn’t get along early on started coming together. We had no idea it was orchestrated by you.”

Coach took the final sip of his coffee and told Pat, “Basketball is about more than Xs and Os, and so is leading your team. Let’s stop here today because I’ve given you a lot to think about and put into practice over the next week. Remember; connect on what you have in common, pay compliments when warranted, and look for ways to get people to work together cooperatively. When we get together next week I’ll let you know how the other principle, reciprocity, also helped us build a more cohesive team.”

Unable to conceal her enthusiasm Pat said, “Thank you so much Coach! I feel like I did when I played for you. I’m excited for the next game.”

Tune in next week to see how Pat puts her learning into practice with her team.


  1. And Now for Something Completely Different
  2. Coach’s Lesson on Liking
  3. Game Time for Pat
  4. Coach’s Lesson on Reciprocity
  5. Tis Better to Give
  6. A Lesson on Peer Pressure
  7. Putting Peer Pressure to Work at Work
  8. A Trusted Expert
  9. Becoming a Respected Leader
  10. Ask, Don’t Tell if You Want Commitment
  11. Less Directive
  12. Wins and Losses
  13. Don’t be a Downer
  14. Self-sacrifice
  15. Pay it Forward

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CPT, CMCT

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His new book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

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