You call it banter, I call it bullying.

When I was player-coach for Team GB, I ran into problems.

Certain behavioural boundaries were not being respected – players were pulling pranks and playing tricks on each other, losing their tempers on the rink, not committing to the strength and conditioning or nutrition programmes, turning up late to the dressing room and so on.

As a result, morale was low – despite the previous coach’s incredible work.

Bullying was an issue; the players did not trust my systems.

They were concerned that the year would be as miserable for everyone as the previous year had been.

Try this exercise at the beginning of 2023 👇🏻

An exercise I use called ‘above the line/below the line’ – which also ties into the concept of accountability, helped to reestablish the expectations and behaviour boundaries.

Above-the-line behaviours were ones we wanted to see in each other and would help us achieve our goal. Below-the-line behaviours were undesirable and would hinder us.

One below-the-line behaviour was, unsurprisingly, criticising each other for failing because we had been pushing ourselves.

We were aiming to break the system and challenge ourselves – of course; we would fail and make bad passes.

An above-the-line behaviour would be holding each other accountable – checking in on each other if one of us was late or supporting each other with the diet and exercise programmes.

As a result, the team culture changed. Everyone had agreed on what was acceptable or unacceptable. They could trust each other and me as coach – they knew everyone was looking out for each other.

They could approach the World Championship knowing that they were not about to have another terrible week.

That year (2006), we won Pool B Gold.

Same players – different mindsets.

How will you create psychological safety in your team to make 2023 a success?

Have a great holiday and New Year!