A Lesson from Seahawks’ Coach Pete Carroll on How to Refocus Your Team

by | Jul 14, 2015

exec_coach_blog_apr_29Athletes can be a difficult crowd to keep focused. I have used this executive coaching technique used by Seahwaks Coach “Pete Carroll” to good effect. Coaches use any number of techniques or methods to help keep their teams or individuals on track doing what they have to do in order to succeed. Imagine the following situations which are just a tiny slice of all the situations that arise on a day to day basis.

  • Basketball star centers, who are more interested in perfecting their jump shots, may not want to practice endurance drills.
  • Football quarterbacks may bring their personal baggage onto the field, affecting their arm or their ability to throw.
  • Golfers may transfer tension into their swing.How does a good coach refocus his team and get them back into the game?

Seattle Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll uses meditation and yoga, which helps to clear his players’ minds, increase positivity, and prepare them for the game ahead.

Remember how the Seahawks won the Super Bowl this year? Imagine what mindfulness techniques can do for your presentations and meetings! I use this executive coaching technique to help teams focus and arrive at new ways of thinking about situations.

Techniques to Engage and Focus

I commonly use a couple of techniques to ensure that audiences are prepared for the “game” or the particular presentation or program in which they are participating.


Opening with stretching exercises helps engage people immediately. They’re expecting to sit passively in a room, listening to a speaker. To their surprise, they are on their feet and moving their bodies. This deviation from their expectations certainly helps the program start on a positive and productive note, and research shows that just 10 minutes of exercise — in this case, stretching —increases concentration and mental focus.


Clearing, which is a mental exercise, can capitalize on the momentum gained by stretching. Participants make a list of everything that may get in their way during the presentation or meeting. They write down their answers to the question, “What is going on in your life that is preventing you from being present and focused today?” For example, the answers may be, “I’ve got an important sale to close” or “My mother-in-law is giving me a hard time.” Many times, people try to push through with willpower in an effort to banish issues and distractions to the background, with varying degrees of success.

Clearing, though, is a release. It allows folks to acknowledge the items on their mind, list and validate them, and then compartmentalize them. They make the conscious choice to put aside their list of potential distractions and focus on the matters at hand. I highly recommend this executive coaching technique.

Clearing in the Workplace

For large-scale presentations, such as company retreats and large or lengthy staff meetings, clearing exercises can play an important role beyond the warm-up. Again, it allows folks to compartmentalize the issues that may otherwise divert their attention and decrease the quality of their participation. They become more fully present.

This executive coaching technique can be useful on an individual basis as well. If, for instance, a person comes into the office toting personal baggage, she may find it worthwhile to make a list of distractions, issues, and challenges. With the intention of acknowledging the obstacles that are likely to get in her way, clearing clears the path for what she must do next.

Another scenario could be a coachee who is struggling with personal issues that may impact her ability to derive the most value from her session. The coach may encourage her to do a clearing activity, recognize and compartmentalize the issues, and then continue with the work.

Virtually everyone who walks into a room brings baggage, including conflicts with spouses, trouble with children, and money frustrations. In order to fully engage, it is remarkable how the act of acknowledging issues is essential. Writing down these stresses and putting them in a safe place bring reality to bear. In this way, they can fully participate, grow, and develop—even when dealing with personal issues.

The Seahawks’ offensive tackle Russell Okung says that meditation is “about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment.” Clearing is the also about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where those internal issues don’t matter in that moment. They’ll matter later, but now there is work to be done.

There is a magic in the coach-team or coach-individual dynamic that you can’t experience on your own. You can use any executive coaching technique yourself but you can’t replace the dynamic and creativity that this relationship can generate.

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