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When we think about discipline, most often we think of punishment. Negative implications are associated with this word. With little kids, discipline means a time out or a spanking. Yet, the term discipline is defined in a very different way.

Discipline is the practice or methods of teaching and enforcing acceptable patterns of behavior.

In short, Discipline is a Good Thing!

As leaders, we strive for those that we lead to learn self-discipline. Character traits such as humility, leadership, drive, motivation, and the ability to set goals, be professional, and create a culture are all impossible without discipline handed down by you, the leader.

[Side Note] – This post may be in direct response to the coach/leader that simply yells and barks orders at their athletes, other coaches, or coworkers. This coach thinks humiliation and belittling someone will teach discipline. He is wrong. A couple weeks ago I saw a coach yell at his team, “You don’t want to be good. Fine. I don’t care either!”  This was not a good moment.

The real question here is how do you effectively discipline your athletes, assistants, employees, etc.  Discipline will look different based on who your audience is. However, the following are universal truths of Effective Discipline.

1.     Be Firm

2.     Be Fair

3.     Be Consistent 

“Discipline is an opportunity to model respect, patience, and good problem solving. In the long run, you teach them to decide all by themselves to do the right thing.”

 - Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System 2004

So what does Good Discipline look like? Below are 7 Elements of Good Discipline:

1. Good Discipline Teaches

You are disciplining because you care. Remind your audience of this. Watch your tone and clearly communicate your expectations. Then ask them to fix the error.

2. Good Discipline is Not Punishment 

Punishment will not achieve lasting results because the behavior has changed due to fear. The person will learn to act a certain way when you are around. The real issue will never be resolved.

3. Good Discipline Does Not Humiliate

The motivation to embarrass by yelling, blaming, or making an example out of someone will lose your respect, trust, and credibility. You may justify it by saying, “I am teaching them a lesson.” However, the psychological effects will lower self-esteem, may lead to depression, anxiety, and more stress. Furthermore, you will deal with the issue again because nothing was taught.

4. Good Discipline is Contagious

Good discipline, once properly administered, is infectious (in a good way!). People desire discipline and want to exercise it to others. Proper discipline will help the effectiveness of the team and reveal who the leaders are. Ideally, you can sit back and let the team function.

5. Good Discipline Communicates Clear Expectations

Most frustrations on your end will come because you were not clear about what you wanted. Be clear and communicate well. When discipline is needed, remind the person your intentions and expectations again. I like to give people the chance to fix the error when possible.

6. Good Discipline is Not Passive

If you are the coach or leader that everyone loves, you may be the leader no one respects.  People truly do not want to do whatever they want, even though kids will express the exact opposite. They need boundaries, structure, and guidance. How can you enforce guidelines, rules, or polices when you let everyone do what they want? That sounds like anarchy!

7. Good Discipline Creates Problem Solvers

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb

What does good discipline look like in your work environment?

What practical techniques do you use that have been very effective?