Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
Revised & updated December 28, 2021. First Published September 29, 2009, How Do You Find the Time?
Let's see, I need to have Sam to soccer practice at 4pm, Mary to gymnastics at 4:30, Ryan with his personal basketball trainer at 4pm and then to football practice at 5:30 and oh, yeah, it would be nice to have a home cooked meal!
This scenario is playing out across the country as parents cram more and more into the lives of their kids trying to make sure that they can take advantage of the opportunities that we did not have during our youth. It seems that many of us are guilty of this practice...and it's not just the sports minded people. You also have music lessons, dance recitals, scouting, book clubs, nature clubs, math clubs. Uggghhh! It is a never ending “fill the void”, “follow the pea while I shuffle the cup”, “battling the clock” while trying to make sure your child gets enough sleep.
We all want what is best for our kids but at what price?
To keep things in perspective, we should ask ourselves:
Are they having fun?
Are their activities impacting their studies?
Are we spending any quality time as a family?
We also need to keep in mind that not every kid is the same. Don’t pressure your child to keep up with a teammate. They may have different goals and passions. If you have multiple kids going through this process, it’s even more critical that you don’t make assumptions and treat them the same. While it’s obvious growing up that they have their own distinct personalities, we tend to compare them to their siblings and try to follow the same path that worked for the older child.
The bottom line is 20 years from now, will your child thank you for these opportunities? Will your family be stronger? Or will you be asking yourself why you didn't spend more time just being family? Ultimately, the answers to these questions are relevant to the happiness of your child Beyond Today.
This is a blog post that I wrote in February 2010 when I was coaching my oldest son’s 6th grade basketball team. I completely forgot about the blog posts I had written back then that focused on the development of young players and sharing coaching perspectives with youth coaches.
I have always loved sports - playing and watching as a kid to coaching and watching as an adult. What I have truly come to relish is how much the lessons of sports help in the workplace and in life. The arena of sports is one of the most perfect settings to see the opportunities for leadership on display - the successes and the failures. While I am talking about coaching a 6th grade team below, change out the names and the skills that are being taught and is it really any different? The pressure to win causing you to lose focus on the development of your team? We have all felt that at work.
I hope you enjoy this post because it is a perfect example of how those AHA moments can bring joy Beyond Today.
Don’t Lose Site of the “AHA” Moments
Originally posted Feb. 10, 2010, on bringitstrong.com
When coaching youth sports, it is easy to get caught up in the winning and losing. Why do you coach? To get the trophy? To get another medal for your kids? Are you getting paid? Is there a real national championship on the line? If you are like me, then these are not the reasons. I have spoken before about coaching to develop instead of coaching to win. It's easy to forget that when each weekend you are playing to be a "champion."
This year, I have a new team that is mostly made up of inexperienced players in comparison to the three players that I have coached previously. While I knew up front that this would be a year focused on teaching and developing players, I lost sight of that fact as we began our tournament season and the competitive juices caused me to feel the pressure to win.
As our season is nearing an end, I think about our 17-5 record and am pleasantly surprised. However, I am more pleased with the progress of all our players. Watching kids shoot the ball with their opposite hands. Seeing a kid utilize a move in a game that we have worked on time and again in practice. Being able to give a big squeeze to a kid that finally executed what you have asked from him and seeing that feeling of pride on his face. Being able to give playing time to all the kids even in crucial situations. Sitting back and watching your kids share the ball, help each other off the ground, congratulate each other on a good play and smile as they walk off the court.
That is why I coach. For those moments when a young athlete says "AHA" and they just get it. That is coaching to develop and when you do that, winning will take care of itself.
Over the last month and a half, I have introduced the concept of the Pillars of Impact and how they are 3 key principles that are critical to achieving success. I explained that when I look for future teammates, I try to make sure that these traits exist in them and before they are hired, I have a conversation about my expectations related to those Pillars.
The three pillars are:
As I mentioned above, when a person is hired into my group at whatever position, I try to have a quick phone call with them before the offer is made. I started this several years ago after a conversation with our Company's President and CEO. We were discussing how difficult it is to get new employees acclimated to a culture that has been building for so many years. New employees don’t remember the challenges we faced when employees were forced to wear many hats to make sure we could provide products to our customers. So much of what has made us who we are isn’t documented in processes and procedures but in the sweat, frustration, and excitement that we lived over those many years.
I realized that there is no better way than sharing my own experiences and delivering, first-hand to the prospective employee, my expectations to be part of our team. During the conversations with the future employees, I never called out the Three Pillars of Impact. That idea had not occurred to me until I was sharing the concept of these conversations with someone and felt it would be a great topic for a blog post. But I would deliver the same talk, focusing on these three points, to every employee. I might use different examples based upon the person’s background or position they were seeking. But I always finished with this simple statement, “If you don’t think you can commit to these things, then please don’t accept the position. Wait for a job that is a better match. Because if you can’t do these three things, then you will not reach your potential in our group, and it will be a waste of time because you won’t be here for the long haul.”
Courage to Challenge
It’s extremely important to challenge the status quo. As a new employee or new to a process, it is your obligation to ask why and to understand not only the process, but the expected outcome and benefit of the process. Without the questions, how will there be any improvements?
There is a fine line between challenging and creating negative conflict. This is a tough one for me and I struggle with many people on how I approach the challenge. There are two key ingredients to make the challenge a positive experience: 1) respectfully challenge the process not the person and 2) create an environment that is conducive to challenge.
Insecure leaders try to squash the challenges or get defensive. I talked in a previous post about Trust in Vulnerability in which good leaders are confident and open to feedback. They look for opportunities to improve because the success of the organization is bigger than their ego.
When I talk about expecting excellence, it is both about the standards to which you hold yourself accountable as well as what you expect from your teammates. In my conversations with the potential new hires, I tell them that they need to have the courage to challenge me as well. If we are not living up to what I have talked to them about, if I’m not delivering the excellence I expect from others, then I need to know.
I am not talking about perfection. I’m talking about the mindset or the culture of excellence. The pursuit of excellence can be more important than a goal or metric that you are chasing. This is easier to grasp when you are part of the shared vision, you understand where you are going, why it’s important and most importantly, what you and your teammates can do to travel that path.
Just get out of their way. Best set of advice for a new manager. Just like in sports, every new coach must realize that they cannot control every aspect of their team or call every play. Sometimes the best thing a coach can do is nothing. Now, it’s not really nothing but as a leader you are responsible for helping to build and reinforce the culture that moves the organization forward. You do that by the shared vision we talked about above and creating an environment of trust and vulnerability. Where they know that they can try, fail, and are expected to get up and try again. Not to be ridiculed or condemned, but to be rewarded for getting up and learning.
We are now an ESOP, an employee-owned company. While it may have only become official in the last year or so, I have felt and acted like an employee-owner since I started in 1993. I can tell you by the commitment of their actions and the quality of work that my teammates feel the same way.
Whether you are a new employee or like me, one who has been here for 28 years, I would ask you the same question. If you can’t commit to these Three Pillars of Impact, then maybe this isn’t the right place for you. Embracing and executing on these three key principles, these Pillars, is a sure way to maximize your Impact so that it stretches far Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.