Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
In my corporate version of the 1st Pillar of Impact, Courage to Challenge I focused on challenging the status quo and breaking down the silos of the business world. As we apply the 3 Pillars of Impact to the world of team sports, it goes beyond how you engage your teammates but also how you engage the person in the mirror.
The challenge is having the courage to work both internally and externally at the same time. Building credibility and creating trust as you walk the walk and let your actions influence the behaviors and mindsets of others. It leads to the 2nd Pillar of Impact Expect Excellence, but it really connects to the application of expecting excellence in yourself and others. There is a reason that “yourself” is first and in team sports, the courage to challenge yourself is foundational to being in a position to challenge others.
There are 4 components to the 1st Pillar of Impact, Courage to Challenge, in the Varsity Edition that will help lead to a Culture of Winning:
"On Bad teams no one leads. Average teams, coaches lead. But elite teams, players lead." - P.J. Fleck
PLAYER LED TEAM
When players can accept their role and understand the value of their role, silos can be broken and players can focus on winning and being a star in their role. Players can focus on their own improvement as an individual player to in turn help the improvement of the team.
When a player leads, it doesn’t have to always be vocal. Behaviors and actions are what stand out and they can be mirrored and fostered in others.
The player led team is always the goal but the chance of this happening is greatly increased when the environment exists that encourages and supports such behavior. That environment begins when your Coach or CEO of the team helps to paint the picture of what a Culture of Winning looks like through expectations, communication, and living out the culture. A grassroots approach can be successful but is much more challenging. Ideally, the players take over leadership of the team through a natural progression built upon trust.
BUILDER NOT BLAMER
When you challenge someone, you must ask yourself, is what you are saying helpful or harmful? You may have the best intentions, but if what you are saying when you challenge comes across as blaming, then you will lose your team's trust.
You see this when emotions are high, the game gets tight, and very often, when a player is frustrated with their own performance. They lash out at their teammate(s):
“You need to block out!”
“Whose man is this?”
“Pass the ball!”
It’s easy to think this is leadership and that you are displaying the courage to challenge. Sadly, this doesn’t just happen with teenagers, sports, or new managers. Often you will see leaders and coaches do the same thing. Blame a player for not perfecting a skill that they either have not taught or have not adequately trained on in practice. You see coaches get mad because a player missed a shot as if the kid wanted to miss. Lashing out at a kid for not getting a rebound when the fault was from a teammate who didn’t block out his man.
The point being, is if you focus on the fault, you are not focusing on what you want. We must focus on ‘what we need’ NOT ‘what we did’. A builder has a different focus than a blamer. The builder focuses on the outcome and not the problem. They know to build someone up you need to change the tone and change the direction.
CHANGE THE TONE
One of the key aspects of building trust is creating a positive environment. As we talked previously and in the original Courage to Challenge, it is about how you challenge and the environment you create to challenge.
The Merriam-Webster definition of “improve” is
So, as you move from Blamer to Builder, you learn to focus less on what needs to be improved and more on what improvement looks like. To be successful in aiding in improvement, you need them to listen which is all about your delivery and the trust you have built over time.
Too often we provide “constructive criticism” thinking we are helping when in reality, it is only coming across in a negative manner that works opposite. Be encouraging to help find their potential instead of criticizing what they did.
CHANGE THE DIRECTION
In stressful situations, it’s easy to lash out but also very easy for people to defend and even attack the messenger. People already feel vulnerable without piling on. So, change the direction of your challenge. Not on the person, but on the team. Again, focusing on the outcome and not the problem. Focus on what you need NOT on what you did.
What We Need VS What We Did
‘Let’s keep the ball moving’ VS ‘You need to pass the ball!'
‘Keep moving and I will find you for the open look’ VS ‘Stop standing and watching.’
‘Keep talking on defense.’ VS ‘Dude, why didn’t you call out the screen?’
“Good look, I will try to seal my man better.’ VS ‘Why did you pass it then? I wasn’t ready.’
Ultimately, do you like to be called out? It is as simple as that. The Golden Rule of Do unto Others… People will receive your input and feedback when they know it is thoughtful and that you care. It doesn’t mean it is always desired and will be well received. There is also a time and place to provide such feedback. But as you build trust and invest in your teammates it will be much better received and possibly even sought out.
Having the Courage to Challenge means nothing if you don’t manage the tone and the direction of your challenge. If you really want to build a culture of winning, then the real challenge is having the courage to challenge yourself to Be Better Today so you can impact the culture of winning 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.