Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
When I decided to adapt my 3 Pillars of Impact to be used by coaches and their teams it ended up being a straightforward process to adjust the wording and focus on the key principles that so easily crossed over. I have spent so many years sharing the concepts with others, the words flowed out.
While the sports world has long been the poster child of autocratic, command & control leadership styles, they have embraced the trend towards a more servant leadership approach, much like corporate America.
The impact that leadership author Jon Gordon had on Dabo Swinney and Sean McVay was well documented as they led their teams to a National title and a Super Bowl, respectively. They engaged their players to connect them to the larger purpose of the team.
P.J. Fleck, the football coach of the University of Minnesota, wrote a book called Row the Boat that promotes a never give-up philosophy. I use his quote, “On bad teams no one leads. Average teams, coaches lead. But elite teams, players lead.” This drives home the importance of buy-in of the players and the impact they have on the culture.
WHO LEADS THE TEAM
When I first engage a team, my first question is “who is your leader? Who leads this team?” The response almost always is the head coach. As I restate my question, a few might speak up and throw out the name of a captain. I pause, scan the team to make sure that we are locking eyes and in that awkward silence I ask, “why not you?”
Most of the challenges that a team faces are not caused by the coach. Therefore, expecting the coach to be the solver of all problems is not practical and can actually cause additional problems for the team.
Problems can be addressed but many times it is only surface level solutions that tend to make them seem to go away when times are good. Then, when there is a rough patch, or when teams are under pressure, the problems will resurface, and chances are they will be bigger than before since it was never properly addressed.
If you are going to solve a problem, you need to get to the root cause. That will take the entire team to aid in identifying the root cause. More importantly, it will take the team to then work together to address the fundamental problem at the root so that it doesn’t grow back.
THE 5 CHALLENGES
INDIVIDUAL VS TEAM
I rewatched the video this morning of Shaq talking about his conversation with Kobe Bryant. Shaq told Kobe that there is no “i” in the word “team” and Kobe responded colorfully that there is an “m” and an “e”!
This is probably the oldest and most prevalent issue in forming a great team. The individual player puts their own success and goals ahead of the team.
I want kids to focus on themselves when they are developing their skills. I want them to work with a selfish energy and commitment to be the best they can be. The better they are as an individual will only benefit the team when they come together and commit to playing for something bigger than themselves.
I tell kids that “I don’t care who scores as long as WE score.” Being a shooter is different from being a maker. Being a maker is different from being a scorer. Doing things that result in a score is what being a scorer is about. Making the extra pass. Setting a screen. Keeping the floor spaced. Occupying a defender. Knocking down the open shot. Or being a team player.
SOCIAL MEDIA HYPE TRAIN
While social media is only a blip in the historical timeline of media, the desire and impact of media on players and a team is not. Waiting to see the newspaper article written up in the newspaper or to what your name on the radio has fed many an ego long before X or Instagram were conceived.
As a team, can you put the hype aside and focus on the growth of the team? Highlights may be great for clicks, but it doesn’t show what coaches and recruiters really want to see.
There is not a coach worth their salt that EVER signed a kid based solely upon a highlight video. It may make them take a closer look, but it is their work ethic, their ability to make their team better and their character that really turns the heads of the recruiters.
Along with social media getting you some likes; you can also see the “likes” happen by those who are around you. The kids will complain and take on the status of a victim and those around them reinforce that feeling without any real knowledge of what is going on. “You’re right, coach is a jerk. I don’t know why he isn't playing you. He must not like you.”
Many times, it starts at home. I see it more and more starting with youth sports and carrying over into high school. The helicopter parent managing their child's success can’t come to grips when their little baby struggles.
Ironically, these same parents can recognize when other parents or kids are being irrational but not with themselves and their own situation.
“I WANT” VS “I WILL”
Many a night, this discussion happens among dads over a favorite beverage while rehashing a game. Dads evaluate their kids based upon clouded, and revised memories of their own playing days as a youth.
“I don’t understand. They just don’t want it.” Does that statement of frustration sound familiar? Having been guilty of this myself, I learned over the years that most every kid does want it. They all want to win. They all dream of hitting the last second shot. Of making the key stop on defense. They all want to be lifted on the team's shoulders and celebrated. They all want to be great.
But very few will do what it takes. Very few have THE WILL to commit to being great. That is the difference between “I WANT” and “I WILL”.
A team that has established a culture of winning isn’t necessarily made up of a team with every kid being an “I WILL” kid. But it has enough. They have enough “I WILL” kids so they don’t have to stand alone. They have enough “I WILL” kids that can influence the “I WANT” kids to do enough. To step further out of their comfort zone than they normally would.
LEADERSHIP ISN'T COOL
Another reality issue for parents is that leadership isn’t always cool. Their selective memory doesn’t recall that leadership WASN’T cool when they were kids either. Somehow, they forget that they probably called a friend or teammate a brown-noser or a teacher’s pet.
Today, they are called “try-hards” or “sweats” or maybe they are “selling”. Honestly, my son to dad translator probably needs a daily software update to be aware of all the new phrases, but you catch my drift.
Deep down we know, as adults, that this is all about insecurities and fear. Again, easier to recognize in others than in us, but that is another topic. This is why an environment that allows players to lead and most importantly allows players to fail is critical for a culture of winning. Remember, FAIL is First Attempt In Learning.
Whether in a company or on a sports team, there is a continual uphill battle to build a culture of winning and success. Those challenges come from external and internal factors and are not solved by one person. The challenges are experienced by a team and therefore must be overcome by the team. It is through the team that a culture is built and through the team that winning will occur. It’s a team-built culture that wins, 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.