Are athletes primed for future leadership roles?

For context, even if you played a sport when you were below the age of ten, I guarantee you benefitted from this experience in numerous ways you haven’t considered. One of the benefits was to learn early on the rules of what it takes to be a good team member. My definition of a good team member is someone who understands how to get along well with others on the team, and the basic elements of respect, collaboration and compromise. Three very impactful life lessons to acquire experience in as a young person.

When you were acquiring these impactful life lessons, I guarantee you were unaware of the value of them at the time. Or, perhaps with additional team experience, how the values of respect, collaboration and compromise would contribute to your ability to take on a leadership role as an adult.

Listening well was also a skill you began to hone as a young sports team member. Whether you actually were in compliance with what you were being told is separate from how well you were able to develop this skill. Everyone has the ability to listen, but not everyone has developed the ability to listen and benefit from what they have heard, or know how to apply it to the benefit of others.

If you were to ask most sports coaches what percentage of their team listens well, the range would be over 50%. However, if you asked them how well and what percentage of the team applies what they are being instructed to do, and do it well, the number is generally under half of the team. Why? The first reason is because listening well isn’t easy to do. Most listeners are not proficient at having 100% focus on what is being said. Due to the fact the majority of listeners are semi-distracted, they may miss key aspects of what is being communicated. Hence, the reason why coaches have to repeat themselves often, or find multiple methods of how to communicate their information.

So, is being a strong listener a trait which most leaders possess? Perhaps, and if you considered famous Austrian born, American management consultant icon Peter Drucker’s quote of “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said”, it leans towards suggesting listening is much more difficult to master than one might give it credit. However, when someone masters this skill, it can take you from a place of listening for the sake of responding to what you are hearing, to being an active listener with the intent of wanting to understand what you are hearing. There is an enormous difference between these two listening skill types.

Consider the next time when you are listening to someone which category of listening skills you are applying. When you are conscious and able to distinguish your listening type, you have moved towards mastering one of the critical leadership skills. This ability can be learned early on during your sports team experience, and coaches can and should be constantly mindful of honing this skill too. The athletes who become great leaders, will often possess the distinction of being the type of listener who is listening to learn. They will also appreciate the information being shared with them, with the sole intent to help inform them on making better leadership decisions.

Listening well and learning how to do so can also support another skill many athletes will also develop from their experience of being on a team. What is it? How to embrace and come out stronger on the other side of adversity. Since sports teams are largely measured on their wins and loss ability, having the ability to know how to leverage adversity to become stronger and to push beyond limits is critical to their potential future success individually or collectively.

The third aspect which athletes and coaches can equally benefit from, is understanding how to contribute to developing their team culture. Or, what I’ll refer to as their camaraderie level. Measuring team camaraderie can be subjective, but I guarantee everyone will agree about whether when asked, their team has great chemistry, or camaraderie. In other words, do they like and at a base level have a strong level of acceptance and respect for one another? First as a person, and second as a team member or coach?

Knowing how to contribute to the development of a strong team camaraderie level will set apart amazing leaders from average ones. The same will apply to coaches, and we can all agree camaraderie is something that takes time to develop. It also requires continuous attention and care being applied to it. Ignoring or not supporting a strong team culture will eventually have it wither as a grape would do on a vine, if it isn’t cared for.

Since one of my favorite things is to have people stop to pause and think about concepts which will contribute to supporting them better, I am hopeful that focusing on the tremendous benefits our future or current leaders gained from being on a strong team, will contribute to making them reflect on how their early years on a team influenced them to be the person they are today. Happy “belated” Father’s Day to all of the people who play this role in someone’s life.

Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Performance Strategist and CEO of Market Me Too.  She is a Gallup Certified Strengths Finder Coachauthor of Wisdom Whisperer  and Evolve! With the Wisdom Whisperer (published in December 2019)and is a well-respected motivational and social influencer with a global following from her numerous speaking, print, radio and television media appearances. She also is the creator and Host of a TV Show and Podcast called Murf & E Unfiltered – Zero BS Biz Talk.

Essentially every team is dysfunctional in some way. Our expertise is in uniting, motivating and bridging dysfunctional teams (sports & business), and turning them into epic ones.

Market Me Too also works with individuals from students to C-level executives. The individuals, business and sports teams we work with are coached on how to leverage and apply their peak performance talents on a daily basis. Our coaching produces repeatable, measurable and amazing results personally and professionally. Need proof? Just talk to our clients, or read through our testimonials.

If you want better and different results, let’s talk. We know how to help you get them. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com or (339) 987-0195.

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