Who’s on your sounding board?

We all need to make critical decisions. Some of us more often than others, and especially if you are in a leadership or sports coaching role. Your decisions will impact not only your own go forward path, but those of individuals as well as the entire group you are responsible for. Making decisions which impact others requires a different level of experience, and I can assure you that you will be better served when you have people you can trust to provide you with insights and guidance you may require.

Let’s first establish a definition of a sounding board, as it might be a different from what you might be considering. The way I would define a sounding board is being able to have people that you can under almost any circumstance, be there for you (e.g., via the phone, text, video, or in-person) to discuss critical and often highly sensitive information with them. Often with little to no preparation notice, or what might be defined as an “on-call” scenario and analogous to an emergency room setting.

Finding people to be on your sounding board isn’t an overnight activity. It will also take time to both vette them, and to develop a level of trust and interaction with these people which will serve to provide you with a track record of exceptional listening, practical and actionable advice. This isn’t exactly an easy combination to assemble quickly, but when you have them in place, they will serve to guide and support you like few others will be able to do so.

Is there a list of qualifications someone should have to be on your sounding board? Yes, there are, but realistically they might be different for each person depending on what level of experience they have themselves, or where you need support based on areas, you are not strong in yet. For instance, areas where someone could need help from a sounding board person or group would be if you are not strong analytically, or you might be a new or inexperienced leader or sports coach, or perhaps challenged with verbally expressing yourselves clearly. Another area a sounding board member could be invaluable to you, is if you have not yet attained the EQ (e.g., emotional intelligence) level you need to be at, and which will be required in many circumstances.

Another method to help someone determine who should be on their sounding board, is to factor in whether you struggle with thinking through all the variable outcomes from a decision you will be making. If you do, I strongly advise you to seek out a person who is exceptionally good at this. Numerous mistakes can be avoided when you receive guidance from someone with this skillset, and they typically have attained this via a combination of experience and being strategically oriented.

There are some leaders and sports coaches who don’t think they need to have a sounding board. You will quickly be able to figure out which “school of thought” they are in by asking them questions which will reveal this. The type of questions you would ask will relate to having them share with you how they go about thinking through scenarios and what methods they leverage to make a decision.

If they are the type of leader or sports coach who doesn’t have a sounding board, there are often two immediate reasons why this is the case. The first is that they are overconfident and underqualified in their knowledge relating to the situation, or they neglect to factor in the bigger picture thinking which will be required to appreciate how others will be impacted by their solo style decision making.

If you are a newer leader or sports coach, or perhaps someone who could gain benefit from considering the pros of developing and having a sounding board, here are some suggestions to support this thinking.

  • Having an open and growth mindset will serve you well and conferring with a sounding board will support this leadership style well.
  • No one person will always have all the answers to determining the best go forward path in every situation, but a combination of minds will get you much closer to an ideal solution or multiple options to be considered.
  • Others experience is a gift they can share with you, and it doesn’t have to cost much or anything to seek out this invaluable knowledge.
  • Consider broadening who should be on your sounding board, and perhaps include people you wouldn’t imagine doing so. Why? Because a homogenous sounding board isn’t going to offer you the diversity you will benefit from more.
  • Dismiss the notion in your mind that asking for help from others is a sign of weakness. It’s not, and in fact when you ask for help or guidance, you will be signaling that you are confident in being a strong, realistic, and thoughtful leader because you are thinking beyond what is only best for you.
  • Your sounding board will likely evolve over time, and it should. However, there will be foundational people on your sounding board who should remain there to provide you with longer term perspectives from where you have evolved from.

Having a sounding board will serve you well, and it will also help to fast track your professional and personal growth in ways you will pleasantly and intellectually discover along the way.

TAGS: #Business #Leadership #Leader #Leaders #Sports #Sportscoach #Teams #Teamdynamics #Strategy #Motivation #Professionaldevelopment #Personaldevelopment #Communication

Having and taking time to think.

In the past when I needed to carve out time to be focused, with the purpose of focusing and critically thinking about something, I would procrastinate with the best of people out there. I soon came to realize why I was challenged with doing this and was able to make adjustments in my life to address this. Doing so opened an entirely new world and way of thinking for me, and I now cherish being able to take the time to sit and think. 

I’m the first to admit that being focused isn’t one of my specialties, but I have come to realize that when I do focus and take the time to decompress, wonderous opportunities and things begin to happen. This may not seem hard to do, or special, but the reality is that the society we are living in shares my challenge of being focused. I know this to be true both scientifically, as well as via personal and professional experience. 

This morning I was talking to a well known interior designer who specializes in reimagining hotels. The type of hotels that when you go to them, they transport you to a different world, and in a very good way. I asked him how he got into this specialty area, and surprisingly he ventured into it almost by accident. When he was in his early twenties, he was given the opportunity to work with a renowned interior designer who didn’t realize he was in the presence of an absolute diamond in the making. Fortunately for the experienced designer, it didn’t take him long to realize the young designer wasn’t like anyone else they had encountered before. This was a good thing. 

The element about the new designer which made him so special, was the fact he had an uncanny amount of confidence, combined with a veil thin filter about what he was thinking and then saying. At first, he thought he wouldn’t be able to get away with canceling his mind and auditory filter, but upon testing it, he realized his authenticity and vulnerability combined with his innate and magical design skills would serve him extraordinarily well. 

One part of our conversation involved me asking him about what his method was to determine a signature scent for a hotel. Naturally this would require some thinking to accomplish, and I was on the edge of my proverbial seat waiting to hear his answer, and he did not disappoint me with what he shared. In essence, the way he goes about making this determination is that he leverages all the senses to come up with being able to articulate what the custom scent should be. He walked me through this process in much greater detail, and I feel like I had the honor of unlocking a mystery I had been wondering about how scents are created for years. 

Ironically, part of the reason I am writing about this topic is that I am taking some time off to have time to think, and to celebrate my birthday too. However, I didn’t expect to have such a fascinating conversation with someone in a profession I have always admired and been fascinated with, and secretly thought one day I would go into. So, in some respects, the conversation I had with the designer is both a surprise birthday gift, as well as an opportunity to think about why and how much joy I experienced having this conversation. If I didn’t take the time post this conversation to appreciate how invigorating the conversation was, and how much I learned about the design world in the span of less than an hour, I would be regretful of not doing this at some point. 

All of us are busy, but I expressed during our conversation how I take a non-negotiable one hour a week to write. I realized thinking about this afterwards about expressing this, that as I am writing, I am also having to simultaneously think about what I am going to express. What you might not know is that my writing style is what I will classify as stream of consciousness, but I am putting it into a format I can share with others.

When I first started sharing my writing and style with others, it was intimidating to do so. This was because I was concerned about being judged for how I was thinking about and expressing my thoughts. However, I soon realized I needed to become confident and not be concerned about what others thought, and get on with focusing on expressing myself via my writing. I also realized that writing gave me great satisfaction, and I wasn’t about to let anyone take this away from me. 

If you haven’t reached the point of being aware of how satisfying it can be to take time to simply think, I would like to encourage especially leaders and sports coaches to do this. Namely because they have to spend so much time thinking about others, that it is imperative they take time to think about themselves too. Here are some other reasons to carve out time to think. Especially critical thinking, which is much harder to do, and yes, it can be tiring to do so, but it’s worth it. 

·      Consider thinking as a form of self-care, or as a deep tissue massage for your brain. 

·      Thinking can also be relaxing, particularly if you are focused on topics which light you up and aren’t heavy or too serious. 

·      Practicing and carving out time to think may seem like a luxury, but it shouldn’t be. Just like anything you devote time to becoming better at, the rewards will be numerous when you become better at this. 

·      If you find that you don’t take enough time to think things through and make rash or not well thought through decisions, slowing down and allowing yourself even a few extra minutes to think something through can be beneficial to the outcome when you do this.

·      Sometimes you can combine your thinking with doing something productive or good for yourself. For instance, I love taking walks in nature, and I find that I can easily think and gain invaluable insights during my walks about topics I need to invest more time in relating to both my personal and professional life.

·      If you haven’t allowed yourself time to think, and this could be because you feel you don’t have time to do so, I can assure you this is simply an excuse. If you want to do this, you will find the time to do so, and it doesn’t have to be for a lengthy period. If you only have five minutes, then make the best of that time. 

I now cherish being able to slow down and intentionally take time to think. If you told me I would state or feel this way at some point in my life, I would have been quite surprised. I hope you will have the opportunity, or will allow yourself to reach this point too. 

TAGS: #Leadership #Success #Teams #Leaders #Thinking #Criticalthinking #Productivity #Management #Business #Teams #Teamdynamics #Sportscoach #Sportsteams #Motivation #Communication #Inspiration #Professionaldevelopment #Personaldevelopment

The death of a phone call.

Several weeks ago, when I was teaching a six-week freshman college course at a well-known Boston business school, I asked the students if they would be leveraging the use of calling someone on the phone as part of their set-up for their upcoming assignment. I knew I was asking a rhetorical question, but I wanted to have actual evidence to support my theory of what their response would be. For additional context, there are 36 students in this class, and not one of them raised their hand when I asked them if they were going to call someone to set-up their assignment to meet with someone.

The next question I asked them was “would they be texting or emailing the people they were going to be meeting with?” Most indicated they were going to leverage email. After I had the results of how the students were going to proceed, I asked them to consider the odds of their success in terms of reaching the recipients. This is a critical factor because the assignment was time sensitive, and the chances of the email containing this fact in the subject line may not have been considered for inclusion.

My third question for the students to consider was whether they thought they could have a higher rate of success with making a phone call versus emailing the person they were attempting to connect with. What I pointed out about leveraging the phone versus email was not a factor the students had considered. It was the fact that most of the people they were reaching out to were one or more decades older than them, and that the phone might be both a preferred method of communication for them, and provided them with a higher percentage of successfully reaching the person. Let’s call this 50% versus an unknown, and likely lower response rate if email was leveraged.

During my discussion about this topic, I also suggested to the students that there was no guarantee the person they were reaching out to would see or respond to their email. If they did, it also may not have been responded to in a timely manner. Especially if they didn’t know the person that well.  The other factor the students had not considered was the fact that calling someone increased the odds of reaching them in their favor. This is namely because people receive fewer phone calls now than they did a decade or more ago. I also pointed out that if they had to leave a voicemail, they could also provide a more human connection to supporting why they were calling the person. This in turn would also increase the chances of the person calling them back.

After sharing why, a phone call might offer better results in reaching people, the next challenge from the students; not surprisingly, occurred. The challenge they brought up was that they didn’t know what they would say during a phone call, and this was followed by their collective response that they were going to need to have a script about what to say. Upon considering this expected challenge, it brought me back to thinking about the hundreds of scripts I had written for sales teams in the past. Comparing the ages of the sales teams to the freshman college students in some cases provided only a 4–10-year age difference. The salespeople in this 20–30-decade bracket were typically in business development roles, but both these salespeople and the freshman students shared something in common.

What they had in common relates to a well-known concept referred to as “call reluctance”. If you have not had experience with sales teams, this phenomenon of not feeling comfortable calling someone without a script is a typical challenge. Call reluctance also occurs when someone isn’t practiced in the art of conversation, and potentially has a lower confidence level in themselves, or this ability. The same can be applied to why the freshman didn’t want to use the phone as a tool to help them complete their assignment, in addition to a general lack of interest in using it as a preferred communication tool.

Of course, there are other obvious reasons people in the Gen Z and Millennial generations are not as inclined to use the phone to talk to people, but arguably their lack of practice and comfort in this area has contributed to what I’m referring to as “the death of a phone call”. It has also contributed to other less than desirable outcomes including having these generations feel more isolated and lacking the skills to communicate well with others, and with ease. Numerous studies have been completed to also confirm that the impact social media has had on these generations has also contributed to the demise in either face to face, or verbal conversations being a strong skillset.

So, given the fact that fewer Gen Z and Millennials are practiced at using the phone as a tool to communicate, what if there were some intriguing ways to get them to reconsider this as a method which could serve them, or their employers well? Included below are some suggestions for leaders, sports coaches and the people in the generations referenced who might want to add what would be an old-fashioned, yet always in vogue skillset to their life…communication.

  • Let’s first consider and re-orient how people who don’t use the phone can think about a clear advantage of doing so and what it will offer them. The advantage is that doing so will increase their communication skills, and many people will benefit from this.
  • Anything new that we do will always be more difficult to accomplish at first. So, factor in that it will take practice to become better at conversing on the phone. The good news is that phone conversations don’t have to be lengthy.
  • Compared to Zoom calls, phone calls can be much less energy draining or tiring. One of the main reasons is because you need to pay more attention both visually and verbally when you are on Zoom, and this will more quickly deplete your energy level than a phone call will.
  • Any visual biases that are going to negatively impact you are not going to be factored into a phone call, and for most people, they are also less distracted and more focused when they are exclusively focused on talking.
  • Instead of texting, and leaving room for misinterpretation with your communications, try having a quick phone call, and be prepared to fifty percent of the time or more need to leave a compelling voice mail. A voice message has greater influence power than a text and offers a much more personal interaction which could be more compelling to listen and respond to.
  • Experiment with which outreach communication methods offer you better results. There will be instances that some methods are going to be clear winners.

Although the freshman students in my class may have reluctantly leveraged the phone as a communication tool, my intent was to get them to not be fully dismissive of a tool that in the right circumstances, could in fact serve them better.

TAGS: #Communication #Leadership #Leader #Leaders #Sportscoach #GenZ #Millennials #Powerfulcummunication #Businesstips #Teams #Teamdynamics #Sales #Salesleadership #Strategy #Management

Creating momentum and knowing how to do so.

Recently I was speaking to one of the team’s I work with, and I asked their leader what was something that appeared to be a challenge they needed to resolve. The topic of momentum came up, and I knew exactly why, as I had seen this team the week before struggling with this concept. One they needed to master as a group to be successful.

Based on understanding the challenge I needed to help the team address, I was prepared to immediately begin working on this concept with them. Naturally the team understood aspects of why they were not able to fully have momentum working in their favor, but the greater challenge was being able to have them coordinate their effort to do so. I would equate the analogy of an orchestra knowing how to read the sheet music and play their instruments well, but their collective timing to play the instruments synchronously was off, and the sound wasn’t desirable.

When a team’s momentum is off, you can sometimes see this right in front of your eyes, and this can apply to both a sports and business team. It’s more visually obvious with a sports team, and with a corporate team, it is more of an uncomfortable feeling you get when you are leading or on the team. As the lack of momentum is occurring, the team members can become very frustrated, and typically this will negatively impact their performance outcome.

Unless the momentum is corrected in their favor, and by someone or members of the team who know how to fix their momentum, the team will continue to suffer. We have all seen this happen with our favorite sports teams, and occasionally we will hear about highly regarded corporate team’s and their products or services that have fallen out of favor when they lost their momentum. You can fill in the blank on any number of companies who have had their momentum negatively impacted, but what you don’t typically hear about is whether and how they got their momentum back.

Since the concept of momentum is more oriented around a feeling and energy level, it is much harder to sort out in a business what triggered a negative shift. However, if you are patient and can forensically look back a few days or weeks prior to the negative shift, you can usually pinpoint what the cause was. The cause may be easy to address (e.g., it was flu season, and more people were calling out sick and there were fewer people to work on completing a project). Or, in the case of a sports team, it might be an injury, or a mistake made during a game which shifted the momentum towards the competitor.

On a sports team when momentum shifts during a game, the coaches have the advantage of likely having seen what happened to make the shift, or they can leverage film to see what happened. Another option is for the coaches to talk to the team members to get their input on what happened. All these methods will help to paint the picture of what and how the momentum shifted, but this information isn’t always going to help you with the now critical factor of knowing how to shift the momentum back your way. In some sports, one way to do this is for the coach to call a time out. This helps to buy the team time to calm down, refocus and orient their mindset and energy levels to being more positive and conducive towards shifting momentum to be in their favor. We have all seen this one technique work well, but it doesn’t offer a guarantee that it will.

So, are there ways a sports or corporate team can proactively do things to regain, maintain or shift momentum back their way? Yes, there are, and below are some suggestions I can offer for you to try.

  • Objectively identify the circumstances which shifted the momentum out of your favor.
  • Once you have identified the contributing circumstances working against you, quickly (if you are in a game situation), and thoroughly if you have the benefit of time on your side, determine what can be done to reverse the aspects which turned momentum against your team.
  • There will be people on your team who are oriented from a talent perspective to be excellent problem solvers. Do you know who they are? If not, and time isn’t on your side, the team who is comfortable with quickly coming up with solutions to challenges will be favored to shift the momentum towards them.
  • It will take some getting used to in terms of coming to depend on the problem-solving individuals on your team, but the people on your team who are excellent at problem solving will best be served to partner with others on the team who are strategically minded. This combination will offer an excellent source of helping you to come up with momentum shifting ideas.
  • Testing out your momentum shifting ideas in business may take longer than you are going to be comfortable with, so be prepared to be patient if you are leading a team that needs help with this. One of the leading reasons contributing to slowing this process down will be that people typically are not comfortable with change and shifting your momentum in the right direction is going to require embracing change.
  • For a sports team, it is more difficult to test out methods to shift momentum when you are not competing, but you can come up with methods to do so ahead of time, and to apply them when the circumstances call for you to do so.

Being able to shift momentum in your favor both in business and on sports teams requires applying a combination of art and science and a dash or patience and trust in others. When you can figure out how to harness the power of being able to shift or ideally maintain momentum in your favor, I guarantee you will like the end results.

#Momentum #Shiftingmomentum #Shiftingmomentuminyourfavor #Howtoshiftmomentum #Business #Sportsteams #Sportscoach #Coach #Leader #Businessleader #Leadership #Strategy #Teamdynamics #Communication #Criticalthinking

It’s not about you. It’s all about them.

I’m going to be blatantly honest with you related to a conversation I had with one of my sports coaches last week. The conversation was about one of the captains, and what he shared with me was really upsetting. Why? Because whether this captain realized it or not, he was acting incredibly selfishly. What was worse was that he was acting as if his performance alone was going to sway the outcome of their game today. It might, but in the opposite direction he is anticipating.

What did this captain do to exhibit selfish characteristics? For one, he decided he knew better than his coaches, trainers and his teammates and suited up to practice when he should have been resting on the sidelines in preparation for today’s game. When I saw him out on the practice field, I could tell that he was only performing at about 75 percent of his capabilities. Did he think others didn’t notice? Did he realize he was making his injury worse by being out there? Both good questions, but the reality is that he seemingly didn’t care, which is the ultimate in being selfish, and certainly not something a leader should be modeling.

Instead of talking to this athlete, I chose to see how today’s game plays out, and to leverage the opportunity next week to set the stage for a lesson in leadership he doesn’t seem coming his way. I’m really looking forward to having this conversation. Not only because of the learning opportunity that can be leveraged, but to have this leader understand from an entirely different perspective how his actions were going to negatively impact both him, and the rest of his team.

For context, this captain likely has never seen any bench time. He is well liked and more importantly respected by his team, but the decision he made to override the professional opinions of those that support him and to play when he should be on the bench, isn’t the experience anyone is going to enjoy seeing play out. Fortunately, the weather “fairies” are playing in this captain’s favor and there will be a limited amount of people who see what will be transpiring today. Next week he won’t have this good fortune, so that’s when the proverbial “wake-up call” is going to kick in.

Let’s take a step back for a moment and consider the factors that would contribute to a leader thinking that the entire team’s performance is reliant upon them. Being overly confident and perhaps unrealistic are several contributing factors, but so is the person’s lack or underdeveloped awareness of both themselves and the reality of their circumstances. In other words, not having peripheral vision of the “big picture” and the outcome based on their flawed thought process. Sometimes a person’s maturity level, or lack of leadership skills will also be contributing factors to decisions they make. One’s that in the past may not have impacted others when they were in an individual contributor role, and not a leadership role. When you are an individual contributor, you have more leeway to make decisions that are oriented around having a limited impact, but when you step into a leadership role, you need to now factor in thinking about how your decisions and actions are seriously going to impact others.

Thinking about and putting others first isn’t a skill that is developed overnight. However, modeling leadership behavior always is critical to the development of newly minted leaders. They will make mistakes, even if they have had nearly perfect role models, and it will be the mistakes they make that will impact their ability to become a stronger leader. Or not, if they don’t take time to reflect upon their mistakes and figure out how to course correct on them. This isn’t always easy to do, and it’s truly a “team sport” concept that needs to be embraced from the perspective of being able to comfortably rely upon others that have more experience than you do. It will take both faith and trust to do this, and it won’t happen overnight.

As I’m crafting this week’s story for you, I’m thinking about how I will also be able to leverage it as a tool for the captain. So, with this captain being my muse this week and providing me with a topic I feel is critically important for leaders to get right, below are some suggestions on how to make sure you recognize behaviors that are unfavorable as a leader. More importantly, to have some ideas for you to consider test driving to increase your leadership abilities if you still think it’s all about you, and not them.

  • Look around the next time you are with the team you lead. Consider how hard all of them are working, and how much they depend on you to make good decisions. Don’t let them down but making selfish decisions which will negatively affect you and them.
  • You are always being watched. Never forget this, so exhibit behavior that would be favorable if you were to watch a playback on how you were leading others on any given day.
  • Get comfortable with asking for advice, and don’t ever think you have everything figured out.
  • Continue to invest in yourself to learn more about who you truly are, to take your awareness of who you are to the next level, and in doing so appreciating that knowing yourself better will contribute to being a better person and leader.
  • Practice putting your team’s needs into greater focus. Ask your team questions and really listen to what they are sharing with you. More importantly what they might not be telling you, yet you expected them to be doing so.
  • What is your trust level or how would you rate yourself in terms of whether you are a leader who others can 100% count on and trust? If you are not at 100%, there is plenty of room for opportunity to bring it up to this level. Just ask someone who was on a Championship team what their trust level was for their leader or their teammates.

Being able to look at yourself in the mirror and face the fact you might not be at the level of truly acknowledging and demonstrating as a leader that it’s not about you, it’s all about them is a place to strive to get to. When you can maintain being there, that is when you will start to see “magic” outcomes for your team. I’m sure anyone with even a minor competitive or achievement bent will agree with this.

TAGS: #Leadership #Sportscoaches #Teams  #Teamdynamics #Positiveimpact #Business #Motivation #Communication #Thoughtleadership #Dealingwithadversity #Awareness #Selfawareness #Competition #Winning #Achievement #Achiever #Leader #Leaders #Performance #Management