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

How to create a winning mentality.

A constant topic which comes up in my conversations has to do with team performance. This is independent of whether we are conversing about a sports team, or a business team. More specifically, the question I am often asked is how do we create a team which works much more productively together, and how to we get the collective team to understand how to have a “winning” mentality?

This morning I was having a conversation with a former NFL player. We were talking about how no one ever shows up on game day and says, “I don’t feel like winning today.” Ironically, he did give me an example of an Olympic athlete who essentially said this, but is this athlete the exception? After considering whether this happens more in sports or in business, we both agreed that the essence of acting this way happens more in business than most leaders will care to admit. Unfortunately, this is demonstrated in the less than desirable performance outcome of a team. Sure, poor performance on sports team’s occurs too, but the collective team mentality is unified in their focus and individually performing at the top of their ability. If they aren’t doing so, everyone will notice, and there isn’t anywhere to hide.

In business, it’s much easier to mask your performance, at least temporarily. The reality is that eventually someone, namely your peers and your leader will at some point catch on to you not bringing your “A” game to the team. It is inordinately frustrating for your peers when you are not “pulling your weight” on a team, and for others who will have to cover or make up the difference for your underwhelming performance contributions. Is someone who is underperforming doing so intentionally? Yes, it’s possible they are, and sometimes this has to do with their state of mind. In other words, whether they have a winning mindset or mentality, or the opposite.

If someone on a team doesn’t have a winning mentality in business, is it collectively understood that a leader will need to address this. It should be both the leader and the person in question, but the reality is that the leader is generally the one who is responsible and who will need to help the person who is struggling with their work performance.  

Although it may appear to be easy to identify who on the team; whether it is a business or sports team doesn’t have a winning mentality, this isn’t always easy to do.  This has to do with the masking I referenced above, and some people are pros at this. They are also simultaneously great at redirecting the attention away from them, with the intent of buying more time to not have to produce top results they are expected to do so.

The good news is that strong team performance can be contagious, but if the team is underperforming and this is manifested in losing or not being competitive, everyone on the team will both feel and see poor results. No one wants to be in this situation, but this happens all the time. Especially in sports, and less desirably when a team is on a losing streak.

When a sports team is on a winning streak, is their mentality different from a losing or underperforming team? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to correctly answer this one, and of course the answer is yes. Although answering this correctly is easy, the hard part is to understand how to create a winning mentality. Both in business and sports. Given the reality this is difficult to accomplish, I will share some of the suggestions I have for both sports coaches and leaders who find themselves in the predicament of not having a winning team mentality.

  • Sometimes a leader or sports coach is unaware of a person on the team who is solely contributing to negatively impacting the team’s positive and winning mentality. If you are not aware of who this person is, it shouldn’t require to you to have too many conversations with others on the team to identify this person.
  • Once you identify who is causing a negative mentality on the team, talk to them individually about how they think they are contributing to the health and wellness of a team from a winning or productivity perspective. Although they may be good at masking how they really feel or are acting, and not revealing why they are negatively impacting the team, you should within 3-6 trouble shooting oriented questions be able to find out why they are doing so.
  • We know that not all leaders are created equally, and this can also apply to their ability to inspire the team they lead to have a positive and winning mentality. If a leader or sports coach doesn’t have a winning mentality themselves, I am going to suggest a controversial approach. The approach will require the leader or sports coach to delegate having another person on their team who is more skilled at and able to positively influence the team to have a winning mentality. From repeated experience, I can tell you this works.
  • The concept of believing in one another is fictionally represented on a show Ted Lasso, but the reality is this concept can be worked on through a series of integrating exercises to apply this. The next step is to then start to have the exercises become embedded in the mindsets of those on the team. In other words, everyone on the team must believe everyone else on the sports team thinks they can win or perform at a top level in order to exceed the performance of their business competitors.
  • Outworking in terms of performance, or out strategizing your competitors are two methods that will help to contribute to having a winning mentality. When they are combined, this is when I have seen team’s both begin to go on winning streaks and begin taking business away from their competitors.
  • Preparing your team to be equally mentally and physically strong can apply to both a sports team, as well as a business. Consider what you are doing on a weekly basis as a leader or sports coach to enable your team to be strong in both areas. Are you sincerely and realistically making the right investments in them to help them to have a winning mentality?

Everyone enjoys being on a well performing team, and the people who lead and who are on these team’s are doing things quite differently than you are. I know this for a fact, as I have done research which provided tangible evidence which differentiated why some teams were winning championships, and others struggled to string a few wins together. I’m sure we can all agree being on a winning mentality team is the more desirable team to be on, so what are you waiting for or going to do if this doesn’t describe the current team you are leading or on?

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #Leader #Leaders #How_to_win #A_winning_mentality #Mindset #Teamdynamics #Sports #Sportscoach #Businessleader #Motivation #Communication #Winningmindset #Havingawinningmindset #Winning #Strategy #Success

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

Timing your leadership conversations.


For context, consider the last conversation you had with someone and whether you or they may have been prescriptive in terms of when, where and what they talked to you about. If there wasn’t any thought put into having this conversation, I am certain the conversation may not have gone well for either participant. Why? Because effectively communicating with others isn’t easy to achieve without having plenty of experience doing so.

When you are involved in a conversation with someone who has mastered the ability to communicate effectively, you might barely notice how the flow of the dialogue is going well, and how they were able to get their point across. Chances are good that this person also put some thought into what they were going to express, took the proverbial temperature of both you and the environment, and carefully curated the timing of doing so.

Now, consider a time when you were caught off guard by a conversation. Did you immediately become defensive and less capable of listening to what the person had to say? Perhaps you reacted by going into a passive aggressive mode and either used very few words to express yourself or told the person you didn’t want to talk to them. Perhaps not at that point, or possibly any future point. This may be unrealistic, because if someone was trying to have a conversation with you, particularly if they are a leader, there was likely a valid reason for them to do so.

When people become dismissive of having a conversation with either a leader, or someone they can benefit speaking with, this scenario will generally lead to one of two places. The first is that they will come upon an impasse and need to decide how to proceed, even if it is uncomfortable to do so. The second place is that both parties will have to agree to be willing to give equal time and attention to one another’s conversational points. If the person who is initiating the conversation is a leader, the person they are speaking with may or may not feel as if they have any choice but to listen to what the leader is conveying. Perhaps they will feel trapped into having a discussion they are not prepared to have, or that the result of the conversation will not be in their favor.

What if instead a leader or sports coach could master being able to have both productively neutral conversations? Ones that have the intention of having both parties leave the discussion better off than when they began talking. In a perfect world, it would be ideal to have people be able to look forward to having conversations with one another. Not only to learn from each other, but also to gain a better understanding of what both parties are thinking, and how they are interpreting the best go forward method.

A factor which can contribute to having a poor conversation is certainly bad timing. We have all experienced this, and it is not only uncomfortable, but seldomly results in a desired outcome. So, how do you course correct this situation, or avoid it entirely? It may not be possible to time your conversations perfectly, but there are some factors you can take into consideration to increase the favorability of a positive outcome. Here are some suggestions for you to consider, and this is independent of whether you are a leader, sports coach or are more often on the receiving end of conversations with these two categories of management personas.

  • Are you more concerned about ticking off from your list having a difficult conversation and not factoring in properly preparing for it?
  • Have you thought about the prospect of practicing having a conversation with someone, at what you would deem to be the ideal time to do so? Some people favor having difficult conversations in the morning, while others find that people could be more receptive later in the day when they are winding down.
  • If you don’t know the person well that you will be having a difficult or important conversation with, do some minor research to find out more about how they might react during your conversation. Knowing this will prepare you better to adjust your conversation accordingly.
  • How is your ability to read body language and perhaps the current mood a person is in? If the person you will be conversing with appears to be stressed, angry or distracted, the result of your conversation isn’t likely to produce the ideal outcome. Consider having your conversation when all three of these factors, or at least two of them are not going to have a negative effect.
  • Be sensitive to how you open your conversation, and make sure it is also done with consideration not to embarrass the person or put them into an uncomfortable position based on the location of where it is taking place.
  • Put yourself in the proverbial “shoes” of the person you are speaking with. How would you want a leadership type of conversation to progress, and how can you stage the conversation for maximum emotional intelligence being applied, as well as thoughtfulness of the persons feelings so that they can remain in as much as a neutral state at possible.
  • Conversations when they are well constructed and received well can provide immense leadership guidance, so take measures to ensure this will be the outcome you mutually experience.

Sure, there will be circumstances when your timing of your leadership-oriented conversation may not be ideal, but consider the alternative of not having the conversation at all? If the outcome of your conversation isn’t going to be helpful to at least one of the participants involved, factor in whether the conversation should be taking place. Or, at least whether there will be a more ideal time to have it.

TAGS: #Leadership #Leader #Leaders #Sportscoaches #Communication #Management #Effectivecommunication #Personaldevelopment #Professionaldevelopment #Mentoring #Awareness #Constructiveconversations #Leadershipconversations #Tipstohaveimpactfulleadershipconversations