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.
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