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

Sometimes there isn’t a blueprint.

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable has become a state I have had to embrace over the last decade. Especially more recently as I am pursuing unchartered professional paths forward with little to no precedents to draw knowledge or inspiration from. Embarking on this journey isn’t for everyone, but I have come to realize and accept that it suits me perfectly.

When I think about strategically planning my own career path forward, I finally came to accept the notion that there are not many others I can look to for guidance. Sure, I can obtain advice on a variety of topics to help support me day to day, but the reality is that my path is completely open to both exploration, and interpretation of which options forward will serve me best. Becoming comfortable with this has taken me time to both embrace and experience the freedom of creating my own blueprint forward because of this.

The fact that my professional blueprint is flexible, is what offers me the most motivation, and I had not considered this would be an outcome I would enjoy. This has to do with the fact that several decades of my career were on a particular trajectory, and deviations off it would have potentially jeopardized where I was heading. During that time, I wasn’t personally or professionally satisfied with what I was doing, but I was good at what I was doing, so this served the purpose of responsibly being a parent and helping to take care of my family financially.

After following the professional path I had been on for decades, I eventually reached a point where I couldn’t imagine continuing forward any further. The tipping point to reach this place had to do with a combination of factors. One of them was a serious back pain which required surgery to address, and the other factor had to do with my soul feeling like it was drifting away the longer I remained in a career I didn’t enjoy. I did enjoy the people I worked with, but not the type of work or the cultures of hyper growth and daily extreme competition to perform. Stating this was a grind would be a complete understatement. What was worse was that I felt that I was losing the essence of who I was as a thriving and happy person by remaining in my former profession, and the day came when I had to do something about this.

When I finally reached the day I could no longer remain on the path I had been on, I thought about the aspects of what I did enjoy doing. My list included some amazing ones for me to pursue, but this is where not having a blueprint came into play. I also had to factor in could I in fact make a living doing exactly what I wanted to pursue? This wasn’t clear at the time, as I was in an unchartered territory with limited information to support knowing this. The reality was also that I would be entering into the entrepreneurship realm, and there was plenty of information to support learning how to become one, but certainly no guarantees of success. Contributing to this was the fact that I still had family responsibilities that I would have to figure out how I was going to be able to continue supporting when my income was going to be unknown. The good news is that I was able to sort this out, but I had not considered how I was going to have to spend a large majority of my time with a sales hat on. Fortunately, my marketing career had exposed me to many successful salespeople, so I was indirectly learning from them for decades, and was now able to put what I had learned into practice. Was this easy to do? Absolutely not, and I have talked many aspiring entrepreneurs out of pursuing this path for this reason alone.

If you are contemplating making a career move into an unchartered industry or area, here are some suggestions to help you think moving forward a reality, or to realize it’s just a pipedream.

  • Having a heightened awareness of your talents is going to be imperative. Make sure you know yourself well enough to know what you will be able to do well or must partner with someone on.
  • Not everyone is comfortable with being adaptable, so consider what your tolerance level is for this.
  • The unknown can be both simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. Are you willing to experience this on a regular basis?
  • How open minded are you to trying and failing? Perhaps repeatedly for a period of time until you sort out what does and doesn’t work?
  • Set a time length for how long you can comfortably remain on course without a blueprint, and factor in what financial or other types of support you will need during this time.
  • Are you willing to risk not ending up where you think you expect to be in “x” time?
  • Are you willing to try your patience and test your persistence levels that will be potentially uncomfortable as you are growing and moving forward without a blueprint?

Had I known that not having a blueprint would provide me with the leadership and professional opportunities I have experienced over the last seven years, I probably wouldn’t have thought they were possible. To some extent, the single contributing factor which has served me well has been my core belief in myself to attain whatever I set out to pursue. So far, so good, and I can’t wait to experience and see what the road ahead looks like.

TAGS: #Leadership #Leader #Motivation #Strategy #Personaldevelopment #Entrepreneur #Entreprenurship #Business #Confidence #Teams #Teamdynamics #Coach #Sportscoach

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

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

Who are you?

You might think that it’s easy to describe to others who you are. Realistically, not everyone has to do this on a regular basis, but there are times when we must do this.  When we do, consider how important it is to get this right. Also consider how instead of feeling less enthusiastic about doing this, how wonderful it would be to be able to describe yourself with clarity and pride.

Being able to articulate who you are to others may in fact becoming an art. One that takes practice, and critical knowledge and deep awareness of who you are. Contextually, there may be times when you are describing yourself where you will need to provide greater details than other times, but imagine if you could do this with complete ease? In a way that feels authentic, yet not over the top.

Having the ability to understand who you are is analogous to having a solid home foundation. In the absence of having a strong one, everything else placed on top isn’t going to be supported as well, and this is a contributing factor which impacts many other areas in a person’s development. One of them is confidence. However, in my opinion, the most important one is having a clear and supportive awareness of truly who you are as an individual.

Independent of someone’s age, when people are in the process of discovering who they truly are, and given a language to support describing themselves, this is when I have seen incredible transformations in the person. This may seem like a simple process. It’s not. It takes time and requires the individual to be openminded to accepting truly who they are first. If there is resistance to this process, it will take much longer to achieve getting to the goal of having full awareness of who you are. Both as a person and how you are perceived by others.

Interestingly, I find that many people are surprised by how others perceive them. This partially has to do with the fact they do not have a full command themselves of their own self-awareness. In the absence of having this, it can lead to complications an individual will have in several different areas. One of them is the ease at which a person can comfortably interact with others. This includes being able to have productive and informal conversations with people. Sometimes the informal conversations are just as important as the productive ones, as they each contribute to developing the relationship you are having with that person.

On the theme of relationships, this is another area which is impacted by someone’s lack of self-awareness. Particularly the level of achievement which your relationships will be able to attain.  When someone is struggling with their awareness level, it will certainly impact how deep their personal and professional relationships will be. If someone who is in a leadership role is lacking self-awareness, this is going to severely also impact their ability to lead others. Namely because if a leader isn’t fully aware and in commend of who they are, realistically how are they authentically going to be able to impact others positively and productively? Yes, this is a rhetorical question, but one worthy of noting, as sometimes what seems so obvious can benefit from having the spotlight on it.

Having a spotlight on something can accomplish a few things. The first thing it does is to highlight either something strong, or an area that needs improvement. When an area needs improvement and is highlighted, it supports the theory or expression of the “squeaky wheel”. A “squeaky wheel” is more apt to get attention, and ideally action applied towards positively addressing it.

Since we realistically should know ourselves better than others, why is it that many people find it easier to answer the question about how others perceive who they are, versus having to describe themselves? I always find this to be fascinating. Often so do the people who are initially attempting to describe who they are, but then find it much easier to describe how others perceive them. However, a person’s perception of how others would describe them might in fact not be realistic, but there are generally hints with these descriptions about who they might like to be. Or, have others perceive them that way.

If you are or know someone who is struggling with articulating who they are, and who could benefit from having a heightened self-awareness level, here are some suggestions to offer support in this area.

  • Are you nervous about having others truly knowing who you are? Come up with a list of reasons you are nervous about this. Are they realistic? Or is your confidence level interfering with being able to allow you to embrace who you are?
  • Do you often feel like you must be someone else around others? Do you find this to be exhausting? Would you agree it would be much easier to be always yourself?
  • Have you made any prior attempts at truly understanding who you are, with the goal of being able to become more comfortable with who you are? Ultimately being able to communicate who you are to others when it would be beneficial to do so?
  • On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, how defensive do you become when you are asked to describe yourself to others? 
  • What have you done recently to invest in yourself? This applies to any area of your life (e.g., educationally, physically, etc.). If you haven’t made any investments, and they don’t have to be monetary ones, they could be time based, ask yourself why you haven’t done this?
  • What reasons do you have for not being comfortable with your own self-awareness? Write them down. Then see if any of the responses could be placed into a few different categories, or if you are seeing any patterns to your responses (e.g., I am overly critical of myself).
  • Think about how you could benefit from having an increased self-awareness level. Perhaps this isn’t something you have thought about before. If you haven’t, this is a great exercise you can benefit from to begin the process of investing in yourself, and which will positively impact many other areas in your life.
  • Consider who you could ask to help you with developing your self-awareness.

A common thread I see in the most successful and happy people (e.g., leaders and sports coaches) is that they have a full command of their self-awareness. Doing so provides them with the gift of being able to share their abilities confidently and authentically with others, who will benefit enormously from them in multiple areas.

TAGS: #Selfawareness #Doyouknowwhoyouare #Leadership #Sportscoach #Leader #Leaders #Communication #Motivation #Personaldevelopment #Success #Teams #Teamdynamics #Business #Sports #Confidence #Careeradvice #Management #Mindset #Sportsteams #Businessteams #Corporateteams #Perception #Strategy