One of my favorite parts of being a dad is coaching my boys in sports. I have fond memories of my dad coaching me, and I am hopeful that I am building the same fond memories for my kids. Coaching also gives me an opportunity to spend time with my kids doing something we both enjoy. My objective is to teach kids the sport and how to be winners on and off the court. The side benefit of coaching is sports always provides business lessons, especially leadership lessons. Today I thought I’d share leadership lessons I learned from coaching 5th grade basketball.
Leadership Lessons from Coaching My Kids
Almost every one of the boys on the team will look down at the ball when they dribble. We do drills in practice to help them become more comfortable with the ball, but ball handling hasn’t become second nature yet. Because of this tendency, we miss A LOT of opportunities for easy scores because the player dribbling the ball doesn’t see his open teammate, or worse yet turns the ball over, takes a less than optimal shot, because he didn’t see the defense closing in on him.
Unless your business is playing basketball, most of us don’t walk around the office or job site looking down as we dribble a basketball. However, too many leaders do keep their heads down, being productive, and never look up to and see opportunities or challenges getting near. As a result, leaders and managers are reactive to problems and rarely recognize and take advantage of opportunities. Proactive leadership is all about keeping your head up, and recognizing opportunities and addressing challenges before they become problems.
I only have two hours a week to coach my team. We practice two times a week for an hour, and that is all. There is so much the team needs to learn, so I really must structure the time I have to maximize effectiveness. This means at each practice, we focus on the important things that will put us in a position to win. So, some weeks, I choose only one skill to practice and put off teaching other skills. I want my team to be good at everything, so this is a challenge.
As with sports, it is important to set priorities in the work place. Your time is valuable and you cannot do everything. Sorry to tell you, but multi-tasking is a myth. Proactive leadership is all about deciding the focus and eliminating distractions.
A client of mine realized this when trying to make his team more successful. He brought his team members into a room to find ways to be more productive. He learned that they were spending valuable time creating reports that nobody used! Take a moment to evaluate the tasks that fill your day/week/month and eliminate any that are not necessary.
My coaching staff is a critical part of any team I coach. Without exception my assistant coaches bring skills, knowledge and experience that I don’t have. During games we all have different roles. My assistants help me with game management and player coaching. If I had to coach the boys on the bench, manage the game, and watch everything that is going on, there is no way we could have any success. My coaches help me be more effective, I trust them, and they trust me.
Proactive leaders make it a priority to hire and surround themselves with competent, dependable staff. It is also important to trust your employees. I had a leader share a story with me once about a boss that constantly undermined every decision he made. His boss would go around him to manage employees, which was often in conflict with the direction he would give. This sent a clear message to the manager and his direct reports that he wasn’t trusted by higher manager. My question to the boss would be, if you don’t trust me, why did you give me this job?
Almost every team needs a leader on the field or court – a leader among peers. We develop players to be leaders. Players that can help others understand their assignments, and coach them when we miss something. Peer leaders are important because it can just be a different, non-authoritative, voice offering guidance. Having leaders on the field and court make it easier and more effective for me to coach my teams. I can’t be on the court, but the player can.
Proactive leaders will build the next generation of leaders. Proactive leaders will identify and develop talent. This benefits the leader (as opposed to the closed-minded thinking of threatens the leader) by allowing them to be in more places at once.
If you have people on your team that can and will step up when you are away, then you have the flexibility to pursue new opportunities. Imagine you were a leader and didn’t train the next generation leader. What would happen when you took a vacation? Would things go as smoothly as if you were there, or would production come to a halt?
This Week’s Challenge
Learn to dribble with your head up so you can see opportunities. Mastering time management by focusing on a limited number of priorities, hiring talented help, and developing the next generation leaders will help you become a proactive leader.
If you would like to discuss more ways to help your business grow or if you feel you have a specific problem that needs to be addressed, please reach out to me.