A DIY Leadership Challenge

Publication 13, Issue 7

What a girls’ softball tournament can teach us about leadership

I applaud those who seek out executive coaching and leadership development programs, but you don’t have to look far or spend a ton of money to pick up some leadership pointers. They’re all around us if we’re open to them! Probably not good for business . . . but hear me out!

A couple of weeks ago it was a pleasure to take my niece to her travel softball team’s tournament in Pennsylvania. It was exciting! Parents came out to support their daughters during the two-day event, though there was a lot of downtime when my niece was practicing or hanging out with her teammates. That gave me a chance to do what I always do: observe leadership. And the payoff you ask? I discovered I was in a living laboratory of leadership dos and don’ts. One really caught my attention!

My niece is 16 and she rocks! She’s caring, dedicated, smart and a great ball player! She’s won “sportsmanship awards” since elementary school. She’s respectful, well liked, and not afraid to speak up – all great qualities of a leader and I love her! Her team has been together for a year or so; her coach is dedicated to the team, but stressed-out. The players are pretty solid, but their season has been rocky.

The ball team suffers from problems common to all teams: players who don’t show up, pull their weight, practice, have the technical ability or the leadership skills to be productive. So over the past few months the coach, an over-the-top Organizer, (he never lets go of his clipboard!) has addressed these issues by “chunking” the team development activities. The team needed help with batting, so they did batting drills for weeks. He trained them to improve their competitive edge. They improved dramatically, but they weren’t able to win after putting runs on the board. So next he’s going to work with them on winning. You see where this is going. The season isn’t that long! Bottom line: They’ve got to win games!

How does this relate to organizational life? Organizers get promoted at work because they have a plan and show results. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is when they’re under stress they “zero-in” on the work bit-by-bit, lose the big picture, and frustrate the team with the minutiae. Leaders get paid to manage the whole process. By focusing on one aspect at a time a team could take forever to become well oiled. They may lose interest and worse yet, the organization becomes impatient with the ragged results.

If we find ourselves under stress (our monsters appear) it’s up to us to figure a way out so our staff feels motivated, happy, and wants to get to the “win.”

Here’s how the “monster” shows up in each of the Playground Personalities:

Peacemakers – Avoid anything–people, work, conflict–to protect themselves and others from any additional stress.
Organizers – Micromanage to protect the processes.
Revolutionaries – Yell or get loud to protect the team.
Steamrollers – Dismiss people and ideas to protect their own reputation.

So I’m offering you a summer challenge! When the team is floundering, some responses—our “monsters”—will thwart progress. Ponder three things:

1. What brings out the monster response?
2. How do you deal with your feelings/thoughts?
3. What can you do differently?

Shift your thinking…make the change! Tell me how it goes and know we can always do some coaching around it!

Enjoy your summer!

TIP: Don’t take your stress out on your staff!

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