Contagious Leadership

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” —Publilius Syrus

I used to play ball with a guy who was really intense on the mound. If you booted a ball when he was pitching, he’d glare at you or make some comment about stepping your game up. I remember feeling like I had to be perfect each time I went out to my position. What generally ended up happening was that, when he toed the rubber, everyone played a little tighter which made us all a little more error-prone.

Fast forward to Monday night’s college football championship game featuring Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota from Oregon University. Mariota is expected to be a high draft pick and have a successful NFL career. Without question, the stakes for Mariota’s championship game were a lot higher than my baseball games years ago. However, when faced with adversity, he reacted much differently than the aforementioned pitcher. Multiple times, Mariota did his job extremely well but that effort wasn’t reciprocated on the other end. On two specific occasions, Mariota made tremendous throws only to have them dropped in critical situations.

Football is a horse of a different color. In a sport where testosterone and manliness are held in high regard, we respect guys who yell at other guys. We praise quarterbacks who jump all over guys for not doing their jobs. We call them tough and fearless leaders. We admire their tenacity. However, when Marcus Mariota’s teammates dropped important passes, he took a different route. He sought those players out and patted them on the helmet and told them to get the next one. He didn’t scream at them and tell them to catch the damn ball. He encouraged them and instilled a confidence in them that they would make that play when given the opportunity.

Personally, I find this route far more admirable that the emotional outburst route. It shows maturity and leadership. It tells someone that you have their back and that you are confident that they will do a better job next time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for mediocrity. We should hold ourselves and our teammates accountable for our performances. What I am pushing for is better leadership, which was exhibited by Oregon’s QB Monday night. In the biggest game on the biggest stage, he chose to be a leader who supported his teammates even in the toughest of situations. To me, that speaks volumes about character and leadership.

It should be noted that I’ve never been a fan of the type of coaching that we often see in the game of football. That’s my personality. I was never motivated by someone screaming directly into my face. That does it for some, but not for me. Maybe that skews why I was so impressed with Mariota the other night. However, I do believe that his style is not only effective, but compassionate and representative of true leadership.

Further, this type of leadership is contagious and is certainly an example worth setting. Thanks to Mr. Mariota for exemplifying this trait.

Have an awesome Wednesday,
-A.

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Daily Short-hOPT: Easier to Criticize

“It is a lot easier to criticize a leader than it is to be one.” – Kevin Bille

A few days ago, I came across this tweet from @CoachBille:

“It is a lot easier to criticize a leader than it is to be one.”

Pretty sweet, right? I retweeted it. I felt good about it. I agreed with it. As a coach, a leader of young men, I have been taken to task multiple times by parents or players. I’ve been questioned, I’ve been second guessed, and I’ve been read the proverbial riot act. In over a decade of coaching, these instances were the exception rather than the rule, but they stung each time. Couldn’t these people see how much I cared about their kids? Couldn’t they see the hours and effort put forth? Who were they to doubt me? In each of these instances, it was easy for me to say, “if you think it’s so easy, why don’t you try it?” After retweeting that tweet, though, I think I’ve changed my tune.

Saying it’s easier to criticize than it is to lead is kind of a cop out, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the man in the arena, but if you’re going to lead you had better be prepared to take some criticism. Of course everyone thinks they can do it better than you. But they don’t. That’s they key: they don’t. You are the one working tirelessly. You are the one that earned the opportunity. You know your heart and your intentions. You know your capabilities.

Every leadership position comes with a level of scrutiny. If you’re willing to take the reins, you’d better be prepared to take some doubt. Sure, it’s easier to sit back and point out flaws of those in charge than it is to lead. However, as leaders, we need to remind ourselves that we are capable and remain confident. Expect some criticism, allow for some constructive input, and move forward. Let’s not set up excuses and “why don’t you try it?” rejoinders for times when we are under the microscope. Remember why we do what we do and pull in those that matter even closer.

Have an awesome Tuesday,
-A.

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Daily Short-hOPT: I Into We

“Leaders who think like individual contributors demoralize their team and devalue their leadership.” – Dan Rockwell

You ever heard the saying “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”? Aside from being creepy when taken in a literal sense, this colloquialism actually brings something to light that a lot of us (especially leaders, coaches and mentors) tend to forget: we can’t always be right, we don’t always have to be right, sometimes there is a better way than our way, and some issues can be attacked in multiple ways. I read this blog post this morning that discussed shifts in thinking for leaders, and it touched on these things a couple times.

We coaches and leaders tend to have a bit of the alpha dog in us. We like things done our way, and we really don’t like to be questioned. What we forget is that we are leading a team, and just as importantly, we are a part of that team. We easily get caught up in the “my way is the best way” line of thinking, and the end result is that we leave people behind and create resentment. “I” thinking has to give way to “We” thinking. You want people to truly invest in and follow you? Make them a part of the process, not cogs in your machine.

Another pitfall that rarely gets sidestepped is the inability to see varying viewpoints. Some of us are incapable or unwilling to see a new way of tackling an issue. Some of us have been ingrained with something so deeply that we struggle to understand or believe there is another way. In either case, the “I” is leaving out the “We”, and the ego is standing in the way of a learning opportunity. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Please don’t skin cats. It’s really gross, and I think it borders on psychotic behavior.)

In a sport like baseball, there are a billion ways to teach a lot of the same things. Also, in a game as old as baseball, some “tried and true” methods have been around for centuries, which means they have been handed down and handed down and handed down…and then handed down again. This doesn’t make them right. That doesn’t make them the best way. It also doesn’t necessarily make them wrong or outdated, either.

The key to all is, in Dan Rockwell’s words, transferring from “I” to “We”. Be open to new ideas. Include your team in the process. Learn some new cat-skinning methods…figuratively, of course.

Have an awesome Tuesday,
-A.

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The Scoop: Learning Is Cool!

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” ~Winston Churchill

I’m a nerd. 

I enjoy reading. My text messages are grammatically correct. I regularly look up words that I don’t know or understand. I cringe whenever I hear someone say “supposably”. But, I truly believe that it is of the utmost importance to try to learn something new every day. 

It doesn’t have to be molecular physics or Shakespeare. For example, last night, I learned that Jennifer Aniston is 44 years old. Pointless knowledge, right? (Uh, have you seen We’re The Miller’s yet?) Okay, so knowing the age of an actress is wholly silly and greatly irrelevant, but what you pick up daily can certainly fall somewhere in between physics and actresses.

I know a ton of people that hate to read. I get that. It’s not for everyone. I hated reading the classics in high school. I tried rereading them later in life, and I still didn’t care for them. That said, there are inherent benefits to trying to pick up something new as often as possible. 

Learn something new about something you already love or are interested in. Look up something that you’ve wondered about but never took the time to look into. Make the effort to educate yourself to advance your current position or role. It’s worth the time and effort. 

Here’s a fun fact for you: according to a report dated April 7, 2013, there were over 63 million blogs on WordPress.

Thanks for reading ours. 

Have an awesome Sunday,
-A. 

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The Scoop: Where You Are

“God may just want to see what you can do where you are, before He trusts you to go where you want to be.” – Joe, from Lead…for God’s Sake! by Todd Gongwer

I am an instant gratification kind of guy. Always have been, likely always will be. Not sure if it’s just my general nature, genetics or a symptom of my generation. 

I want things now. 

When I first read Todd Gongwer’s book, ‘Lead…for God’s Sake!’, this quote jumped off the page at me. It resonated so deeply because of my natural inclination to want something more quickly than I’ve earned it. Since reading that quote, I have kept it in the back of my mind each time I get frustrated with where I am as opposed to where I want to be. 

I don’t think I’m alone in my thirst for instant gratification. I think a large portion of us need to be reminded of the value of hard work and perseverance from time to time. 

I try to remember this quote when I get frustrated or stuck in a rut, like Noah discussed earlier. In those times, I ask myself, “am I doing everything I can at this point in time and at this particular station in life to warrant the opportunity to get where I want to be?” If the answer is no (and let’s be honest, it often is), I know it’s time to work harder and earn what I want. 

Plan for the long term. Earn it now. 

Have an awesome Saturday, 
-A.