Change is coming!

I am so excited to finally let you know that major changes are happening behind the scenes with The Circle of Influence Membership Site! We have listened to your feedback and I believe what we are unrolling will be exciting and useful for all of you!

Here is what you can expect:

  1. The price will be cut in half! Come on, who doesn’t like that?!
  2. The amount of material you will get each month will double! We will now post every Monday morning. The posts will be automated so you will know that first thing Monday morning you can access new material.
  3. The Circle of Influence will be designed around 26 ice breakers and team building worksheets. These will be posted as a jpg preview on the site, but there will be a PDF download provided for each worksheet.
  4. Additionally, on the first Monday of each month, we will provide a blog post on a specific team building topic.
  5. Since the material will cover 26 weeks you will be able to join at any point, stay for 26 weeks, and then you will have collected all the worksheets. We will recycle the material every six months so people really can join at any time.
  6. The material will be intentionally designed for coaches of athletic teams, teachers, and leaders.

I am so excited about the changes we are making and I am thrilled to be able to better serve those who desire to develop others. You can sign up here and you will see the changes starting Monday, Oct, 2nd.

Thanks for being a part of the Circle of Influence! Molly

BootCamp1 (2)

Teambuilding BootCamp 2017

Do you need new ice breakers?
Do you want fresh team building ideas?
Do you want to learn more about the value of debriefing team building activities?
Do you coach an athletic team, teach in the classroom, or lead a workgroup?

If so, Team Building BootCamp is for you! This is a FREE 5-day email based program. Team Building BootCamp will run from Sept. 18th – Sept. 22nd, 2017. Each day you will receive an email which will focus on the topic of the day. Some of the topics include how/why to use ice breakers, details on the Experiential Learning Cycle, as well as sample ice breakers and team building activities that you can put to use right away.

I hope you will take the time to help your team to be stronger by participating in Team Building BootCamp!

Registration will be open until Sept 17th.
Team Building BootCamp will not be offered again until the spring of 2018.

Sign up here! 

The Storm is coming

The storm is coming!!!

During the month of August, I worked with a large number of athletic teams, college student groups, and educators who were gearing up for the school year. Most of them brought me in to do team building. While the focus for each group was different most teams/groups at least touched on communication issues, conflict resolution, and teamwork.

I worked with one college group that had just moved into their dorm rooms that day. They literally just met each other. After our first session, one of the students said to me, “thank you so much for being here! We’ve never been this close as a group!” I fought the urge to say, “Um, yeah, well you just met 12 hours ago, so you haven’t had much time for drama!”

Team Development

We know that in the process of building a team/group you will go through several stages of development. The four standard stages are: forming, storming, norming, and performing. The clients I worked with this month were all in the forming stage which is a very happy place to be. Everyone is on their best behavior, the sky is the limit, and life couldn’t be better! But with each group, I warned them about what was coming – the storming stage!

Too many teams/groups fear the storming stage. While it can feel like a set back (“we were so happy and now we are not happy”) this is NOT a setback, it is actually a step forward towards a healthy and authentic team or group! Here are some ways to deal with the storm:

  1. Prepare and plan! During the forming stage, it is important to educate your team/group on the four stages of team development. There is a natural assumption that the forming stage will last forever. This is a false sense of reality, in fact, a team/group can NOT be successful if they stay in the forming stage because they aren’t an authentic team yet. By talking with your team/group about the different stages you can prepare them for what will come. It is also important during the forming stage that you develop the skills you will need to navigate the storming stage. I often remind teams/groups that the work we are doing now will be needed when the storm arrives. If you don’t prepare and have a plan you may have a team/group that gets stuck in the storming stage.
  2. Acknowledge where you are. Too many teams/groups fail to even acknowledge that they have entered the storming stage! When you acknowledge where you are you can put your plan and skills into action. Remember the storming stage IS a step forward and you should celebrate progress! By simply acknowledging that you have entered a new stage you are able to refocus your team/group on your plan for this stage of development. 
  3. Clarify roles. Teams/groups often get stuck in the storming stage because the lack of clarity leads to chaos and in the chaos a team/group loses their sense of connection. For the leader, it may seem obvious in regards to who needs to fill what role, but as shifting takes place a sense of direction may be lost which can lead to frustration.  It is critical in the storming stage that leaders clarify roles with great detail.
  4. Articulate the value of each role. While team/group members may be asked to serve in a role they would not have picked for themselves they are more likely to embrace their role if they understand the value in their given role. Look for moments to celebrate people who are making the team/group better within their given role. Make a point of articulating the value of every single role.
  5. Communicate that this isn’t a permanent role. It will be important that you help your people to develop additional skills so that in the future they have the potential to serve in more desired roles. For example, on a soccer team during the storming stage, a player may discover that she is the 3rd string goal keeper and she isn’t likely to get playing time this season. This may be a disappointment but it is manageable if she understands that this role isn’t permanent, it is simply where she ranks today.

While the storming stage isn’t easy we need to repurpose this stage of team/group development. Instead of seeing it as frustrating, disappointing, or as a set back consider celebrating this stage because you are one stage closer to become an authentic high performing team/group.

Ultimately, the storm will lead you to a better place.

If you’d like to talk about how I can help your team/group to be better equipped to move through the storm please reach out. Remember, the first step is to prepare!

Release the Brake

Release the Brake

I have a friend who wants to make a difference the world. He is smart, talented, thoughtful, and empathic. Each time we talk I am energized by his depth and his desire to use his influence in the world. His skill set, coupled with his love for humanity, provide him the avenue to be a true world changer.

But every time we talk we find ourselves going down a familiar path, one where he shares that he feels stuck, that he is tired, and he isn’t sure what to do next to put his ideas into action. This is a conversation we’ve been having for several years. The reality is, he doesn’t need to accomplish all of his dreams. The fruition of just one of his visions would make the world a much better place. However, I must say, if there is anyone who could accomplish many world changing plans it is him. I believe in him.

Sadly, I doubt he will make many of his dreams happen for one simple reason … he is living his life with the emergency brake on. We can’t drive very fast or very far with the emergency brake engaged. We also do a lot of damage to our vehicles when we try and drive a car in this state. Our bodies are no different than a car. We can’t move forward quickly, and the wear and tear on our soul is exhausting when we try to dream big with the emergency brake on.

So do yourself a favor today and just release the emergency brake. You don’t have to press the gas the pedal, you don’t even have to start your engine. Just release the brake, put your life in neutral, and coast for a while. You’ll be moving forward, your body will be free to recalculate, and your soul will thank you.

Release the brake, trust me, we all need you to be free to move forward and dream big.

Life is best lived in motion.

More Gentle Blog

“I had to tell her to be more gentle.”

I recently had the opportunity to work with some young elite level soccer players. My work with them focused primarily on how they communicated with each other and how effective communication skills build a stronger team. I believe there is power in what we say and how we choose to say it. I was fortunate to not only work with this team in a classroom setting but also to observe them in a game.

The day of their game happened to mark one year since my last day as a college soccer coach. After giving 20-years to the game I had made the decision to resign from coaching to focus my work on developing people. Since my resignation, I had not been to a single soccer game. It felt strange to unpack my coaching chair and sit on the sidelines again. The question I am most frequently asked is, “do you miss coaching?” I often say I miss the day to day connections with my players but no, I don’t miss coaching because I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. But I knew that sitting on the sidelines that day after being away from the game for exactly 365 days would either confirm or contradict how I had been answering that question.

During the first half, I enjoyed seeing how the player’s insights in the classroom were being applied on the field. It was also fun to see what soccer skills each player brought to the game. There was one player who caught my eye. She wore #2 and she was physically smaller than many of the other players, but she was really good on the ball. My guess is at some point in her young career she got tired of being knocked around and a good coach probably told her that if she could dance on the ball, she’d get knocked around less. Clearly, she listened.

When the whistle blew for halftime something very bizarre took place. The truth is, it was so strange that I had to follow up with an email to the coach to ask if this really did happen. Sadly, it did take place.

The girls came off the field, they grabbed their water bottles, and they began to chat with each other about how they could each do better in the second half. Then the Referee came over the sidelines. He knelt down in front of the coach, leaned in, and calmly said, “Coach, I need to let you know that #2 fouled the same player two times and so I had to tell her to be more gentle. I just wanted to let you know.”

As I said before, there is power in what we say and how we choose to say it. Here are some of the questions I wrestled with after contemplating his words:

1. When was the last time a boy was asked to be “more gentle” in an elite level soccer game? Seriously, when does that happen? Do Officials pull boys aside and ask them to be “more gentle?” My first coaching job was a U18 boys team and no Offical ever asked one of our boys to be “more gentle.” Our culture celebrates when boys go in hard on a tackle, play fearlessly in the air, or push themselves physically. We don’t ask boys to be “more gentle” and we shouldn’t ask this of girls either.

2. What does it really mean to ask a girl to be “more gentle?” Here are some synonyms for the word gentle; benign, mellow, quiet, soft, tame, domesticated, trained, bland, docile, soft-hearted, and sweet-tempered. As a former Head Coach at several NCAA schools, I can tell you those are not the words we used to describe our future student-athletes. To ask a girl to be more gentle in a contact sport is to ask her to be less than her full potential.

3. Why did the Official need to let the coach and player know that she needed to be “more gentle”? The truth is he didn’t need to share this because our society already makes this statement to girls and women. We hear this message on the radio, it’s plastered on our social media, and it is an undercurrent of pop culture. The world screams to girls and women that we need to embrace a role which is soft and tame. You don’t need to tell us, we hear it loud and clear.

As I sat on the sidelines that day I found myself reflecting on how I used my words to express my expectations for my players and I wrestled with the profound power of those words. If you’ve ever played for me, coached with me, coached against me, or found yourself within 200 yards of a field I was coaching on, I can guarantee you’ve heard me yell, “GOOD BATTLE!” This is a phrase I frequently used in training and in games. I wanted to let my players know that I celebrated their courage to battle on the field.

So do I miss coaching? Maybe some parts, but I have too much work to do in helping people to understand the significance of their own influence. That work includes teaching adults about the power of their own words and teaching young people that no one has the right to use their words to try and limit who someone can be.

I am certain this Official didn’t intend to use his words in a harmful way, but as many great scholars have shared, “words create worlds.” So what kind of world do you want to create?

There is power in telling a girl to be more gentle and there is power in consciously choosing your words to encourage a girl to be brave and strong. We need to be aware of the words we use and how we use them. And when words are used in a deconstructive way we need to speak truth to power.

So girls … step into your space, hold your head high, be proud of your bruises and scars, follow your chosen path, speak your truth, use your voice, be yourself – your full self – and hear us yell, “good battle!”

You’ve got this …

Yes and no

Great Leaders: Say yes & no

I arrived early that morning and ordered some sweet tea, I know, not really the breakfast of champions but I love their sweet tea. I grabbed a table in the back of the restaurant and got my laptop out knowing I had hours of work ahead of me.

For the next few hours I got a lot done, but as the clouds rolled in so did the parents with kids who wanted to play in the indoor play area. I happened to be seated directly across from the play area entrance.

A mom arrived with her young daughter, I would guess the child was about two-years-old. She was at the age where she believed she was independent but her vocabulary consisted primarily of “yes” and “no.” At one point her mom stuck her head into the play area and asked, “Kailee, do you want to get an ice cream cone?” Kailee came running towards the door and loudly shouted, “yes.”

When they came back to their table, which was next to mine, I noticed that Kailee had an adult size ice cream cone which required her to use both hands to hold on to it. Within seconds Kailee made her way to the play area door and tried to figure out how to open the door while holding her ice cream cone with both hands. Her mom asked her if she wanted to eat her ice cream cone and Kailee replied, “yes!” Her mom explained that if she wanted to eat her ice cream she couldn’t go in the play area. This caused a look of pure shock and horror from the young child! Her mom then changed the question and asked if she wanted to go in the play area and Kailee also replied, “yes!” And her mom explained that if she wanted to go into the play area she would have to hand over her ice cream cone. The idea that she could only do one of those things was turning this young girl’s world upside down!

I think a lot of leaders make the same mistake that this two-year-old made. As leaders, when we say yes to leadership we naturally say no to other things. When you say yes to being your team Captain you also say no to yelling at the referees. When you say yes to being a Division Leader at work you say no to ignoring the unethical decisions of a team member. When you say yes to serving as the Director of an organization you say no to public behaviors that would taint the reputation of that organization.

Great leaders understand that when we say yes to leadership we must say no to other things, but too many leaders want to yes to everything. They frequently behave like a two-year-old who wants to eat her ice cream cone and go into the play area. When leaders behave this way it’s their people who suffer because they are the ones who have to clean up the leader’s mess.

An immature leader takes her ice cream cone down the play area slide leaving a sticky mess behind her.
A great leader understands that leadership requires choices.

When you say yes to leadership make sure you have a clear understanding of what you are saying yes to and what you are saying no to. When you say yes to everything you create a mess and no matter how wonderful you may be, no one wants to clean up your mess.

Great leaders say yes & no. 

Reboot blog2

Leadership Reboot 2017

Registration is now closed. Leadership Reboot will be offered again in January 2018!

Are you interested in developing as a leader?
Do you need to set aside some time to rethink leadership?
Has it been awhile since you lasted invested in your own leadership journey?

If so, Leadership Reboot is for you! This is a FREE 5-day email based program. Leadership Reboot will run from July 10th – 14th, 2017. Each day you will receive an email which will focus on the topic of the day, my thoughts on that topic, self-reflection questions, optional action items, and optional reading. The five topics for the week are:

Day 1: “Why does leadership matter?”
Day 2: “Are leaders born or made?
Day 3: “Is leadership power?”
Day 4: ‘What do leaders love the most?”
Day 5: “What’s next?”

With each email, you will need about 15-30 minutes to work through the material but you can do this at your own pace at any time during the day. The content is appropriate for youth through adults. I hope you will take the time to invest in your own leadership development by participating in Leadership Reboot!

Registration will be open until July 9th.
Leadership Reboot will not be offered again until January 2018.


The GoalKeeper: A Natural Leadership Position

I’ve spent twenty years of my life as a soccer coach and I can say with absolute certainty that having a good goalkeeper is crucial. Every successful team I’ve coached had a good goalkeeper. But the reality is a good goalkeeper isn’t enough, we need goalkeepers who are also willing to lead. In the same way that goalkeepers are working hard to develop their technical skills we also need them working to develop their leadership skills. When you find a world-class goalkeeper you will also find a leader – the two go hand in hand, but we don’t talk about this often enough.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why goalkeepers have the perfect opportunity to be team leaders:

  1. Great leaders do the dirty work: I strongly believe that great leaders are willing to do the dirty work (the thankless jobs that others don’t want to do) and the goalkeeper position lends itself to this opportunity. Goalkeepers are asked to do things to their bodies that most people consider outright crazy! Because they are willing to sacrifice their bodies for the good of the team they often earn the respect of their teammates. Great leaders are willing to sacrifice themselves for the team. 
  2. Great leaders participate in less than optimal conditions: Too often I hear from leaders who don’t want to lead until they know for sure that they will be successful, but great leaders are willing to take action even in the face of possible failure. Every time a goalkeeper takes the field they are faced will circumstances that don’t lend themselves to success. The field conditions, the pace of the game, the talent of the opposition, a foul called in the box, the weather, or a field player who isn’t playing well are all elements that a goalkeeper cannot control, but goalkeepers are asked to perform regardless of the conditions. Great leaders are willing to participate even when the circumstances are challenging.
  3. Great leaders bring out the best in others: One of the unique realities of being a goalkeeper is the fact that they can save a game but it is almost impossible for them to win a game. But the fact is they can’t save a game alone, they need the field players to play well and great goalkeepers are willing to do whatever it takes to help the field players to be at their very best.  I love to watch how a goalkeeper is able to bring out the best in ten field players who each have different personalities. It is amazing to watch a goalkeeper who can be vocally demanding when a field player makes a mistake but a few minutes later they are beyond animated in giving praise to the same field player. By managing the field players goalkeepers are putting the team in a position to be successful. Great leaders understand how to bring out the best in others. 
  4. Great leaders communicate clearly and in a timely fashion: The communication of a goalkeeper is critical. When they are communicating with the field players rarely is time on their side. Too many leaders want to wait to find the ideal time to talk about something but great goalkeepers know if they don’t say something right now it could cost the team a goal. The best goalkeepers are able to communicate effectively by saying less because they focus on the important details that pertain to that exact moment. Great leaders work to develop their communication skills.
  5. Great leaders have your back: Goalkeepers literally have your back. They are the last line of defense. If you get beat, their job is to save you. Great leaders alway have your back. 

I believe that leadership is all about influence and goalkeepers have so many opportunities to influence the game and to influence their teammates. When a goalkeeper receives the ball they are able to make a decision; keep the ball at their at feet to slow down the game or distribute quickly to build the attack. This decision-making process directly influences the game. When a goalkeeper makes a big save they have to decide how to respond. They can jump to their feet and fire up the team or hang their head in disappointment that they even had to make the save. The decision about how to use their body language directly influences others.

Goalkeepers, if you want to be a great goalkeeper I would suggest a few things: get specific goalkeeper training on the technical and tactical side of the game (I’m a big fan of Camp Shutout* and PAWS), get as close as you can to the training routines of great goalkeepers (go to college, pro, and international games an hour early to watch the goalkeepers warm-up), know that your fitness is incredibly important (goalkeeping will wear on your body, please take care of your body by being fit), and invest in your leadership skills (yes, I can help with this part!).

Every time you take the field as a goalkeeper you have the opportunity to lead, but the question is this; are you willing to embrace your leadership role? Leadership is a skill and I invite you to make the choice to develop those skills today. Come on, you stop rockets with your hands, you can do this!

*On Friday, June 2nd from noon to 4pmCST I will be doing a Twitter Takeover with @CampShutout. Please join us and tweet your questions for a Q&A from 3-4pmCST.

If I can help with your leadership development please reach out. Molly Grisham,

Do I lead from the front or the back-

Do I lead from the front or the back?

The old-school model of leadership says; the leader is always in the front, at the top, and the first to be seen. As I work with groups, I teach a different model of which leadership which asks leaders to shift from a model of hierarchy to a model that views leadership as influence. With this model, we can, and should, lead from a variety of positions.

I recently had a Skype sessions with three young college leaders as a part of my Leaders In Action program. These three leaders are “all in” when it comes to understanding leadership as influence. In our last session, they asked something like, “So how do put this new understanding of leadership (leadership as influence) into practice when there might be times that we need to step in front and lead the way?”

My answer was that we need to lead from many places because we can influence others from any position. There are times when we need to get out in front of the group, times we need to walk with our people, and other times when we need to go last. Great leaders are willing to lead from any position.

I want to share a video with you that so clearly demonstrates these points. In this short clip, you will see a young man in a wheelchair who is competing in a Tough Mudder competition. He reached an obstacle where he needed some help. Here you go:

Let’s look at a few things:

  1. Some people led from the front: In this clip, we can see that he needed some help from those who were leading from the front. They had cleared the way and were willing to help him get to that same place. In order for a leader to be able to serve those who are behind us, we have to be willing to do two things: stop and turn around. Too many leaders who lead from the front fail to stop and turn around. We can’t take care of our people if we aren’t able to really see their needs.
  2. Some people led from the back: We can also see that he need help from those who were behind him. They were able to provide the push and support he needed to accomplish his goal. If we only want to lead from the front we will miss some wonderful opportunities to help our people. In order to lead from behind we often have to sacrifice our own agenda and go at the pace of our people while offering whatever support they need to push forward. 
  3. Sometimes we join others in leadership: One of the great truths showcased in this video is the idea that we need leaders who will support other leaders. What I mean by that is this; when someone steps up and leads (the first person who was helping to help push this young man) we need others to support that leader (the second leader arrives to help the first leader) because it validates their decision to lead. When that happens others (an entire group) join the first few leaders and now the entire group is moving in the same direction. So look at that clip again, do you see it? One leader helps someone else, and then a second leader joins that effort, and then others quickly join the leadership moment. It takes one person stepping up, someone else supporting that leader, and then the magic happens.
  4. Sometimes we need to let others lead us: This moment wouldn’t have happened without the young man who was willing to let others lead him. Too often as leaders, we assume that we can never be led but we need to be open to the moments when we let others lead us. At the heart of leadership is a desire to develop more leaders. When we allow others to lead us we are directly participating in the development of more leaders.

So do you lead from the front or the back? It’s both for sure. And it’s also a lot of places in between …

*If I can be of assistance in your own leadership development journey please use the Get in Touch form at the bottom of this page.

Let Them Lead

Let them lead

A few months ago a well-respected college coach reached out to me about working with her team. She said they were coming off a good season but she was concerned about who her team leaders were going to be next year. The graduating seniors had been the core team leaders for several years and she wasn’t sure who was going to step up because they had relied on that class for so long.

After talking we came up with an action plan for the spring season. The plan would expose her team to a new way of thinking about leadership and it would give them opportunities to put their leadership skills into practice. She recently called me and the excitement was bursting through the phone! She said something like, “you’ve helped us to think differently about leadership. We now see leadership as influence and we understand that everyone on our team has influence. In light of that, I think we are going to shift from traditional Team Captains to a Leadership Council!” I agreed with her decision. This is the right move at the right time for her team. They had all bought into this concept, so why not allow a large number of players to have a voice at the table?

She also shared the plan to have the team select a leader from each of the four classes to serve on the Leadership Council. In the past, I have heard other teams share concerns over young players having a voice on a Leadership Council because the team feels like the young players don’t yet know the culture of the team. Here is why I think it is a great move to allow your new freshman to have a voice in your program:

  1. They know more than you think: Your new players may not have much experience with your team culture but they examined it in great detail when making their college decision. They listened to you as you were selling your team culture in the recruiting process. Odds are, they have researched, (AKA stalked) your current players online and because of that, they know more than you think they know. You recruited these players because you thought they would enhance your team culture, so why do they need to be silent for a year to learn the culture? If you’ve done your job as a recruiter then you are bringing in players who will move your culture forward. Asking them to be silent for a year only delays that process.
  2. They provide fresh eyes: I would venture to guess that within one week of arriving on campus your new players will be able to call your team out on some really important cultural issues. For example, if you claim that family is one of your core values, your new freshmen will know very quickly if that is accurate or not. They will either experience family or they won’t. When we exclude them from the conversation we miss the opportunity to have fresh eyes on our team culture and we create a culture that is void of accountability.
  3. They are recent leaders: While your freshmen might be new to your program they certainly aren’t new to leadership. Most of them spent the last year leading and in some sports they may have spent all summer in a high-level league where they were asked to lead the way. Depending on your team culture your seniors might not have practiced their leadership skills since high school and those skills have now atrophied. Your new recruits are in tune with their own leadership skills because they have put them into practice recently. Asking recent leaders to press pause on using their leadership skills only hurts your team in the long-run because their leadership skills will deteriorate.
  4. Don’t be a hypocrite: If you value leadership then you took into consideration which recruits had the ability to be leaders on your team. While many recruits may not want to be “the” leader their freshman year, it would be hypocritical of you to silence them for a year when you claimed that you valued the leadership ability they would bring to the team. By going back on your word you destroy the trust that is needed between a coach and a student-athlete.

You wouldn’t recruit a five-star player and then ask her to sit the bench for a year just because she is a freshman.

If their skills are the best on the team, then let them play.

If their leadership skills are the best on the team, then let them lead.


*If you need help in developing your team as leaders please reach out. We have some great programs and options for you.