She young (1)

“She’s a young coach …”

Last spring I had the pleasure of working with an up-and-coming young female coach. Not only did she play soccer at a very high level, but she has that “x” factor as a coach. She is wise beyond her years, she has invested in her own development as a coach, she has the ability to teach the game, she inspires her players, she holds them to a high standard, and she leads her players to places they haven’t been before. I’ve worked with a lot of great coaches, but this one will go as far as she wants to go in coaching.

At one point we were discussing some of the challenges she was facing. She shared with me that some of the dads of her players didn’t like how she managed the team tryouts and they had been vocal about their displeasure. She also shared that some of the parents had complained about who she selected for Varsity and others continued to question her ability to be a coach. I asked her how they justified those comments and she replied, “because I am young, I can’t help the fact that I am 26, but they question everything I do and they say it’s because I am young.”

As she continued to explain some of the parental issues on her team I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, I knew I had to tell her something that wasn’t going to be easy for her to hear. I said the following, “their criticism and disrespect for you isn’t because you are young, it’s because you are a woman, but they don’t have the courage to say that.” Her jaw dropped.

I continued to share that when a “young coach” is a male his youthfulness is seen as a positive attribute. We often hear parents saying that he connects with his players, he understands this generation, and that he brings a lot of energy. The same logic is not applied to young female coaches.

“She’s a young coach” and that should be a good thing. If you want her to ever be a seasoned, experienced, veteran coach, then she needs to spend some quality years as a young coach. But let’s be honest, her youthfulness is not the issue here, it’s just easier to blame it on that than to deal with the underlying, and at times overt, sexism in athletic culture.

It’s time for a change. We can do better.

Kids deserve the opportunity to learn from great coaches and some of the greatest coaches I know are young women.

 

Tiny Hands

Tiny Hands

I recently did some leadership development and teambuilding with a high school hockey team. On my closing day, they gave me a gift bag. One of the items included was a pair of tiny rubber hands – I know, I was confused too! The girls could sense my confusion and they started yelling that I needed to put the tiny hands on my fingers and pull my shirt sleeves down to make it look like these were my actual hands. I complied and we all had a good laugh, but I was still a little confused.

The coaches explained to me that during the previous season the term “tiny wins” was their catchphrase. They were building the program and they focused on the little things, the little wins, and fittingly the tiny hands became symbolic of tiny wins.

I strongly believe that healthy cultures focus on the tiny wins. Leaders who do this understand the behaviors needed to create those tiny wins are the same behaviors that create the big wins.

Many years ago I took over a college soccer program that had hit rock bottom. In the previous season, the team had gone 1-18-1 while giving up 84 goals. I knew my first year was going to be about teaching them how to win while not actually winning very many games. It was going to be a long process but I was confident that we could teach them the skills needed to be successful. My plan was to place a high value on academics knowing that winners need good time management skills. We drew a hard line on alcohol consumption knowing that winners have self-discipline. We had clear expectations about what to eat because winners make good decisions. We didn’t just set these as rules for our program, we also talked about how we were developing the skills which would lead to wins. Additionally, we filled our training sessions with competitions and we celebrated each of victories. We created opportunities for tiny wins in our program.

We also spent an insane amount of hours doing service learning projects in our community. This was a positive experience because of the deeper sense of connection that we made with each other, not to mention the value we added to our community. As a result of our service in the community, we were given an award at our athletic department banquet. The award was a surprise to the team but I’ll never forget the moment. One of our juniors who really struggle with the on-field losses said to me with a massive grin on her face, “it just feels so good to win SOMETHING!”

And our tiny wins added up. The next season we went 8-5-5 and it was the first winning season for those seniors. It wasn’t that we magically became great soccer players, we simply learned how to do the little things. We were intentional about creating moments for tiny wins.

If you want to change the culture you are in think about the tiny wins you can work toward. Invest in those areas and celebrate your success. The tiny wins will develop the skills need to create the big wins.

Also, you should buy some tiny rubber hands to serve as a reminder of what you are working towards 🙂

-Don't swing at ...-

“Don’t swing at …”

It was a beautiful spring day and I was in the dugout with an NCAA college softball team. I had worked with this team all year and I was excited to be on the bench to see them in action. On that day we were playing a doubleheader against the #10 team in the country.

The first inning was rough but otherwise, I thought we played well. We lost 2-0 but I saw some positives. We had good leadership on the field and in the dugout, we responded well to moments of adversity, and all the players were embracing their assigned roles for the day.

After the first game, the team jogged to the outfield to regroup. As I walked with the coaches one of them said, “Hey, will you talk to them? They’re tired of hearing from us.” The answer was an easy yes for me.

I stood in front of the team, each of them on one knee with the coaches standing behind them. I remember saying something like, “Hey team, I’m not even going to try and talk to you about softball because you guys know I was a soccer coach, but I’ll give you some insights on what I observed.” I went on to say how I thought we were in the game and though we made some errors I loved the way we responded in those moments. I mentioned that the opponent was a really a good team but we managed to get runners on base and we had our chances and then, then I went off script… I said, and I can’t make this up, I said this to an NCAA college softball team… brace yourself …“it’s not like we were swinging at airballs.” Yep. Wrong sport. Wrong terminology altogether. And in that moment the players fell over the laughing, the coaches couldn’t look at me, and I couldn’t compose myself either. What a moment!

I share that story because I so frequently hear from young leaders that they are afraid to say the wrong thing and as a result, they don’t say anything at all. Here’s the truth; there will be times when you will say the wrong thing – trust ME on that one! But here is why that particular moment worked out:

  1. They knew my intentions: Because I had been working with them for many months they understood that everything I did was to help them develop, so a mistake on my part was easily forgivable.
  2. They trusted me: In our previous encounters, I had pressed them on some difficult team issues. I asked hard questions but what I did with their answers built trust between a tight-knit team and me an outsider. I had authentically earned their trust. In a moment when I clearly said the wrong thing, that relationship didn’t fall apart because the trust was real.
  3. They saw me as human: In that moment they saw me laughing at the absurdity of the situation and they saw me as “one of them.” Too often people view leadership as being “above” their people but I strongly believe the most effective leaders see themselves as being “with” their people. In this situation, the team saw me as someone just like them, full of flaws and very human.

But the story doesn’t end here. You see we had another game to play and early in the game, our pitcher caught one of their batters swinging for the fences. This player swung hard and missed and then it happened … our entire dugout started chanting, “airball – airball” and that’s when I knew we were good. When teams can laugh together that’s a sign that trust has been built.

And to this day I remind their coaches on a regular basis of my deep and profound softball knowledge: “Don’t swing at airballs.” Words of wisdom right there …

If you want to lead stay true to your intentions, earn the trust of others, be human AND laugh together when you make a mistake. Leading is worth the risk of making a mistake.

This is good, again ...

“This is Good,” again…

Like most other speaking engagements I found myself standing before 30 high school student-athletes sharing my favorite story. I share this story with every group I work with. Honestly, I find it to be much more than a story; for me, it is a way of life.

The story is called “This Is Good” and the message is all about perspective. The reality is when bad, negative, or frustrating things happen we each have a choice in terms of how we want to respond. We don’t have to know how something difficult is going to be good, but the idea is to simply leave the door of possibility open that something good can come from something bad. In the face adversity can you say, “this is good?”

I shared the story and encouraged the student-athletes to have a “this is good” mindset. I also warned them that when they embrace this mindset life will present them with plenty of opportunities to think, believe, and respond by saying “this is good!”

The next morning I woke up at 5am to head to the airport for my 7am departing flight. As I grabbed my phone off the charger I realized there was an issue with my flight. It hadn’t been delayed, it had been canceled. Urgh. I quickly called the airline and they told me I had been re-booked on a 2pm flight. I hung up the phone just as my friend/host was asking if it was time to go to the airport? I replied, “go back to bed, my flight has been canceled.” I’m not sure who said it first but the words “this is good” were certainly spoken.

In that moment I had a choice to make; be angry or believe that in some way this could be good. I chose to embrace a “this is good” mindset. As a result, I got to sleep in – YES! And my friend/host and I had lunch with another person I really needed to meet. So yes, my canceled flight was in fact good.

And for the record, my 2pm flight was delayed until 7:45pm which meant I would miss my 5pm connecting flight so my friend/host drove me a couple hundred miles directly to the airport of my connecting flight and the entire way I kept thinking, “this is good.”

Try it, but believe me when I say, if you embrace a “this is good” mindset you will suddenly see so many times when you can put it into practice … but it’s worth it.

Trust me, this is really good …

MagicTrick

It’s not a magic trick … working with introverts

When I work with teams, educators, and corporate groups we always spend a significant amount of time processing what we experienced together. I hear it from people all the time, “how did you get her to talk?” …”he NEVER speaks up, how did you do that?” … “I can’t believe she was willing to share, I swear she hasn’t spoken in a year!”

Let me be clear, it’s not a magic trick! To get more people to speak up, you simply need to create space where they feel comfortable sharing. This can be a challenge when working with introverts who need time to process their thoughts internally. However, statistically, 50% of people are considered to be introverts, so when we create space for them to participate in the dialog everyone benefits.

Here are a few tools I utilize when working with groups:

  1. Research says that most people who were born and raised in the US are uncomfortable with silence after 3 seconds. If you aren’t sure that is true, the next time you are in front of a group just stop talking for 3 seconds and see what happens! As a result, our culture tends to fill the silence with more chatter since we fear the perceived awkwardness. As a result, the extroverts keep talking and the introverts struggle to get their thoughts together amid the noise and chatter. Individuals with a preference for introversion typically need 8-10 seconds to process their thoughts before they are able to share. When we give them that silence they can hear what is in their heads and share it with the group. Knowing this I usually do two things when I’m working with a group:
    1. Explain the process/purpose: I explain this concept to the group. In fact, I test the “3-second theory” by pausing for 3 seconds after I make that statement … 3… 2… 1… clue the laughter! By explaining to a group that I will wait for 8-10 seconds before I move on to the next question I remove the pressure that some people may feel to fill the silence. I explain that while some people may feel uncomfortable I, as the facilitator, am not uncomfortable and they don’t need to worry about how I am feeling. Instead, they can see this as a process which invites everyone’s voice into the space.
    2. Put the process into action: When I ask a question to the group I will typically ask it several times. The first time someone will often answer right away. The next time that may also be the case but when I ask it again and it isn’t answered right away I count to 10 in my head. It never fails, when I get to 10 someone raises their hand to share because they have had the time they needed to collect their thoughts. Explaining the process/purpose and putting it into action has been a valuable tool for me.
  2. When you want to debrief as a large group consider how you can allow people to process before a large group conversation. When I want a large group to share their thoughts on a closing question I will often explain to the group that they have three options for processing the question before we gather as a large group to share our thoughts:
    1. Option 1: Go to the back of the room in a group and talk about the closing question. Typically those with a preference for extraversion will be drawn to this very verbal and high energy process.
    2. Options 2: Find a partner and discuss the closing question together. Generally, those with a preference for introversion will be drawn to this process since it creates deep, meaningful connections.
    3. Option 3: Spend some time in quiet reflection writing your thoughts about the closing question. This process is often selected by those with a preference for introversion as it gives them the space they need to organize their thoughts.

Allowing people to first process a question in a way that is most natural for them prepares them to be able to contribute to the large group conversation. When we ask a people to share off the top of their heads we are catering to extroverts who are energized by the process of talking through things. If we want to hear the voice of introverts we need to understand they need time and silence to hear their inner voice.

I would encourage you to think about how you can apply these techniques. You may be surprised how much others have to share when you create the right environment for them.

If you are interested in learning more about introversion and extroversion I would be happy to talk with you about my work with Myers-Briggs. Understanding how you and those around best function can be life-changing! You can request more information here.

-So you want me to shoot more-

“So you want me to shoot more?”

Years ago, I recruited a very good soccer player to the college team I was working with. She was the “real deal” and I was so excited to have the opportunity to coach her! She made great decisions off the field, was an A student, a great teammate, managed her time well, and she was a talented soccer player – what a combination!

But the truth is I struggled to coach her during her freshman year. It wasn’t her work ethic or an attitude problem, it was a communication issue. It was like we were speaking two different languages. Here is what our conversations often sounded like when I was giving her feedback:

“We need you to get higher into the attack.” … “So you want me to shoot more?” …”No, but give yourself some freedom when we have possession.” …”So I don’t need to track back as much?” …”No, you still need to track back but you can move into that space more.”… “So you want me to …”

Ultimately, I would get frustrated and she would be on the field totally confused about what we needed from her. And let me be clear, this was a player I adored and I knew she was trying her very best, but we just couldn’t get on the same page.

When the seasoned ended I knew I had to make a change, I owed it to this student-athlete to figure out how to help her to be at her best. I made an appointment with the Director of our Academic Support Center and I explained the situation. I ask if there was any insight she could provide on how this student-athlete processes information because what I was doing CLEARLY wasn’t working.

The Director asked me if I was familiar with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement! I had been a fan of this assessment for many years but I had never considered using it with a student-athlete.

I met with this player and I explained that I was frustrated with our communication. Like many student-athletes, she immediately thought she had done something wrong. I was quick to explain that was not the case. As a coach and an educator, I took full responsibility for not being able to teach her in a way that works for her. I strongly believe as coaches we need to adapt to the unique needs of our players and I had not done a good job of that with her.

She was open to taking the MBTI and the results were amazing! She and I were wired very differently and in the stressful moments of a game I was digging it to how I like to learn (assuming that everyone is just like me) and she needed the opposite. I was literally coaching/teaching her as backwards as I could – no wonder she was confused! But the MBTI gave me a very clear understanding of what she needed from me as her coach. As a result, we were able to come up with a plan and I adjusted how I gave her feedback to allow her to be at her best.

I am so grateful that we had an Academic Support Center, that I had a student-athlete who was willing to try something outside the box, and that together we figured how she best learns.

Years later I made the decision to become a certified practitioner of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I can now help others with this process. If you’d like to talk about how the MBTI can help you understand yourself and those around you please click here.

Oh, and her sophomore year, well, that was fun. She was a beast, but more important was the deeper connection we developed in the process. Our student-athletes deserve to have our best and sometimes that means we need to ask for help.

My experience says it is worth it.

change

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.