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Myth #2: “I just don’t have the time to focus on leadership and culture.”

You are overworked and underpaid. You thought you were hired to coach, but in time your job description has shifted. You now find the bulk of your day consumed by recruiting, retention, fundraising, compliance meetings, academic concerns, and paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

But what if I told you that investing in leadership and culture was able to add more hours to your day? What if the decision to invest in leadership and culture would actually give you the freedom to focus on the things you enjoy?

Think about this … do you have time to take calls from unhappy parents? Do you have time to suspend players for poor choices off the court? Do you have time for negative press? Do you have time for your players to bypass you and schedule meetings with your Administration? Do you have time for players to transfer? Do you have time for meetings so you can get to the bottom of what happened over the weekend? Do you have time for negative anonymous student-athletes evaluations? Do you have time for drama? No, of course you don’t.

A few years ago I was meeting weekly with my new team captains. It was the spring, our off-season, and each week we met for about an hour to do intentional leadership development. The new captains were a current sophomore and a junior and they were soaking up the idea of being great leaders. That week had seemed uneventful to me, no drama, no complaints, a great week for a coach and I got so much done.

When my two young captains came into the office they shared with me what they had dealt with that week:

  1. They said there were two players who weren’t getting along so the captains met with each player and then the four of them met to resolve some tension. They said things were much better and they felt good about the action they had taken but they planned to follow up with both players in the coming weeks.
  2. They shared that the freshmen were stressed to the max about a Biology midterm so the captains coordinated a study session for them with a senior Biology major. They shared that the young players were really grateful and they felt like their effort had built trust with the young players.
  3. And lastly, they said that one of our sophomores had just gone through a difficult breakup so they had her over for dinner and spent some extra time with her that week. They said she was doing better but that the coaching staff needed to be aware of her that week.

I share that with you to say that it was a great week for me because I didn’t have to put out any of those fires – our players were empowered to do it themselves! I was able to focus on the things that will move our program forward rather than deal with the things that hold us back. 

So how do you want to spend the finite amount of time you have in a day? When you say you don’t have time for leadership and culture that tells me that things are out of balance and your only way out is to invest in leadership and culture so you can get your time back. Do you want to spend your time putting out fires or teaching your players about fire prevention?

Investing in leadership and culture is like owning a magic time machine that gives you hours back each day. And really, who doesn’t want a super awesome magic time machine…

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“Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”

I started my day with breakfast on my balcony. The weather was good, my food tasted great and I even had the perfect playlist filling the airwaves. It was going to be a wonderful day, or so I thought.

Things quickly changed when I checked my office voicemail. I had a message telling me that there was a problem with our van rental for the next day, so I returned the phone call. Kirk, quickly explained to me that his company had been a part of a massive van recall and they could no longer provide our team with transportation for our tournament this weekend. He went on to say, “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.” And in that exact moment I knew I was in trouble. Not because I had to transport a college soccer team to a tournament in Chicago that weekend, not because we had hotels booked, not because we paid a tournament entry fee, not because other teams were counting on us and not because we had team parents who had all made arrangements to come see us play. I knew I was in trouble because I was trying to work with an employee at a very large and reputable car rental company who said to me there was nothing he could do, which is code for I am not empowered to take care of our customers. 

A company that empowers it’s employees would have had a list of solutions in line before they even called me. They would have expected Kirk to provide a solution and they would have encouraged him to bend or even break the rules in order to meet the needs of a customer. Kirk would have been allowed to think outside the box but that was simply not the case. He made it clear early in the conversation that there was nothing he could do.

This company lost my business today not because they had to cancel a rental at the last minute, things like that happen. They lost my business because they don’t empower their employees to solve problems and I want to do business with people who lead by empowering others.

Great leaders empower others and I want to do business with great leaders.

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Who will you travel with in 2016?

I love to travel. After many years of international adventures I have finally learned it doesn’t really matter what your destination is. However, it absolutely matters who you travel with. Who you travel with really, really matters. Traveling with the wrong people can be exhausting.

The same truth applies in leadership.

Anyone who lives in the Midwest has at some point witnessed an amazing flock of geese migrating over our open skies. These flocks tend to fly in the shape of V with one bird leading the way. The lead bird has to work harder than all the other birds. The lead bird does not benefit from the aerodynamic wash-up that is created by a preceding bird. The birds who are not flying in the lead position are able to conserve energy while the bird in the lead position will become tired the fastest.

Most leaders can relate to feeling the pressure of leading the way. Flying into the unknown, head first into potential storms while fighting resistance can be physically and mentally exhausting.

The amazing thing about this flying pattern is the birds naturally take turns in the lead position. After a few minutes a bird who is not in the lead position will fly to the front to give the lead bird a rest! Many believe that if a flock failed to use this formation they would not survive a long migration route.

The healthiest cultures I have been a part of have mimicked this pattern. Great leaders empower others to take the lead. They do so knowing this is a way to develop future leaders. They also know that just because they are a leader it doesn’t mean they are able to lead the group 100% of the time.

So who’s in your flock? Who will you travel with in 2016? Are you surrounded by people who want to work together to reach a new destination? Are you allowing opportunities for others to step up and lead? Are you willing to admit that you need others to take the lead so you can rest and have more to offer later?

The journey is long. Pick your flock carefully.