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Circle of Influence: “Tic, Tac, Toe”

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Circle of Influence: “Seven Hole”

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Circle of Influence: “Speed”

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Circle of Influence: “64 Card Pickup”

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Circle of Influence: “Paper Puzzles”

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roots

How deep are your roots?

When I was a kid there was a tree in our front year. I used to race home from elementary school to climb that tree. I wanted to see just how high I could climb. I loved to push my luck as I inched dangerously higher and higher than the day before. As a kid, it was all about how high I could climb but as an adult I often find myself thinking more about a tree’s roots and less about how high the branches extend.

Roots matter. They provide a tree with the nutrients it needs to survive. Deep roots also provide a tree with the stability it needs to withstand a storm. Strong winds may come but a tree with deep roots will survive that storm.

But the redwood trees are an exception to this truth. These trees often grow to well over 300 feet tall and many can be found standing strong at 20 plus feet in diameter. People travel the globe just to see the redwoods with their own eyes. These trees tower over all other trees and their height alone should make them susceptible to damage. A redwood should be an easy target in a heavy rainstorm, a tornado, or when lightning is present, but these trees are very resilient. By looking at a redwood one could easily assume that their roots go to the center of the earth to supply all the nutrients and stability that such a massive living structure would need to survive. But that isn’t the case. The redwoods have a unique root system that typically goes just 6-12 feet deep. How is it possible that these trees rarely fall over?

The redwoods stay standing because their shallow roots intertwine with the roots of the other redwood trees so they are literally holding each other up. The trees grow in close proximity to each other so they can share nutrients and physically support each other. Beneath the surface, it’s as if the redwoods are standing with their arms locked together. They are saying, “we are in this together, we are one, if you want to knock one of us down, you’ll have to knock us all down.” Their roots provide strength and their strength lies in their connection with each other.

The moral of the story? Plant yourself next to good people and find ways to purposefully connect with them.  When you do you will find that you can survive the most difficult trials by relying on and providing for those around you.

Being connected to others matters. When people and teams stay connected they share their resources and provide strength for each other and when that happens everyone has the potential to grow to new heights.

What are your roots connected to?

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 the 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 struggled 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.

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Book Review: Help the Helper

Help the Helper by Pritchard & Eliot
Topic: Extreme Teamwork
Audience: Appropriate for teens and adults

Help the Helper is a must read for people who want to develop a culture of extreme teamwork. This book highlights the success that can happen when we truly become selfless and decide to do whatever it takes to help the team succeed. The book is full of examples of people who lead with a help the helper mentality.

One part of the book that I enjoyed was the introduction of the idea that we all need people who will lead like Sherpas.

Page 216: “When a climber shows you photographs of scaling Everest, there are always snapshots of their group hoisting arms and ice picks in celebration at the top of the mountain,” relates Domingo. “There’s never a Sherpa in those pictures.”

What he’s referencing is the contrast in mission between climber and guide. Hikers’ goals are to summit, to stake their flag in the mountain. Sherpas’ goals are to see to the hikers’ safety and survival. And while foul weather can derail climbers, Sherpas stop at no length to accomplish their goal.

Teams that I have been a part of that were highly successful all had a help the helper culture. When people come together and truly put the team first great things happen.

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Book Review: Teammates Matter

Teammates Matter by Alan Williams
Topic: Teamwork and Playing your Role
Audience: Appropriate for teens and adults

Teammates Matter is a must read for anyone who is a part of a team. Author Alan Williams, a member of the Wake Forrest Men’s Basketball, shares stories from his perspective on the team.  Despite his work ethic Alan finds himself sitting the bench for the bulk of his four years. In fact during his four year career he played a total of 59 minutes. That is correct, 59 minutes over a four year span.

What he does very well in Teammates Matter is bring into perspective the reality that we each have a role to play and every role matters. While he wasn’t a well known player he did play his role better than anyone else could have and he found ways to make his teammates better. He also brought to the light the value of what his teammates did for him. He gives several wonderful of examples of teammates who weren’t going to let others look down on him or on the role he played.

People who aren’t athletes can also benefit from the concept of knowing your role which is so prevalent in Teammates Matter. It is valuable resource for all-star players, bench warmers, coaches, fans and parents. Do you want to play your role the best you can?  Give yourself a few hours to read Teammates Matter and I think you will be energized to play your role.