When my son was in third grade I coached his basketball team. On that team we had a kid named Casey.
Casey had the attention span of Dory. You know the fish from Finding Nemo.
Many kids in the third grade can have attention issues, however, Casey was next level. A league of his own.
When it was Casey’s turn to go into the game, he played like his hair was on fire. Out of control. Chaotic.
What do you do as a coach with a kid like that? He’s not doing his part because he doesn’t understand his role. He just wouldn’t listen.
Early on I decided to manage him differently than I did the rest of the players. I knew that it would be futile to try to fit him into our system. Instead of trying to address Casey’s weakness, I sought to find his strengths.
I came to realize that for the first 2 minutes he was in the game he was amazing. He would defend, dive for balls, rebound and disrupt the other team. But only for 2 minutes. In minute 3 he was fouling, turning the ball over and hurting the team.
So, I would play Casey in every quarter, but for only 2 minutes at a time and when I saw that look in his eye, I sat him down.
He turned out to be an important part of our team. It was one of my best coaching jobs ever.
His skill sets were different, but still very valuable to the mission of our team.
Finding the right role for a player is the job of a good leader.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at the University of Cincinnati.
My good friend Barry Baker teaches a leadership class to undergrads. In order to give the students real world context he invited a few people from the business world to share their leadership experiences and to answer questions.
For those of you who are raising kids, coaching a ball club, or running a small business, here are the tips I shared with the students:
“First, people are the asset, their value cannot be underestimated. In order to lead them, make them your priority. Understand how finding the right people is the most important decision you will ever make as a leader.
Second, if you want to lead others you must first become someone worth following. The most difficult person you will ever manage is the person looking back at you in the mirror. Make self development a priority in your life.
Next, good leaders put people in a position to succeed. Every person has unique skills and ability. Find their natural point of aim and make sure their role in your organization is right for their skill sets and interests. Kids are the same. Parents shouldn’t force their kid to play sports if they are more inclined to make music. A good football coach doesn’t take a small, fast runner and put him on the offensive line. No, he puts him at tailback or wide receiver, something more fitting his skills and natural ability.
Finally, good leaders are good storytellers.
You see, if you want to lead people and get them to support your cause, you first have to get their attention. Once you have their attention you have to get them to understand the mission and your vision of how the mission will be executed.
Ultimately, you need to earn their trust.
The question becomes how do you accomplish all three of these?
Stories get attention. Stories give context. Stories build trust.
Storytelling is the cornerstone of good leadership. Parents who want teach their kids a life lesson can best accomplish this with a good story. Rules get replaced with stories which give deeper context and understanding. The same thing happens with leaders who can lead their people with meaningful stories.”
Sharing those tips with the students was rewarding for me. As a coach, I was in my element. It’s what I love to do. I love encourage, to teach, to lead.
My career has been built on my ability to lead. I’ve practiced leadership for over 30 years as a father, a manager, and now as the owner of my own business. I’ve practiced it on the baseball field, the basketball court, and in the martial arts studio.
Coaching and leading is my craft and over time I’ve mastered it by practicing it continually. As my company grows, I plan to continue leading.
Leading by striving to be someone worth following. Leading by putting folks in my care in a position to succeed. Leading by becoming the best storyteller I can be.
Leadership, like any craft, requires dedication and practice.
Yeah, all of those years of coaching were a wonderful blessing. I wonder what Casey’s doing nowadays?
Whatever it is, I’ll bet he’s giving it his all!