2016 – winter Issue

Lessons from the Sports Arena

It seems you can?t pass by the proverbial ?water cooler? these days without getting lured into some sort of discussion regarding sports. Whether it is the college football playoff rankings, NFL playoffs, college basketball, or even your favorite high school team, sports discussions are always lively and opinionated. As leaders spending our company?s time in these discussions, I suggest we learn some important leadership lessons at the same time. What makes you admire certain players or coaches, even if they happen to play for the ?other? team? What can we learn from those achieving success?

One clear lesson is the importance of the coaching staff and team members understanding their individual roles. Rarely does an individual?s performance dictate the overall team?s success. Take this year?s World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals ? now that their success is a few months in the rearview mirror, I challenge you to name two of their All-Stars. They were successful not because of one or two people carrying the team, but because every player on that team knew and executed his role. Have you clearly defined roles and expectations for your team members? Do they know where and how their contributions make your team better?

A second lesson is that great team leaders elevate the performance of those around them. Whether it is by setting higher expectations, exhibiting better work habits, or simply by improving their personal performance, great leaders find a way to get the most out of their teammates. Whether you are a Peyton Manning fan or not, it?s hard to argue against the fact that his teammates, and even coaches, seem to become household names when teamed up with him. The list from Denver alone includes: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker, Mike McCoy, and John Fox. Nearly all of those players and coaches were already talented; Manning just helped them get to another level. As you evaluate your teammates, do they flourish because they are on your team? Have you challenged them to grow by setting high expectations?

A third lesson is that, at the end of the day, when reporters are asking questions, strong team leaders know exactly which pronouns to use. If blame is on the table, ?I? is being used. A leader doesn?t single out individuals in a public setting; it should be addressed in private. How many times have you heard a coach or player complain about individuals to reporters? If success is claimed, ?WE? is the pronoun of choice. Are you letting your team share in successes, or is one individual taking all the credit?

As sports talk around the workplace increases with the upcoming Super Bowl, and as March Madness begins to take hold in your offices, keep in mind that almost every situation comes with an applicable life lesson. Use these lessons from the sports arena to better yourself and the team you are leading and growing.