If there’s something I’ve learned in my time working in Corporate America or in coaching wild little weasels in youth baseball, it’s that the people in charge can often lose sight of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of their leadership or guidance. It’s really not all that surprising because most people don’t spend oodles of time in their days considering how others perceive them. This is partly because… well… who the hell would spend that much time obsessed on such a point? In addition, no one should be so purely “other-focused” that they never account for their own personal tastes, talents and desires.
That being said, there is a tremendous amount of value to be gained for anyone who is a manager, leader or coach to consider how their leadership is delivered and received.
A leader may have a weekly staff meeting with her team where she feels completely at ease, free to have an open discussion. However, does the team feel the same way? Maybe, maybe not. One leader’s place of restful sanctuary is another team member’s “More face time with the boss where I have to play the part…”
As a baseball coach, I try to think about things from the kid’s perspective as best I can… and Lord knows I probably fail at this much more often than I succeed, but I think the effort is the big part.
It’s the art of taking the extra minute. That extra minute to think about your methods in relation to your players is hugely helpful.
For me it’s been about thinking about myself as a Little Leaguer. I was seldom a confident player back in those days – far more concerned with messing up than playing well. Hell, I can remember playing a game as it was getting dark, rain was coming down and I was hoping the pitcher, TJ, would strike me out. True story.
Hence, my extra minute is to remember that there are a lot of kids who aren’t naturally gifted athletes and for whom standing all by themselves at the plate with everyone watching them at a baseball game is a daunting experience. Kids for whom their coach looking them in the eye and saying, “Hey, you just go up there and go for it. All I care is about you trying hard – that’s it.” might be the difference between them enjoying the game and not. Or the coach letting them know that making an error or messing up or doing something “wrong” because they tried too hard is totally OK. Sure, you try to have them learn from that moment, but you can’t just light them up or else they’ll shut down for good.
And even if you don’t coach youth baseball, these same lessons apply at work, in your church, with your charitable group, etc. Your presence and position will affect those around you in ways you likely don’t notice or think to consider.
And all you need to do is develop the art of taking that extra minute. It won’t fix everything, but the self-awareness it brings is certainly the most important first step of them all.