Sunday, February 8, 2009

“I’d rather be grounded” - Leaders must listen

Wednesday afternoon’s Triple Threat youth basketball practice went pretty much normal. Focus on fundamentals, lots of running and a zeal for teamwork. Having coached a long time, I learned to talk about executing to our potential versus wins and losses. So, having lost 4 games in a row, it was quite unusual for me to ask the team if they were as tired of losing as I was. I received a universal yes. Then Cameron said “I’d rather be grounded than lose again” and the impact of this mid-season slump became very clear to me. I listened to this short statement, heard a lot and we adjusted the practice plan and intensity (and won Sunday).

Doc Rivers (Celtics coach) had a similar success last week when his team asked him to stick with his original play and Ray Allen hit a three pointer to win in the last seconds over Philadelphia. Leaders are in a constant balancing act. We must be visionary, strategists, team builders, task masters and teachers. In the middle of all that, we need to be intuitive enough to know when to step back, listen to the team and make adjustments based on their ideas. And, do this in the heat of competition.

When was the last time you adjusted something you really believed in based on insight from your team?


Anonymous said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Congratualtions on your game win and thanks for posting another great discussion topic.
Fortunately I learned very early on that to be an effective leader, listening has to be one of your best attributes. You can talk all day and because you're a leader, people will listen; at least for a time. But to earn respect and maintain trust with your executive team, you need only open your ears, not your mouth.
I try to make an effort on a daily basis to sit, watch and listen as my leadership team comments and thinks things through. Only when there is an impasse or if I truly am the only one with the information do I actively interact.

As you point out its a delicate balance and one that I feel is absolutely necessary for effective leadership. Again, congrats on the win and great post.

Alex Kersha

Anonymous said...

Fascintaing topic!

Two thoughts in response but from an artistic point of view.The first is that the stepping back and listening is vital in dramatic performance rehearsal and even during the run.A director who directs too much gets puppets not performers. Release the talent and the ideas and you get synergy. However, the skill is in knowing when to say stop! Build the right contributory atmosphere and it grows the people.

However, the flip side is that some people get it out of proportion and become obsessex with a particular paradign of 'success'.. You only have to glance at one of the reality TV shows and hear again that 'Winning is the most important thing in the world' and 'I don't what I''' do if I don't win'! to know that not everyone can 'win', but if they do something pretty darn well, and others appreciate it, that's still pretty good.

A sense of proportion and ultimate importance of whatever it is you are doing, related to the context of the wider world is important. It's why I beleive that leadership is both a skill and an art! If every game player won every time, sports would be very dull!

The 'high' comes from getting better, and that's really about beating your limiting factors. Bottle that in the work place and you can get fantastic results. It's just as applicable to supply chain and logistics as to sport and theatre.That comment comes from experience too, but it's a whole separate conversation.

Glad you won! Congratulations from the UK

Anonymous said...


Your are absolutely correct that great leaders must be strategists, visionary, team builders, task masters and teachers. The only one I would add is "Inspirational". Unfortunately, many individuals who think of themselves as leaders only know how to lead by being a task master. In many circles, if you believe in building teams. you are looked as "soft". Task master leaders would not consider hiring us to assist them because they do not like the "touchy, feelie" kind of training and assessments. The answer to your question, many times during our training sessions, we realize that our prepared text is not reaching the audience. We change our whole training on the "fly" to satisfy the needs oft the audience. We teach leaders to be more flexible to be more of an inspirational leader..

Larry Lacy

Anonymous said...

Well said, John. These days, as we're constantly being asked to "do more with less", it is important to remember the team has the best tactical information available and it pays off big to listen to their input. Empower the team to look for better ways to get to a particular goal. Of course, reward them for ideas that lead to success but also encourage making an attempt whether it works or not in the end. There may be greater risk in standing still.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Most of the time the best leaders are not those that know everything, but know how to recognize when their own expertise is lacking and to surround themselves with people who make up for those deficiencies.

Nice post, John.

Add to Technorati Favorites