There was always yelling. Every dugout, every bench, every sideline—yelling was the manifestation of great coaching in action; that’s the message I got as a kid. After all, what’s a great leader if not demanding, unrelenting, or even unforgiving? We, the “players” (see: 10-year-olds or younger, in some cases), needed to be held accountable. What better way to impart the long-lasting life lessons of sports than by yelling at them for all to hear extremely clearly? After all, any mistake or shortcoming must have been caused by the lack of decibel levels in the preceding instructions, right?
I’m being a bit hyperbolic with that previous paragraph, but not here: I had the good fortune of playing sports for a number of “legendary” coaches growing up, both in high school and college. It was random luck that it ended up that way, and don’t get me wrong, because I did, in fact, gain a lot of those “long-lasting life lessons” from all of them. However, they are the people I imagined while writing that first paragraph of this letter.
Most of what I remember is the yelling.
Those aren’t the people our NOLN team thought about nor wrote about in this month’s cover feature, “5 Ideas for Leadership in 2020." Those ideas? Make a plan, think critically, focus on the needs and skills of your team and the best ways to get the most out of them. I won’t give away too much of the story here, as it’s a great read, but it highlights a couple of the industry’s more progressive leaders, people who buck the traditional stereotypes. And it focuses on a more modern approach to truly leading people—inspiring, motivating, serving, growing, building, etc.
The story doesn’t try to peg one “correct” way to lead people, but rather helps encourage all of us to consider how we go about getting the most out of our teams. One of my personal takeaways is that it comes down to consistency in how we lead by example and set the tone for everyone else to follow.
And that’s what made me think about that old-school approach to coaching. Clearly, the reactions and behavior of those coaches would not be tolerated if it came from a player. So, what message does that send? How do you hold others accountable, if you don’t do so for yourself? How do you expect others to act as true teammates, if you, yourself, act above the team? You can’t ask for certain behaviors and attitudes if you don’t carry them out each and every day. You just can’t.
And trust me, I get it: It’s hard to do that. It’s hard to be consistent. It’s difficult to meet frustrated or angry team members with calm and patience. It’s tough to react with coaching and motivation when someone makes a costly mistake. None of it is easy, and it won’t ever get any easier. But as the cliche goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it.
Seeing just how few people out there seem to approach leadership this way, clearly that logic holds true.
What’s exciting, though, is watching how this has started to shift, how so many of you lead by example, serve your teams, and put each team member in the best position to succeed. Those are the goals. None of us want to be remembered for yelling, for outbursts or for demeaning someone we were charged with building up. So, let’s not be.