An observation from the field...the baseball field that is. Sometimes a young kid can teach us about effective leadership.
I coach 3rd base and give signs to the runners and hitters. It’s not complicated but it’s more than delivering a sign. Last month I twice gave a steal sign to a team member, and though he clearly understood his body language showed little confidence. He chose not to try.
Later I asked him why he didn’t steal. This normally confident and fun loving kid responded,
"I was afraid I would make an out, and I didn’t want anyone to yell at me or be disappointed."
Even with permission (direction) to take the risk he chose to shy away. He took the safe route, which in the end wasn’t safe. He risked losing the confidence of coaches, and his own confidence was rattled. Staying put was a way of falling back.
So why did he decline? He didn’t feel the risk would be supported. Kids wear this emotion on their sleeve, but adults rarely do. As leaders how often do we truly back our staff, giving them the tools they need to succeed and the support they crave whether they succeed or fail?
Nearly every adult needs constructive help. Recently 80 United Way staff who have taken Consultative Selling were asked the type of help they needed most to help them succeed. Their top three choices were:
- For managers to provide meaningful practice opportunities
- To see the skills modeled
- To have regular constructive feedback on their progress.
Back to baseball. After the game, our coaches spent time with the team working on steals and helping them feel comfortable with the strategy and the risk of ‘failure’. We all agreed that we were all better for trying. That kid stole several bases before the season was over, and even asked why I didn’t send him more often.
Time invested to turn the corner - 30 minutes in one practice, and regular focus and encouragement throughout.
How do you train to lead while in the field?