How should Leaders deal with mistakes?

November 22, 2017

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Today’s Leadership Minute was written byThomas Flanders, Elementary Teacher and Head Girls Varsity Coach in Warwick RI, and a student in the Leadership and Team Dynamics class at Ohio University, taught by Jay Martin, Men’s Soccer Coach, Ohio Wesleyan University and a Founder of our Ross Leadership Institute.

Many coach/leaders like to consider themselves an authority in their area of instruction or business. This type of attitude does not lend itself to admitting mistakes and failures. I have heard coaches say that they do not want to enroll in coaching courses, because they would not learn anything from other coaches. These coaches possess a fixed mindset. Carol Dweck’s (2006) research demonstrates people who have a fixed mindset about what they know (certainty that they are “right”), make the worst leaders.

Leaders with this type of mindset say statements like, “I have been coaching for 20 years and know what I need to know.” This amount of experience is impressive if the time has been well spent constantly working to improve their craft as a coach/leader. If the coach’s 20 years was spent repeating the same mistakes over and over, then this time and experience becomes less impressive.

One factor that affects the progression of a coach’s abilities to coach and lead is the inability to try new things and the fear of making mistakes. I can say that early in my coaching career, I thought I knew it all in the areas of coaching and leading my soccer program. I felt that nobody could teach me anything and I did not want to listen to any other coach’s ideas. I made the mistake of ignoring my players’ thoughts and ideas, which ultimately affected our success. Ultimately, I realized that I could learn from my mistakes. I can recall a training session about 25 years ago, when I failed communicating with one of my players. The player made a mistake and I immediately screamed at her. She immediately shut down; I had lost her. This was one of my earliest mistakes in the area of communication with a player. The next day she made a similar mistake, and I called her over to me for a talk. “I asked her what would be a better decision?” She volunteered great information and she felt respected and validated. Beswick (2016) states, mistakes are simply a part of the trial-and-error learning process unless the adverse reaction of the coach damages the self-esteem and confidence of the player. Good coaching is therefore a balance of toughness and love, and the younger the player is, the more the balance tips towards love.

I soon realized that the times in my coaching career when I learned the most was when I failed and made mistakes. This understanding led me to realize my way was not always the best or the correct way. Mistakes always happen, so coaches need strategies for dealing with them (Beswick, 2016). These strategies need to be created when players make mistakes and when the coach makes mistakes. To properly lead my program and realize my potential as a coach, I had to expand my knowledge with the help of books, articles, coaching education, other coaches and my players. I had to leave my comfort zone to become a modern coach with a growth mindset. Dweck (2006) reports, those with a growth mindset see “mistakes” as challenges to push the boundaries of what they know. They don’t talk about having “failed”, but instead, ask themselves, “How can I use this situation as a learning opportunity? What do I need to know to address this problem.?”

Making mistakes is scary, but not having the proper knowledge or skills to assist my players was more frightening to me. How could I expect my players to handle setbacks and failures, if I was not resilient enough to explore new experiences? By making mistakes, I demonstrated to my players that everyone makes mistakes. Learning to deal with adversity teaches us to be resilient in soccer and in life. Based on my experiences leaders that are afraid to make mistakes and fail never realize their true potential as a coach, a leader, or as a person. In short, being accessible, answering questions, admitting mistakes, and saying you’re sorry aren’t liabilities (Whitehurst, 2015). A leader must possess these abilities if he/she wants to build credibility and respect with those they lead.

References

Beswick, B. (2016). One goal: the mindset of winning soccer teams. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Whitehurst, J. (2015, June 02). Be a Leader Who Can Admit Mistakes. Retrieved November 09, 2017, fromhttps://hbr.org/2015/06/be-a-leader-who-can-admit-mistakes

Dweck, Carol. 2006. Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books.

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Bring the Cart Back

November 21, 2017

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Today’s Leadership Minute was written by: Ciara Crinion, Asst. Women’s Soccer Coach at the University of Hartford, Ct., and a student in the Leadership and Team Dynamics class at Ohio University, taught by Jay Martin, Men’s Soccer Coach, Ohio Wesleyan University and a Founder of our Ross Leadership Institute.

Every week or so I head to the local grocery store. I come prepared with a list of items I want to be sure to get, but I also enjoy the time weaving through each aisle in my cart to see what else might be out there to purchase.

“Oooh organic yogurt, who knew!”

“A new flavor of protein bar—I’ll try that!”

After I navigate each aisle and nook of the store, it’s time to check out and head home.

As I make my way to my car (which seems 100 yards away), the wheels on my cart rattle their loud boisterous self to subtly remind me I’m pushing my grocery cart, in the parking lot (thanks for the reminder!).

After loading in the bags to the back seat, you are left with a choice: what to do with that now empty grocery cart? Push it off into the open distance and hope for the best? Strategically place it in front of your car—clearly no longer in your way, but a potential hazard to the cars facing you. Or, the big or, depending on how your day has gone, is to heroically bring that cart to a nearby cart station where it belongs.

We all have choices each and every day. Sometimes, even the simplest of ones like the grocery cart. Leadership is something you can’t turn on and turn off. It doesn’t just matter if things are going well that day, or it’s easier to do the right thing this time—it is all the time.

In order for an organization or a group to run effectively, there are no jobs too small as every functioning piece of that organization is vital to its success.

Model your values. Be a leader. Bring the cart back.

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What should I do?

November 20, 2017

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Today’s Leadership Minute was written by: Ashley Armstrong, Soccer Coach at Colorado United in Littleton, Colorado and a student in the Leadership and Team Dynamics class at Ohio University, taught by Jay Martin, Men’s Soccer Coach, Ohio Wesleyan University and a Founder of our Ross Leadership Institute.

Have you ever asked yourself “What should I do” in a difficult situation? What is right and fair?

Integrity is an important characteristic for a coach and their players to possess. Integrity “is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances.”. (Hopkin, 2012).  Even if it may affect the result of the game, it is important that coaches think about what is fair for all players and develop players as quality people first.

Prior to a must-win to win the league high school girls soccer game, one of the players decided to go to a party where there was alcohol involved. The team, league and school rule was that there is zero tolerance for alcohol and if they are caught, they would be suspended from the team. Prior to the season, each player signed a code of conduct indicating they would abide by this rule, along with others. The player was a junior and a starting center back that rarely, if not ever, gets subbed off the field and was the “glue” to the back line.

Word got back to the coaching staff that this player and some other students at the school were at this party and that they were drinking alcohol. As a coach and leader, I was faced with a decision to make. After discussing the situation with the head coach of the program and school athletic director, I began by pulling the player aside after training the day after that weekend and asked her if she was at a party. She indicated she was and admitted that she was drinking alcohol. As tough a decision as it is to suspend a starting player for a must-win game that would give the team the league title, it would not have been fair to not follow the rules and win with a player who broke the rules of the league. The player was very apologetic and knew that what she did was not okay and that she should not play because of it. She also felt bad that she let her teammates down. However, she was also upset that she could not play. I ended up suspending her for 3 games, as the rule stated. The school also suspended her for 2 days from school. Other players stepped up to the challenge and played well and worked hard for the team.

The team lost the game 2-1 that same week. Both the player and her parents came to support the team. After the game, the parents approached me as a coach and thanked me for teaching their daughter that there are consequences for her actions that affect both her and the people around her. They appreciated the integrity that was shown.

The team ended the season in second place, after winning all but one game. The following year this player tried out again and made the team. She became a solid leader on the team, making good decisions and supported her teammates because she knew the consequences. To this day, I still believe this was a learning opportunity for this student athlete and she became a better person because of it.

What is right for the team’s success and what is right for the development of quality people can be separate. While it may hurt the team, it is only fair for a player who breaks the rules to not play over someone who follows all the rules and works hard day in and day out. Being a good leader means doing the right thing, no matter the situation. “Managers who are excessively passionate and not detail or process oriented often over promise and under deliver. …These managers may be hard working and have good intentions, but they are not trusted because their track records of delivery are poor.” (DePersis & Lewis, 2013). If a coach’s philosophy is to teach their players to be good citizens and people, but does not do anything when a player makes a poor decision, are they really living up to their philosophy? A good leader must show integrity and expect that their followers show integrity in their decision making as well. Leaders who show integrity will gain more followers in the long run and develop better people for the future.

“There are many things you can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity isn’t one of them. Establish a set of sound ethics policies, integrate them into all business processes, communicate them broadly to all employees, and make clear that you will not tolerate any deviation from any of them. Then live by them.” (Hopkin, 2012).

References:

DePersis D., Lewis A. (2013) Integrity and Leadership. In: Amann W., Stachowicz-Stanusch A. (eds) Integrity in Organizations. Humanism in Business Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London

Hopkin, M. R. (2012, July 07). Leadership and integrity. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from https://leadonpurposeblog.com/2012/01/21/leadership-and-integrity/

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