My daughter’s high school varsity volleyball team won the State Championships this past weekend. It was an amazing experience to watch, even more so because this group of girls are incredible. They support each other, LIKE each other, visibly and audibly have fun when warming up or playing together, and credit their success to being “14 strong”. They worked hard, enjoyed every minute and achieved their goal.
But while I am happy for and proud of my daughter and her teammates, their success came due to trickle down. The team achieved success because of their coach, the leader of this group. (Knowing the coach is a private individual, I’ll refer to her as Coach R.) It was due to this woman’s integration of powerful leadership skills that the team succeeded.
There were four specific things Coach R did which made her stand out as a leader and brought her team to the championship level:
In an organization, this approach is also true. Is the success of the organization reliant on one member, or the team? And if the focus is on one team member, what does that do to the organization? The other team members feel devalued. They stop giving their all. They lose sight of the goal. And where does it leave the organization if that one “star” leaves? Left behind is a disjointed, disconnected and dissatisfied group of people. The unity Coach R created became the platform for the team’s approach to the goal.
The same applies to organizations. Ensuring everyone within organization knows the long-term vision but buys in to the daily mission to get there…and then keeps the mission alive even in the face of the vision.
Can you imagine what this creates and what the same practice could do within an organization? Coach R’s players feel a real connection to her and her to them. It builds trust. It builds commitment. It increases performance and retention whether in a volleyball program, in a family or in a Fortune 500 company.
Leaders in any organization can do the same. Certainly there are times which are challenging, but does expressing anger, frustration or disgust move you close to your vision, or farther away? What behavioral, cognitive and emotional expressions help keep your team on track and focused on the mission and vision?
Overall, the leadership of Coach R worked for one reason: she led based on her own style. Coach R didn’t try to fit into a prescribed type of leadership. She didn’t base her behaviors on famous coaches in an attempt to duplicate their leadership. She created a leadership style based on her values, her strengths and her vision for her players, not the group’s State Championship vision, but her vision as the leader of a program in which each player grew, personally and athletically, because of the support they gave and received from their team. “It’s the buy in. They buy into each other so hard, it’s ridiculous,” Coach R said. “Their strength is in the group. We work really hard in the gym every day on our skills, but we know at this age level having that cohesion can bring you from a 5 to an 11. They buy into that. They work hard every day, but it’s because of each other … that’s what makes them truly special.” All due respect to Coach R, while it was due to the players’ connection and support of each other, even more it was because as a leader Coach R created and showed what it means to be part of a winning team.