It’s Olympics season and so chances are good no matter how much of a sports fanatic you are or are not, you have been tuned in some. Some of the sports defy physics. I mean people who can jump 27 feet across a sand pit not only amaze me, but annoy me a bit too. The Olympics are a beautiful reminder of the capacity of a finely tuned human body. They give us couch-hugging slouches a rare insight into the drive and focus of champions, in between handfuls of potato chips and soda. It’s a special window that is not afforded the general public in any measurable way in the world of leadership. If you’re a leader you compete in your own Olympic games every single day:
When one of your followers enters life crisis.
When one of your children gets bullied.
When resources dry up.
When stakes are high, time is short and you’re the one they ask for the answer.
The other night I was able to attend a baseball game with a few co-staff from church. Before the game started we found our seats and started in on that obligatory hot dog, burp. In all the hustle and bustle of pregame activities it might have been easy to miss the leadership lesson happening in the back corner of the outfield. A coach softly tossed a suited-up catcher a baseball from just a few feet away. Dozens of times that catcher would jump from his crouched, knee crushing position, catching the ball and making that lightning fast motion as if he was throwing out a runner trying to steal.
It was amazingly and surprisingly commonplace. No frill. No exotic show of power or ability. No Olympic-gold winning play (partly because baseball is not a sport and so it is not in the Olympics…zing). Just a basic exercise of muscle memory he has done hundreds of thousands of times over designed to make him as effective as possible at throwing out that runner trying to steal second.
As you can imagine it got me thinking about the pregame warm ups for a leader. Specifically in the context of a church leader, but you can shape these for leadership roles outside the church too. I came up with what I am sure is an incomplete list of Leadership pregame drills that I need to run through on my way into the office or when headed to a church service. One notable left off my list is prayer. Not because it’s not important, but because I would hope we are all praying at every step of the day, seeking God’s insights not just in how we lead but every aspect of how we live. I did not want to risk cheapening prayer by making it a strategy for better effectiveness. It is discussion with the almighty God, that seems effective enough, right? Anyway…on to my list:
1. Smile and greet EVERY person you possibly can.
I am a super-focused guy. When I hit the office in the morning I have been running through my list of to-do’s the entire drive there and hit that door with a fairly high level of intensity to get to my desk or meeting and accomplish. On my way into a Sunday Service or speaking engagement, I am running through what I want to say and all the nuance of the speaking craft. My facial expression, shoot, even the speed with which I walk is telling a story I might not want told. “He is busy, he doesn’t have time for me,” people might assume. But aren’t people kinda what it’s about? So maybe I need to smile in the rear view mirror a few times on the drive there and literally say, “Good morning, it’s great to see you.” Or, “Hello, my name is Stu, it’s so nice to meet you.”
2. Stop gossip & negative speak.
We’ve all been out to dinner with another couple or around the water cooler and heard that terrifying intro question, “Did you see what Monica did on Facebook?” Most the time these seem benign and so we just take the bait and then listen to the negative speak or gossip that ensues. It’s time to practice how to politely and briefly shut that poison down before it starts. How about practice your response to the ‘Monica question’ five times today, “I didn’t but would rather hear about how your day is going?” Or, “I did see, but I am sure us talking about it won’t help her at all, tell me how your project is coming along.”
3. Lead more exciting meetings.
In his book, Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni, masterfully nails it when he simply describes the two fundamental problems with most meetings, “First, meetings are boring, they are tedious, unengaging and dry…Second, and even more important, meetings are ineffective.” So practice crafting the next meeting, knowing that an effective meeting goes far beyond making an agenda with Objectives, Discussion and Action Steps. But create a meeting that will have drama, laughter, disagreement, discussion and finally…accountable and measurable action steps for EVERYONE present.
4. Explore possibilities before they are certainties.
You do not have to be a Futuristic Achiever to be thinking about the future possibilities. What will we do if we lose this staff person? How will we navigate the the Fall if revenues remain lower than expected? What is our next large project? Every baseball player knows that when the batter steps up to the plate they must think about who they throw to if the ball is hit their way. In fact, in little league they even train the kids to shout, “Play’s at first” or “Go home”. Leaders, all leaders, should be consistently looking to the future possibilities, especially in areas of A) People. B) Resources. C) Projects.
I am certain this list is incomplete, and maybe in your setting a few of these are not even necessary. I share this as MY new “pregame warm up list”. I challenge you to create yours today as well. I truly believe the people who follow your lead will be better because of your efforts and you will be fulfilled as well!
To read more of Stu’s Leading Thoughts click here.