10 Ways To Enhance Your Role As A Leader And Coach – Podcast: S01E011

Leadership is important in sports, business, and life! We love working with leaders who are passionate about growing their skills and developing the leadership culture of their teams and organizations. The Invisible Hand of Leadership© is one of our foundational programs that we offer to businesses, schools and universities, sports teams, and non-profits to help them grow their leadership potential and experience. In today’s podcast, I discuss one part of the program – the 7 Roles of a Transformational Leader – and offer 10 ways that you can enhance and grow your role as a coach, counselor, and mentor to the people you lead and influence.

Episode Outline

  1. Constantly ask the question, “Am I unleashing the creative brain cells of my people?”
  2. View the recruitment and development of talent as your number one priority!
  3. Take responsibility for their careers.
  4. Build a relationship with the people you are mentoring, counseling or coaching.
  5. Model the way!
  6. Pave the way!
  7. Invest time with your people.
  8. Listen empathically.
  9. Motivate and encourage your people.
  10. Care about your people.

 

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Father’s Day – Podcast: S01E010

In today’s podcast, I talk about 2 men who stepped up and assumed a leadership role in my life after my father left me and my mom at a young age. I am forever grateful for the role these 2 men played in my life and what they taught me about faith, integrity, responsibility, commitment, sports, leadership, and making the most of the moments in my life!

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3 Lessons I Learned From Magic And Bird

I grew up watching and loving basketball in the 80s! They were formative years for me as I was playing high school basketball and watching my beloved Lakers battle the Boston Celtics throughout the decade. It was one of the fiercest rivalries of all time! Two dynasties who hated each other and at the same time loved playing each other just so they could show who was the more dominant team. ESPN just recently created a 30 For 30 film about this rivalry, and it took two nights to tell the whole story.

Magic and Bird

What made this rivalry even better was that the two best players in the NBA were leading their teams into battle: Magic Johnson for the Lakers and Larry Bird for the Celtics. This rivalry began in college and climaxed with the two of them facing each other in the NCAA Championship, which was the most watched game of all time! I was a Magic Johnson fan when he was at Michigan State and became an even bigger fan of his when he joined the Lakers. While I was a foot shorter than him, I was a point guard like him, and I tried to emulate his moves, passion for the game, and his incredible no look passes.

At this point in time in basketball history, you chose a team and rooted for that team, which meant that you despised the other teams and players that were trying to beat you. While I have come to appreciate Larry Bird over time, I did not like him at all when he was competing against Magic and the Lakers, because he was a Celtic! He and his team were trying to take out “my team” – sometimes literally – and I hated that! After watching the ESPN 30 for 30 film and reflecting on almost every moment that I remember watching intently during those championship years, here are at least 3 things that both Magic and Bird taught me about Race, Competition, and Resiliency:

  • Race – The emergence of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson brought out feelings, emotions, and conversations about race during a very fragile time in the history of the NBA. Attendance numbers were horrible for NBA games, and they could not find sponsors or even get the NBA Finals shown on live TV in prime time. I watched many Lakers playoff and finals games on tape delay, meaning they were previously recorded and joined in progress because the network decided the TV show M*A*S*H was more important than my team. Both Larry and Magic entered the league at the same time and brought energy and passion to the game that renewed interest from the fans. The unintended consequence is that part of their rivalry split the country along racial lines. This was never the intent of the two players. In fact, both Bird and Magic saw themselves as great basketball players, not players of a certain color. Growing up in Memphis, I had always seen basketball as a way to transcend race. When we played, the key question was: “Can you play?” If you could play basketball, you were accepted and respected regardless of the color of your skin. Bird and Magic taught me to understand this even more and showed that you did not have to put an extra adjective in describing a player that was of a certain color or race – they were “great basketball players!” Period! I have always applied this in my life when I see people, similar to what Martin Luther King articulated in his “I Have a Dream” speech and definitely what God intended when he created us all!
  • Competition – Magic and Bird pushed each other to be the best they could be. Based upon their passion for the game and their incredible work ethic, I learned how to work hard on my game and compete, loving every moment in the process. Every time I practiced, played a driveway pick up game, or played in a real game, I treated it like Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I also learned that in order to compete well, you focus on what you do well and not the strengths of the other person or team. Competition is all about bringing your best on game day and not worrying about what the other team may or may not do – a lesson the Lakers learned through defeat in 1984 and then success in 1985 and 1987 against their bitter rival.
  • Resiliency – For some reason, I never saw height, speed, or any other physical trait as a limitation to what I could accomplish on and off the court. I know a lot of this mindset was reaffirmed in me by watching Bird and Magic play the game. Bird was doubted at different times in his life, including by his own teammates when he first joined the Celtics, based on the color of his skin and his “perceived” lack of speed and jumping ability. Larry quickly dispelled these perceptions and myths to become one of the greatest basketball players ever! And Magic was called “Tragic” at one point in his career based on a couple of failed moments in the 1984 Finals. Yet, both of them had a courageous heart and an indomitable will to win! Bird was famous for telling the other team the exact play the Celtics were going to run and what he was going to do to win the game and then going out and doing it. And Magic came back to beat the Celtics twice after the bitter 1984 defeat and win 5 overall championships in the 80s by demonstrating leadership and a mindset of “I’m not going down like this!” In fact, Magic won both the league and finals MVP trophies as well as the NBA Championship in 1987 based on a resilient mindset.

There are many things that we can learn from Larry Bird and Magic Johnson both individually and collectively. I am grateful for their passion for the game, their desire and pursuit to be THEIR best and THE best, their work ethic, and their intense will to win. I am also grateful for the life lessons they taught me and the love of a sport that has helped me develop as a leader on and off the court.

My encouragement to you is to apply these same lessons in every part of your life to be the best you can be, to show mutual respect to others, and to be resilient when setbacks say you can’t have a pathway to success!

Finally, being a Magic Johnson and Lakers fan, I could not resist ending this post without including this clip of Larry acknowledging Magic’s greatness after a Finals win for the Lakers!

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The Voice of Effective Leaders – Podcast: S01E009

Leadership is important in sports, business, and life, and the best leaders know how to find their leadership voice in order to communicate well with the people they lead and influence. In today’s podcast, I explore 5 techniques that can help you communicate and connect authentically with your team. I also offer 6 questions that every great leader should ask.

Episode Outline:

5 Effective Leadership Communication Techniques:

  1. Seek First To Understand, Then Be Understood© (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey)
  2. Communicate the Right Ratio of Positive to Constructive Feedback
  3. Communicate Feedback in Terms of the Other Person’s “Potential To Be”
  4. Be Vulnerable and Open
  5. Encourage Others and Connect to Core Values

6 Questions Every Great Leader Should Ask:

  1. How are you doing?
  2. What are you most proud of over the last few months?
  3. What opportunities have you leveraged?
  4. What successes have you had?
  5. What challenges, if any, do you have in front of you?
  6. How can I help?

 

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How Ralph Waldo Emerson Helped Me Understand My Calling

My mom was an English teacher and always gave me a great love for the classic poets. While her favorite was probably Robert Frost, I always gravitated to Ralph Waldo Emerson. His quotes and his deep thinking about life, impact, and influence definitely affected me as a high school student and as a husband, father, and leader today. When I think about my favorite Emerson quotes, it is hard to limit it to just one quote. Yet, there is one that comes to mind that has made the biggest impact on my life, especially when it comes to my calling in life.

Man writing in a journal

Throughout his life, Emerson mentored and encouraged other writers and poets including Henry David Thoreau. One of the essential questions that he often asked of his friends and mentees was:

What has become clear since we last met?

This simple yet insightful inquiry has always resonated with me because of the very nature of the response that it demands. This question forces you to be self aware – of yourself, your surroundings, your activity, and your opportunities. And the goal is a drive to clarity and action.

I have used this powerful question in my own life and with the people I coach, who have definitely heard me ask them on more than one occasion. It has helped me become clear about my calling and served as a catalyst for me to seize the moment as it relates to the opportunities in my life. Here are 3 things to consider when thinking about this question:

  • What – This part of the question forces you to think about the events of the past day, week, or month and consider the data points in your life. It is easy to go through life in a transactional and busy state aware that you are doing things but not being able to fully recall where the hours and days went and how you spent them. How often have you heard the statements: “I can’t believe it’s 5 pm?” “Where did the day go?” “Is this year already halfway over?” We must think earnestly about the moments in our lives and understand how we are investing our time in order to make the most of our moments.
  • Why – The word “clear” is the central theme and focus of Emerson’s question. Based on the data points that you have experienced in your past, what have you learned and what clarity have you drawn about yourself, your life, others, your impact, your talents and strengths, and your passions? We all desire clarity in our lives, and a fully present consideration of your life can help you draw this clarity. For me, this part of the question is a process. The clarity does not always come by asking the question the first time. There have been times in my life where I did not have a good answer about why I was going through a certain moment and, therefore, could not yet draw clarity about it. Over time, I was able to work through this process and become clear about the experiences in my life and how they were shaping my character and calling.
  • What’s Next – Careful observation leads to discernment and learning, which should result in purposeful action both now and in the future. The learning and insight you gain about the past reminds you to continue down a certain path or redirect your efforts toward a different outcome. It also helps to clarify your calling, which becomes an active state of living your purpose. The insight is not useful if it doesn’t get put into practice.

Clarity in 3D

Ralph Waldo Emerson posed this question to his friends was to get them to think about their life and their activity and make conscientious choices about how they invest their time. As you think about what happened yesterday, last week, and/or last month, ask this question on a regular basis both of yourself and others to help gain clarity of calling and your next step. It just might be one of the best questions you could ever consider.

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Preserve Your Marriage – Podcast: S01E008

In this week’s podcast, I share a message that I originally delivered at West University Baptist Church about the importance of preserving your marriage. The principles and verses shared in this message are essential for preserving the precious relationship of marriage. You will hear how we often keep score instead of unconditionally loving our spouse and showing mutual respect to each other.

Episode Outline

To preserve means “to keep alive or in existence, to maintain, and to keep safe from harm or injury.” Marriage is one of the most sacred covenants you can make; yet, we often don’t invest in properly nurturing this precious relationship. Over time, two people who vowed to become one can grow apart and wonder what happened. Specific concepts in this week’s podcast:

  • The importance of preserving
  • Our calling to complement, supplement, and complete the other person
  • How keeping score of all the wrongs the other person has done clouds the lens we view them through
  •  “Conflict often results from differences and pride.  Differences can create conflict, and pride keeps us from resolving it.”
  • Why we need to release and surrender unmet expectations

You can subscribe to this podcast through our web site or via iTunes directly. Also, we would love for you to leave your comments on iTunes and Google Play about what you like about this podcast. Finally, you can download Downcast, one of my favorite apps for automatically consuming podcasts.

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Get Out Of The Way

In working with many athletes over the years, I often hear them say the phrases “I just need to get out of my own way,” or “I can’t get out of my own way.” In this moment, they are acknowledging the reality that their current choice of thoughts is preventing them from performing at the level that they know they can perform. They are essentially getting in the way of unleashing their potential, and it all begins in their mind.

Pessimism Street Sign

I often use the following axiom with the athletes I coach:

Every Action Begins With A Thought

When you stand over a golf shot, you are thinking about where you want to hit the ball. When you are on the mound, you are thinking about pitching the baseball into the catcher’s target. When you are at the free throw line, you are thinking about bending your knees and following through on the shot. At least, this is what you should be thinking about in order to put your mind in a position to have success.

It all begins in the mind, and the words you choose to feed yourself affect your performance. If you are thinking negative thoughts or words that are fearful, you significantly minimize your chance to be successful. You are in essence “getting in the way” of unleashing your talent! If, however, you focus on positive thoughts and words that lead you to belief and trust, you put yourself in the best position to perform at your best.

It sometimes takes a careful evaluation and rewiring of our vocabulary and the words we use in order to develop the best words and, ultimately, thoughts to focus on. For example, I have had some athletes meet with me the day before a game or competition and say the following: “Tomorrow, I just want to worry about hitting my shots.“ Now, I understand what they are saying, but in that moment, they are using the negative word of worry.

Instead, the best approach is to use the right words and rewire your thoughts about the game. A better phrase in this instance is: “Tomorrow, I want to focus on being athletic and playing with energy and effort.” This phrase changes the key word to focus and centers around process-oriented things that you can control vs. outcome-oriented things that can be influenced but not controlled.

frustrated young business man

These sports performance concepts also apply to other areas of life. Consider the following questions:

  • As a business leader, do I sometimes let negative thoughts or doubt affect my actions?
  • Do I hinder myself from truly maximizing my potential and achieving my goals based on a limited view of my talent and strengths?
  • Do I let doubt affect my ability to trust the people I lead and influence with more responsibility?
  • Do I try to control outcomes instead of focusing on process-oriented things that I can control and influence?
  • What negative words do I need to throw out of my head and replace with positive ones that can put me in a position to have success and the correct focus?
  • Do I begin each day with a possibility and growth mindset, or do I limit the trajectory of my day and week due to a pessimistic and stagnant point of view?

They key is not to get out of the way, but to show up and be present with a mindset that is determined, not debilitating. You must realize that your thoughts affect your actions. The reality is that you do have a choice regarding your thoughts, which can have a positive effect on your performance in sports, business, and life. Moreover, your choice to speak from a positive mindset and vocabulary will in turn help others maximize their potential and opportunities as well. Choose today to live from a place of possibility and growth!

 

This blog post was adapted from my upcoming sports performance workbook, Be Present: Showing Up When It Matters Most, which will be available this summer.

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Questions Every Great Leader Should Ask

Speaking is an essential skill for transformational leaders, but every great leader also needs to be able to listen. I often see leaders who focus more on telling without gathering the proper context, which always begins with asking the right questions. When you engage the people you lead with great questions it builds rapport, allows you to collaborate with them, and provides the necessary context for you to pour into them and provide the right advice, guidance, and encouragement.

Leader standing with colleagues

In working with leaders and helping our clients to develop their leadership culture, we have found the following questions to be especially helpful and effective if you want to be a transformational leader:

  • How are you doing? – Notice that this question is not “How’s it going?” which demands a response of a status report. This question focuses on them and how they are personally doing. It can be a conversation starter and allows you to understand what has been going on in their lives. It also gives them a chance to voice their level of engagement in life and expand on personal activities that they are passionate about or have brought meaning to their life. It facilitates a connection.
  • What are you most proud of over the last few months? – This is a different way to ask “How’s it going?” When you ask this question, it gives them a chance to passionately talk about the work they have been doing and the impact it has had on others including team members, clients and customers, and the community. It also gives you a lens into what they are passionate about, which can be helpful as you assign them to future roles. This question reveals what brings them the most contentment.
  • What opportunities have you leveraged? – This question allows you to gauge their initiative and creativity. Many times when I have asked this of the people I have led, their eyes begin to light up as they talk about new ideas and the process of discovery. The best leaders help others discover possibilities and leverage opportunities. This question facilitates curiosity.
  • What successes have you had? – Great leaders catch people doing the right things and celebrate their successes. Asking this question allows them to articulate the wins and breakthrough moments and gives you insight into their strengths. This question strengthens commitment.
  • What challenges, if any, do you have in front of you? – Some leaders fear asking this question, because there may be a response that requires them to do something. Moreover, these very same leaders don’t want challenges, they want things handled and solved. While it is true that responsibility and authority should be given to others along with the permission to solve challenges, the best leaders ask this question to gather context and stay engaged in the process. They also ask this question to gauge the intuition and discernment of the people they lead. Finally, great leaders ask this question, because they must. It is their opportunity as a leader to invest in and show concern for their team and to collaboratively engage with them. This questions serves as a catalyst for courage.
  • How can I help? – A lot of leaders fail to ask this question, especially after asking the question about challenges, because they know this question demands an answer that will require their time, commitment, and effort. They seem to disappear from the conversation almost in a “Good luck with that one” kind of way. Truly engaged leaders consistently ask this question after gathering the proper context in order to leverage their power and influence to pave and prepare the way for the people they lead to be successful. Asking this question promotes collaboration.

Transformational leaders are purposeful and passionate about engaging with their team. They listen well and ask the appropriate questions in order to provide the right support. As you consider the roles that you play in life and the leadership opportunities and influence that you have, I encourage you to ask these questions. They will help you effectively connect with the people you lead and help you make a positive impact that extends beyond your reach.

Question: What questions have you used to effectively connect with your team? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

6 Principles For Making Your Moments Count For What Matters Most – Podcast: S01E007

In today’s podcast, I share 6 principles for making your moments count for what matters most. I also share some practical strategies for how to apply these principles and make this happen on a daily and weekly basis. The principles are based on my book Moments: Making Your Life Count For What Matters Most as well as the work that we do developing leaders in sports, business, and life.

Episode Outline:

6 Principles for Making Your Moments Count:

  • Focus on the Moment
  • Enjoy the Moment
  • Engage in the Moment
  • Perform in the Moment
  • Pray in the Moment

What Happens When You Focus on Goliath

The real life story of David vs. Goliath in the Bible has been told many times! In fact, it is often used as a metaphor for sports, business, and life when a team or company faces a giant and takes him down. Coaches and leaders frequently use a “David vs. Goliath” reference to motivate the team or organization to conquer the odds, win the impossible championship, or suddenly emerge as a new entrant into a mature market.

Small and giant businessmen

While we are inspired by David and his faith, it is easy to get discouraged and disillusioned by the “giants” in our own lives. I have seen this as an athlete and coach when players or a team worries more about the size of their opponent than their own talents, opportunities, and resources. I have often seen it in the faces of people who are not just battling some opponent on the field but a fierce and unforgiving giant in their lives. When we focus and worry about the Goliaths in our lives, we forget and forsake the keys to persevering in those moments. Specifically, here are some pitfalls that occur when you focus on the giant:

  • You magnify the size of the giant – If we are facing a giant in our lives, it is already big by the definition of the word giant. We don’t need to increase the size of our giant by constantly thinking and worrying about it. As I tell the athletes that I coach: What you choose to focus on magnifies in size. If you choose to focus on the giant, he will get bigger. If you choose to focus on your goal and target and the process to get there, your goal will get bigger, clearer, and more possible.
  • You do unnatural things and forget what you do best – When you are facing a giant, you tend to do things that you have never done before. I once saw this with one of the basketball teams that I coached. We were facing some giants – literally – on the court, and we began to shoot long quick shots and try to play one-on-five basketball, which was not our natural tendency as a team. We got away from what made us successful all because we were facing a giant – or a whole team of giants! It is easy to go solo when the giant appears, because we fear that we have to face it alone. Just like David, we must remember the things that got us here and rely on those things to get us through this moment. David refused the armor that was offered to him, because he knew that it was his skills as a shepherd and his faith that were going to sustain him in facing Goliath.
  • You worry about the other team’s strengths – When you focus on the giant in front of you, you tend to worry about all of the qualities and strengths of the giant before you. You become defeated before you even take the “field,” because the giant seems menacing and insurmountable. Making a detailed list of all of the strengths of your giant and articulating all of the reasons why you will never get through it are not helpful habits.
  • You don’t trust yourself or your teammates – As a leader, trust is essential to competing in sports, completing a successful project or product launch in business, and/or building and growing a great family. Giants can step in and overshadow your ability to trust what you know to be true about yourself and others affecting your ability to perform well in important moments. Fear and trust cannot coexist, and one usually dominates the other based on which one we feed. In order to be fearless, we need to fear less and trust more.
  • You don’t play to your strengths – Giants try to kill, steal, and destroy the things that make you successful and impactful with your life. By nature, a giant is destructive, not subtle. A giant has one mission and that is to tear apart things and people. When you are facing a giant in any arena of life, you have to play to your strengths, not the giant’s strengths. For me, it always begins with my faith and the people I have in my life to remind me of this. My faith in Jesus is my strength and the foundation of my life. Jesus is the one person I can count on whenever I am facing a giant in my life, and I have already faced several in my life so far that He has helped me conquer. Realizing that He is my strength and leveraging systems and processes and character traits that ground me in this truth are the way I play to my strengths.
  • You allow probability thinking to overshadow possibility thinking – The probability of you conquering a giant is not always good unless you are a giant yourself. The mere mention of a giant means that the person, thing, or problem that you are facing is bigger probability-wise than you. If you focus on the math, it doesn’t compute to success, a win, or a breakthrough moment. The probability of success in this moment far surpasses the possibility of surviving it. Yet, it is possibility thinking that defines truly resilient people. In all of the research and work we have done in helping and coaching leaders and elite athletes to maximize their potential and accomplish their goals, we have found that resilient people get into possibility thinking really quickly when they face a problem of gigantic proportions. They are realistic about the giant, but they don’t remain rattled by it. They move on past the problem in front of them and seek and discover what’s possible in solving this very formidable problem. And, sometimes, it is not even about conquering the giant but more about how they can grow from the experience.

Problems, foes, adversaries, strongholds, and giants are all a part of life. You will see them and ultimately face them sometime in your life. Whether you have faced a giant in your past or are currently facing one in this present moment, I want to encourage you to learn from the story of David. He did not focus on Goliath and avoided the pitfalls mentioned above. By focusing on his faith, his strengths, and the size of God and His power, he conquered his Goliath, and you can too. Choose today to focus on the things that will help you prevail against your giant!

Related to the topic of this blog post, I wanted to make you aware of a book by my friend Louie Giglio entitled Goliath Must Fall. Louie has been a spiritual mentor to me since my days in college, and he is an incredible Pastor and communicator who has inspired many people including college students all over the world. In his new book, he authentically shares his testimony of facing a season that seemed insurmountable and what he learned about how you can truly conquer the giants of Goliath proportion in your life. While you can find a link in our Resources area on my web site to buy the book, I am also giving away 3 free copies of his book. Enter Our Giveaway before the deadline of Monday, May 22nd for a chance to win one of these free copies.