This past weekend was a busy one for our household as we had seven basketball games between the Batavia Varsity Boys’ team (I am a volunteer assistant), EJ with one game, and then Maddie with four games. I am not telling you this to boast that we went 7-0… wait, now I told you… but rather to share something that dawned on me while this picture was taken by my wife.
Let me briefly set this up for you.
This picture was taken Sunday morning during my daughter’s 4th grade basketball Stormin to the Hoops tournament when we were still riding high after a huge Batavia High School win. Trent Tousana, our PG and one of the hardest working kids I know (yes, the same one I wrote about last year!) capped off his 30-point performance with a 28-foot three pointer with seven seconds to play to put us up one for good against previously unbeaten Huntley.
During that game I was talking a lot to our players and using terms and gestures that only basketball players their age and up would understand.
It was a high-energy environment with a lot at stake for an early season game. And when I say a lot at stake, I do not mean a championship or ranking, I mean confidence and growth for our players and team as we did not start the game off well at all.
So, we had an early wake up call the next morning for Maddie’s first game of the tournament (yes, I am thrilled to be helping out with that team as well) and our first game was back-and-forth the entire first half.
While trying to get our team to slow down, I began to use the same terms as I was the night before when I was talking to Maddie as she was bringing the ball up the floor.
“Get going downhill.”
“Shorten the entry pass.”
“Attack her lead foot.”
“Get it to your teammate in scoring position.”
Then the lightbulb went on in my head when I yelled the last one…..
“Get it across half court!”
When I said that she looked at me like I had ten holes in my head because we had been telling her to slow down and let her teammates get set.
Now, we were telling her to speed up.
So in this picture I squatted down to her level and simply asked… ”Did you know you only have 10 seconds to get it across half court?”
A smile crossed her face and she said, “You could have told me that before.”
And with that we both started laughing, at me.
Once I explained it, not only did she play at a better pace but she also told her teammates why it was important for them to get to their spots faster.
I presumed she knew because she: spends so much time in the gym with me, loves the game, is a decent player, has a solid basketball IQ, and sometimes acts like she knows everything!
The truth of the matter is this, when Maddie is in the gym with me, which is often, she is trying to figure out what basket she can shoot at, when we are leaving, is her Dad (me) going to look at her, what is at the concession stand, why is the student section all dressed up in their pajamas… you get the picture.
The lesson was this… it was me who had to slow down and shift my leadership style and communication to the knowledge level and learning capacity of whom I was coaching.
Which got me to thinking about how we operate in the business world.
How often do we as leaders assume that who we are talking to understands what we are saying and what the words we are speaking actually mean?
As a leader, we may be trying to do the right thing, similar to us trying to get Maddie to slow down, but the way we are going about it, no matter how well intentioned, does not fit the experience or knowledge level of who we are communicating instructions to.
Then, when things do not go well, we get frustrated with the people we lead because what we are asking of them seems to be simple in nature and they get frustrated with us because in their minds they are doing their best.
When we slow down as leaders and go to where our team members are physically, mentally, and intellectually things become much more productive and empowering for them.