Flag On the Play
In the spirit of this upcoming NFL season, this article seeks to inspire better team leadership. We all know leading a team can be difficult but it doesn’t have to be. There’s one fact that you need to know to get started successfully. That fact; there can only be 1 quarterback on the field at any given time. Within a football huddle there is one voice and that voice is of the quarterback. Having one voice eliminates confusion within the group, keeps egos and attitudes from causing disruption at a time when clarity and understanding are most crucial, provides a platform for clear and precise communication, and creates the environment for the team to easily identify who is not buying in to the goal fairly easily. After all, one voice means one voice, the person or people that choose to do otherwise in a less than constructive manner often times have the potential to destroy team morale and act as a cancer to the team if not dealt with appropriately.
Team Members Must Buy In – It is highly important that you have buy in from all of your team members. Within this dynamic it is equally important for those members to not only buy in but to know and share the same vision for the goal, the plans to achieve it and their roles they need to fulfill to actualize it. In a situation where you are free to choose your own team members, this is done much more easily. When you are given an already assembled team, there will be people who buy in more easily than others and choose to follow if the goal makes sense and suits their needs. There will be people who’d prefer to lead and thus look for any opportunity to cause disruption or challenge the leader so they may make a run for the leadership position. And finally, there will be people who just don’t care either way, otherwise known as the disengaged group. Factors like these make it critical for a leader to take the time out and get to know each member personally. Know their goals beyond the one at hand, know their passion, motivators, skills, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
Hot vs. Cold – In a workshop I attended recently, I witnessed an exercise called “Hot vs. Cold.” The object of the game was for the workshops participants to lead one woman to a bag of candy by shouting out the cues “hot” or “cold.” Half of the participants were given the instruction to shout out the word “hot” to indicate the woman was close to the bag of candy and the other half of the participants were to shout out the word “cold” to indicate the woman was far away from the bag of candy. When the exercise began, an eruption of hot and cold chants filled the room. The woman searching for the bag of candy was in a state of total confusion and eventually she froze up. When the facilitator asked the woman what problem she was experiencing, the woman stated “I’m confused because everyone is shouting different messages at me and I don’t know which to follow.” After the admission, the workshop participants were given a different task. This time they were instructed to all shout “hot” when the woman was close to the bag of candy. Like magic, the woman found the bag within the next minute. When asked about this experience the woman stated, “It was much easier this time with everyone working together. There were many voices but one message.” I think you get the point…
Mixed Messages – There can be only one message with one goal. This is not to say that there can’t be subsets to this overall goal but each minor goal must lead to achieving the overall goal thus the message remains consistent. Just like the” Hot vs. Cold” example; sending a variety of messages to a person can cause them to become confused, inundated and eventually give up. This will then turn into low morale, loss of confidence and disengagement.
Consistent and Fair – Leadership requires consistency. This is consistency in the message being delivered but also in the actions that follow. Aligning actions with words is the way a leader gains respect, admiration and becomes most effective. This in turn becomes the model each member of the team seeks to emulate. As a team leader, you must be willing “to be the first one in and the last one out.” Exercising great character and integrity at all times is just a part of the job. You must set the tone of expectation with the actions you take, develop trusting relationships and provide the opportunity for your teammates to confide in you and you in them.
“Are You Ready for Some Football?”