How My First Job Shaped My Career
Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to coach a variety of teams. Soccer teams, volleyball teams, hockey teams, cycling teams, baseball teams and obstacle racing teams. So I guess it shows that I have a passion to coach and see success in others.
One experience from my first paid coaching job is still with me today. I was named the varsity boys and girls volleyball coach at a very young age. I was only 19 years old and asked to coach athletes not much younger than myself. That in itself was a challenge, but not the lesson for today. Today’s lesson is all about is staying on the sidelines and not jumping into the game.
As a coach, when you start your first practices, you don’t know what to expect from the athletes and they do not know what to expect from you. Many of the kids were just playing because they wanted something to do. The first few practices were horrible. I had to discovered a fundamental rule – to set expectations. And this rule is hard. So fast forward to today. Substitute coach for manager or supervisor or owner and athletes as employees…. you might guess where this is going.
Back to the volleyball team, it took a couple of weeks, but we finally were on the same wave length. And once we were, we were a formidable team, a high-performing team. We made a run at the regional championships and made it all of the way to the finals! Wow, was it awesome.
We took charge in the first game of the finals and won and then dropped a close one to lose the second game. We rebounded to win the third game. So all we needed was just one more win and we were the champs. Then everything went wrong. We couldn’t pass, hit or block. There was one player on the other team we just couldn’t stop. We were coming apart. It was a disaster. I didn’t know what to do! I got frustrated, the team got frustrated. I got emotional, the team got emotional. I got mad, and the team shut down. We ended up losing this game and the next and lost the championships.
Fast forward to today’s lesson about staying on the sidelines and not jumping into the game. If you’re a coach, you can’t jump into the game. That’s what your team is for. As a business owner, manager or supervisor you have a bit more flexibility to swoop in and bail things out, but should you?
Or should you do what I should have done in the game? My job was to settle the team rather than inject instability. Isn’t it the same thing at the office? The way you walk, your posture, your tone. It starts with your body language. I was yelling, screaming and jumping around the sidelines and the team took their cue from me. They fed off of me rather than my settling them.
I should next have focused on clear instructions of what I needed each athlete to do. And pulled those aside, explaining better blocking schemes or cues, and focused my passers and encourage them. But I didn’t, and it all was lost.
So as you and your staff go into the daily fire drills that clients typically throw at us, try to remember to be more of the coach, guide, support and strategize rather than doing the work yourself. This requires confidence and trust. If you’re the leader, it’s your job to set the tone and the environment for success.