June 15th, 2011
Last weekend I took my son and some friends on a road trip to Boston to see a soccer game. This was not just any game. This was the USA vs. Spain match. For those of you that do not follow futbol, Spain won the World Cup last year, which is the equivalent of the Stanley Cup, World Series and Super Bowl all rolled up into one. This is the world’s #1 overall sport on the world’s stage. This game was simply a “friendly” match on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, there is no impact on league standings. The game did have a big impact on American viewers, however, attracting the largest crowd in the US to ever watch team USA play.
Spain won. Spain won easily at 4-0. This is like an NFL football team winning 49-0. But the score is only a small part of the game of soccer. There are rare times, the beautiful game, when a team plays a match to utter perfection. Spain played a beautiful game. I heard once that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to approach mastery of a subject. Spain’s club has far surpassed 10,000 hours. USA barely touched the ball. Spain controlled and dominated every facet of the game. They never missed a trap or pass – their mistakes were rare. They controlled the tempo. They spread the field. They were patient. When they tried a play and nothing was there, they simply reset.
What I find interesting in all of this is that winning used to be everything. Winning “ugly” was still a win. Winning with style was just an added bonus. Spain proved to me that there is whole other level for a leader. It made me wonder what a leader’s equivalent is to the “beautiful game.” Some might say leadership is harder than a sport because it is an intangible skill. As a leader, there are some days when I simply get through my day. I plan and ask the right, tough questions. I am engaged and involved. And then some days, it comes naturally and I know that quality time spent one-on-one with my team will carry them right through their week.
Most people that find themselves leading have not approached mastery of the topic. They are lucky to grit out leadership wins. They need to put their time in. This is the way. The beautiful game of leadership is about more than having project plans and meetings. It is more about having a culture and a philosophy as well as followers that identify with them. It is about helping people understand their limits and helping them close the gap. It is not about power and hierarchy but rather one that encourages the heart. It is more than getting things done. The beautiful game of leadership is when your leadership creates an energy source for your business.
Are you leading to impact your league standings or to play a beautiful game of leadership that inspires the heart?
December 21st, 2010
I love to coach youth soccer. The principles of leadership I practice in business extend very well to sports and coaching teenage boys. In fact, the boys are often more innocent and pure, which makes them easier to motivate and reach than the often opinionated and experienced professionals in the business world. On the flip side, life tends to provide a wonderful means to teach and coach business. As an entrepreneur, teaching and coaching are one and the same.
What is the danger zone? In soccer, it is the area of the field that extends out from the goal posts and is the part of the field from which most goals are scored. The size of the zone depends on the soccer players’ age. Generally, most goals are scored in the “center”, so it is much safer to clear the soccer ball down the sidelines than down the middle. To remain a step ahead of the kids (and the parents) in their development, we learned about the concept of the danger zone. In the early years, the game is all about skill development and tactics really come into play. But the game can be simple too. Get the ball into the danger zone if you are on offense, out of the danger zone if you are on defense.
What is the business danger zone? Where are you able to score most easily? In what areas are you most vulnerable and need to be more defensive oriented. Can you work on “scoring” more in business and reducing risk at the same time? If you asked my soccer team, they would say it is very hard to both. You can be become defensively oriented or offensively gifted. But it is difficult to do both. You have to choose your philosophy and stick with it. In business? Similarly, you must choose your priorities carefully – and stick with them.
In business, a leader enters the danger zone when he tries to accomplish too much. You have seen this happen. You have heard the speech; we all know this leader. The strategy is complicated and the list of to-dos are impossible to remember and even harder to relate to. Why does it sound like they are they reading directly from the business plan?
Great leaders choose simple priorities. These leaders clarify the rules of the business in a simple way and repeat that message over and over again. They learn that the business danger zone varies by the business and is not something to take lightly. Successful leaders also understand that they should not apply business tactics directly from a seminar they attended or an article that they read. Instead, those concepts can be incorporated over time. It is vital that leaders recognize the danger zone for their business.
So are you going to focus on defending your danger zone or will you work to attack your opponents? Offense or Defense? Your choice. I bet you can’t do both at the same time. Just ask the Klondike Express boys. In the end, we chose to concentrate on defense, yet the lessons ended up showing up offensively. Go figure…