A Leadership Lesson From Little League

Leadership Lessons From Little League

By E. Brown

If you’re familiar with Marcus Buckingham ‘s book, First Break All The Rules, you may recall the section about great managers not spending a lot of time with their poor performers. The idea being extolled here is that if you work with your star performers you and the company will benefit more than wasting time and energy with their poorer counterparts. There is certainly some truth to this concept and it has been played out in businesses all around the world. While I would not totally disagree, I have learned that some people just need a little push of encouragement.

I am coaching my son’s little league team. There are some poor performers on the team. Should I not spend much time with them? I have several players that are very good for their age. Should I focus more time with them?

Defining Moments
Think back to when you were on a sports team, or in school, or starting your first job. You were a little clumsy, maybe shy or awkward — definitely nervous. Then along came this coach/teacher/boss that you will never forget. He or she saw something in you that others did not. They encouraged you by spending time with you and telling you that there were big things ahead for you. You latched onto those words and never forgot. To this day, you count that as a defining moment. A time that someone, whose power and authority you were under, gave you the nudge you needed to get rolling. You will never forget that. Some of you have even had the chance to tell that person, now later in life, how much that meant to you then and that you wouldn’t be where you are now if it were not for that moment in time. Some of you wish you could tell that special person how much they meant to you but, time and distance have gotten in the way and you’ve lost touch with them.

A Little Push Can Start The Engine
Don’t chalk this article up to a “feel good story”. I have seen how an encouraging word fires up a person and gets their self-confidence engine running. I have seen it in the work place. I have personally experienced it when I was in school. And, I see it each week on the baseball field as these little guys come out to practice.

Back to my question: Should I not spend time with the poor performers and focus more on the star performers on the team? Yes and no. My objective as coach is to provide leadership. This involves feedback, direction, and encouragement. I have no idea how my words affect these guys on a weekly basis…No…the fact is, I do have an idea.

There is a very real, practical, and powerful principle at work here. The power of words. Words spoken in ways that can build up and not tear down. Words that can inspire and not demoralize.

Those of us in positions of influence and authority can wield words like a healing balm or a wounding sword. Bosses, parents, teachers, coaches, and trusted advisers take heed. Spend a little extra time with your poor performers. Encourage them and speak words of life into them. Like the character Richard Dreyfuss played in the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus [one of my favorites], you may find yourself the center of admiration for the next generation.

Additional Reading
– New information about Gallup’s Strength Finder


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