RLL 23: Delegation and Humility

RLL 23: Delegation and Humility

As a teacher, my single least favorite task is grading essays, and as a soccer coach my least favorite aspect of the job is keeping up with jerseys and shorts. I love teaching history: the subject matter fascinates me, the students are bundles of potential, and I have my own coffee pot in my classroom. What could be better? I also love coaching soccer: the smell of grass, the beauty of the game, the hard work and life lessons; all of those things are wonderful. But sometimes I feel overwhelmed, and that has been especially true this year.

Most people, whether teenagers in high school, students in college, members of the workforce (to say nothing of a parent or head of a company), know the feeling I’m talking about: too much to do, too little time; no matter what you get done, it feels like the list keeps getting longer; a creeping sense that there’s no possible way to get everything done as well as it needs to be done. So, what’s the solution?

This was from a few years back: our program's first-ever playoff victory!

This was from a few years back: our program's first-ever playoff victory!

In the past couple of years, I have been consciously working on improving my own ability to perform one of the most crucial aspects of leadership: delegation. Delegation is the solution. In learning how to do this better, I have discovered a few things about it that I wanted to share with you. Whether at home, in my classroom, in my soccer program, or in a business, delegation is a key component of leadership, and here are a few ways it will benefit not just you but your entire group.

First, delegation is a perfect example of what Confident Humility is all about. Remember, Confident Humility is about using your gifts and talents in the service of others, and leadership is the art of positively influencing those around you to help them become better versions of themselves. Delegation is perhaps the simplest way of putting those ideas into action in a practical way. In order to delegate, a leader must be confident enough not to feel threatened by another person performing a crucial role or task, and he or she must also be humble enough to admit that another person might be better suited to that task, whatever it may be.

Second, delegation is crucial if you as the leader are to be the best you can be: that is, by assigning or giving tasks to others on your team, you free yourself up to focus more on whatever you are best at. I once heard delegation described this way: sure, the president or CEO could help clean his office or make the coffee, and sometimes that’s appropriate; but if the CEO spends all of his or her time doing that, who is making the crucial business decisions? By delegating, you free yourself up to focus on the most importants tasks of your role, rather than spending time and energy on something that another person could have done just as well.

Third, delegation allows the various members of your team or group to also showcase their strengths. If you as a leader have done your job and hired people who are complementary to you in terms of their various skill sets, then there are members of your team who are better than you are different things. Recognize that, and use that to the benefit of the whole team or group.

Let me give you an example.Within my soccer program, both of my assistants (in addition to being good at coaching) are extraordinary player-managers, forming great relationships with the kids. One of them loves the administrative work: forming rosters, keeping track of various stats, and taking are of uniform issues. My other assistant loves focusing on the defensive aspects of the game. When it comes time to work on defending, or if I’m having a difficult time with a player or group of players, or when it’s time to do the various administrative work, then instead of me trying to fix all these issues at once, I can allow each of my assistants to focus on these tasks, especially since they are likely to perform them better than I would anyway! This has a variety of benefits: the players receive more direct attention, the assistant coaches get the satisfaction of doing crucial work with the team, and they grow in confidence due to being trusted with those roles.

This is us last year: our second straight trip to the state championship game! We couldn't have done it without everyone involved: supporters, parents, players, and coaches!

This is us last year: our second straight trip to the state championship game! We couldn't have done it without everyone involved: supporters, parents, players, and coaches!

Allowing the other members of your team to get involved has one additional benefit as well, and this is something that all leaders should be thinking about regularly: it is helping train them to be the next set of leaders. In my case, by delegating various tasks to my assistants, it helps them prepare to become head coaches. When I give certain tasks in my classroom to the students, trusting them to take care of certain things, it helps them develop confidence and skill sets they’ll use in the future. By delegating certain chores at home, I’m helping my children learn what it will be like when they are adults and live on their own.

Lastly, I’ve learned that delegation is not something to be done simply after I’m feeling overwhelmed. Rather, it’s much better to begin delegating much earlier, before things get too crazy. I encourage you to look around and see what tasks your leadership team can help you perform and how much that would benefit the whole group. Then, be sure to trust your team to perform them; guide them, but don’t micromanage. Remember, part of the exercise is to learn to better trust others, and this will also help them grow in confidence.

Action Step: this week, ask your leadership team what tasks or type of tasks they truly enjoy, and then see how you can delegate certain jobs that will play to their various strengths. Be sure to email me and let me know how it goes!

RLL 22: The Value of Values--Overcoming Adversity

RLL 22:  The Value of Values--Dealing With Adversity

This past week, my soccer team suffered its worst defeat in my five years in charge of the program, losing heavily to a cross-town rival. The very frustrating part was that we had just tied with this same team two weeks ago, and we thought we had a chance to actually beat them for the first time in years. Instead we lost 7-0, and it could have been worse. They outplayed us, outworked us, and it was clear that they had a lot more heart than we did on that particular night. So then the question became: what do we do to fix everything that went wrong? How do we deal with this adversity?

When things don't look so good, how does your group respond?

When things don't look so good, how does your group respond?

For any organization, the answer to those questions (How do we fix what is wrong? and How do we deal with adversity?) is in part already answered by the organization’s structure and values. But in part, the way an organization answers that question is also very much dependant upon how much the organization actually believes in and focuses on those values.

Let me illustrate: a couple of weeks ago, we had to do active shooter training at school, and one of the policemen in charge of the training made a great statement that I’d heard before but had not applied in this situation: people don’t rise to the occasion nearly as often as they fall to the level of their training, especially in high intensity and dangerous situations. Now, obviously, most of us are not going to be threatened with life or death situations on a daily basis (except people like policemen and firefighters, God bless and protect them). But I believe the statement is true for all of us: how we respond is in great part shaped by how well we have been trained and by the principles and values we stand for.

Human beings are creatures of habit, to the point where we often do not consciously think of what we are doing when responding to many given situations: we simply act in a way consistent with how we have responded to similar situations in the past until some new factor forces us to reevaluate our response. We brush our teeth the same way until we have too much sensitivity, then we change technique. We get gas at the same station until it’s unexpectedly closed on evening, and we have to ask ourselves where the next nearest station is. Thus, when real adversity arises, we will most likely respond however we have responded in the past, even if that response was not as helpful or productive as we would have liked.

How do we overcome this? By changing our habits to make them more consistent with our values, and by first making sure that our values are clear to our entire organization. With my soccer program, our motto is “Walk Worthy,” and it comes from a verse of Scripture that says, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1-3 is the whole passage of our motto). This means that in every situation, we are to comport ourselves in a way that is consistent with what we say we believe: love others, value them above ourselves, and treat other people with respect no matter the circumstances.

How we respond is greatly shaped by what we stand for and what we see when we look around.

How we respond is greatly shaped by what we stand for and what we see when we look around.

I’ll be the first to admit that I often fail at this; yet it is our value system nonetheless, and so every new day is also a new opportunity to try to live up to these values better than I did the day before. And so it is with my soccer program and with whatever organization you are a part of. Whatever the values of your company, institution, family, or corporation, they will in large part shape how you respond to and try to overcome adversity.

One note of warning, however: often, what we say we believe and what we actually do in practice are different things. So if your organization is one in which backbiting or deception is common, then no amount of talking about your values is going to help until those problems are dealt with.

But back to the point: I mentioned at the beginning that part of how your group deals with adversity is already answered by the structure and values of your organization. This is what I meant: whatever you stand for, whatever you believe, these will greatly shape your response. The second part is how well you implement what you say you believe, and thus is is imperative that we as leaders do two things: 1) make sure that our values are clear and are understood by everyone within our influence; and 2) stand by our values, even when it would be easier not to. As the comedian Jon Stewart said, “If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values; they’re hobbies.”

If you aren’t clear on what your group stands for, then make it a point to find out and educate your team on them before you face adversity. That way you have a starting point for dealing with the problem. Once you’re clear on your values, be sure to stand by them no matter the circumstances. Compromise is a great thing in terms of implementation of specific aspects of policy; but never compromise your values and beliefs.

Action Step:

Take a few moments this week to either figure out (if you don’t already know) or review (if you do know but have perhaps forgotten) your group’s core values and understand WHY they are your group’s values. Then make sure everyone on your team is clear about them as well. Be sure to email me and let me know how it goes and if I can help!