RLL 73: Leadership Lessons from Soccer Seniors 2019

Real Life Leading 73: Leadership Lessons from Soccer Seniors 2019

This past week marked the beginning of soccer playoffs for my high school soccer team, and it proved to be quite the exciting time. We have three seniors on the team this year, all of whom have been excellent and key contributors throughout their entire careers. We were blessed to be able to celebrate them and recognize their accomplishments at a senior night ceremony during one of our games. Since then, I’ve been considering some of what they have taught me over the years, and I came up with two quick lessons that I want to share with you.

Had to get a team picture after a 4-3 double OT win in the playoffs!

Had to get a team picture after a 4-3 double OT win in the playoffs!

The first lesson is the importance of resilience. You could also simply refer to this as toughness or hardiness: these girls are resilient. They have overcome all kinds of challenges in their four years together on the varsity team: multiple injuries to themselves and/or teammates; changes in our school’s area (meaning our conference opponents) and classification (the size of schools we have to compete with); personal issues off the field (what teenager doesn’t face those, right?); and the usual assortment of issues in the classroom (again, think back to your own high school days).

Through all of these difficulties, these girls have remained tough and continually overcome these obstacles, culminating this week in a 4-3 win in double-overtime in our first playoff game this year. In fact, in each of the past four years, these girls have helped win at least one game in the post-season, an accomplishment never before achieved by our soccer program. They’re tough. What a great example, and what a great reminder to me: no matter what’s going on, my job is to continue moving forward despite whatever obstacles happen to appear.

Celebrating our seniors with their special gifts on Senior Night 2019!

Celebrating our seniors with their special gifts on Senior Night 2019!

The second lesson is that they’re consistent. They show up ready to play and to work every day. High school soccer season in Alabama is a long grind, beginning with preseason training right after New Year’s and not ending until the end of April or even mid-May (depending on the post-season). So for these girls, while other seniors are getting ‘spring fever’ and thinking of graduation and summer, they’re continuing to work and to sweat at practice and in games. And they’ve been at it for four years of high school (and many years before that). Though there are always ebbs and flows during a season, it’s been a joy to watch them come out to play and work hard at every opportunity, and our program is better for it. Again, what a great example to set: always come ready to work and to give your best effort.

These two reminders hit me this week, and so I wanted to share them with you. Whether you’re a business leader, part of a blended family, a college student, a parent, or anything else, you can benefit from remembering to be resilient in the face of adversity, and from being consistent in your hard work every day.

Action step: This week, look for new ways to overcome obstacles that have held you back, and commit to working hard each and every day.

RLL 63: Over-Communicate with All Adults Involved

Real Life Leading 63: Over-Communicate with All of the Adults

We all know what it’s like to be frustrated over a lack of communication: events get missed or are only found out about at the last minute; important items get left or forgotten at various locations; key information doesn’t get shared in a timely manner; and as a result, tensions increase and feelings of resentment abound. I have been guilty of poor communication resulting in all of the previously mentioned situations, and so I can speak from experience about the importance of good communication, especially in blended families.

Sign-language is not my preferred method of communication. But my daughter rocks at it, so I’m learning!

Sign-language is not my preferred method of communication. But my daughter rocks at it, so I’m learning!

In our four-parent, two-household world, communication is the oil in the engine: without good communication, everything breaks down rather quickly. We have two daughters, a teenager and an almost teenager, both of whom have complex schedules due to school, sports, and friends. All four of the adults have busy schedules with work and taking care of the kids. Thus for us, communication is paramount. Like everyone else, we’re not perfect, but I can tell you that we’ve gotten pretty good about communicating with each other. I’ve found two keys from our situation that I want to share with you today.

First, choose a format that works for you, and then USE it.

The world we live in has faster, more reliable communication than humans could have imagined in the past (though Guglielmo Marconi might disagree, what with his inventing wireless radio over a hundred years ago and predicting even better wireless communication at the same time). There are an infinite number of social media options and apps, in addition to regular texts, phone calls, and emails, that allow people to stay in touch. Each one comes with pros and cons, so evaluate what works best.

For example, texting is what we use the most, supplemented by the occasional email or phone call. But text messages, as most people know, are notoriously difficult to interpret in terms of the tone (even if you use emojis). Thus, if you are texting, be sure to extend each other grace in the event of possible misinterpretation (for more info, see last week’s blog post: https://reallifeleading.com/real-life-leading-blog/923e9d98wdwyb8pg8ck2y2madxrlx2). The bottom line is this: you have to use the technology for it to work, so be sure to be consistent about your contact with all the other adults involved.

Second, when in doubt about whether or not to share something with the other adults, SHARE it. When in doubt, communicate.

I was very blessed to be able to share this information at the National Head Start Association conference in Florida just before Christmas

I was very blessed to be able to share this information at the National Head Start Association conference in Florida just before Christmas

In my opinion and experience, it’s always better to over-communicate than to do the opposite. If I text my ex-wife and her husband about something that happened in our girls’ lives during their week at our house, and it’s not as big of a deal as I thought, that’s ok. They still know, and they genuinely appreciate me keeping them in the loop about our kids. The same works in reverse: when something happens that even might be a bit deal, I like to know about it, and so I appreciate it when they let me know as soon as possible.

The biggest danger here is the danger of texting (or emailing, or whatever you choose) too often. That is a concern, but I’d argue it’s worth the risk, generally speaking. Why? Well, consider the alternative for a moment: the kids are struggling at school, or one of them is very upset about an issue with a friend, and that issue carries over to the other household the next week. Now, the other parents are blind-sided by the issue when they could have already been in the loop and thus better prepared to help the children out or at least to encourage them in a difficult spot. Again, I think it’s worth the risk, especially if all the adults involved are of the same mindset about over-communication (which, funnily enough, is also a conversation worth having!).

Action Step: talk with the other adults involved in your blended family, and figure out the preferred method of communication. Then, start to use it more regularly.

RLL 60--Keys to Blended Family Life

Real Life Leading #60

Keys to Blended Family Life


Happy (late) New Year! I’m excited to share with you this first post of 2019 and in doing so to give an update on what the new year holds.

I was blessed to give my presentation on blended families called ‘Four Parents, Two Houses: Parenting Together Despite Difficulties’ at the National Head Start Association conference in Florida just before Christmas. Afterward, we were extremely encouraged at the response: there was tremendous support, feedback, and a desire to learn more from the audience. Many in the audience inquired about other resources and what they can do to help other blended families in their hometowns, and I’m looking forward to continuing to support them.

Recent statistics suggest that about 60-70% of second marriages fail (https://family.lovetoknow.com/co-parenting/blended-family-statistics), and many of these marriages are the ones that have created blended families. Thus, there is a tremendous need to help blended families succeed, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that. I’m part of a blended family and have been for years, and I’m thankful to share the wisdom from other blended families as well. Within our situation, I’m also thankful that all four parents (and the many grandparents) have worked so hard to make our lives work as well as they do, and I truly want others to experience the same type of success.

One of my favorite family pictures: mean-mugging with the soccer balls in front of a goal!

One of my favorite family pictures: mean-mugging with the soccer balls in front of a goal!

Within blended families, even before parents may be remarried, every issue becomes more complex because there are more moving pieces. Issues that are already difficult in traditional families now have more moving parts, more opinions, and more egos involved. Issues such as holiday or sports schedules; vacations and activities; teenage issues like cars and clothing and make-up and dating; inter-family and/or sibling rivalries and favoritism (real or perceived); buying patters for household items; and what we call ‘switch-over’ items that travel between homes; all of these are potential stumbling blocks for blended families and thus need to be discussed with patience, care, and compassion by all parties involved. And these are just the beginning. Each blended family will also have circumstances unique to its own situation that will require patience and understanding.

Because of the difficulties, the single biggest asset that parents can bring to blended families is humility: self-forgetfulness and a willingness to serve others by putting their interests first. The key to blended family life is to focus on the proper mindset, because then the actions will more easily follow. There are three tips I want to share (that I elaborate on in my presentations) about how to approach blended family life:

  1. Exercise humility by putting the children first and being willing to serve and listen to others, including the other household and/or other adults involved in the situation.

  2. Be willing to admit fault and compromise. Celebrate every victory, however small.

  3. Keep a long-term perspective, and learn to pick your battles. There’s a large difference between something that is actually dangerous or harmful to your children and something that is simply inconvenient to you or something you don’t like very much. [On issues of dangerous or harmful situations (what I call red-flag issues), seek outside help and guidance, but still try to do so as gently as possible, for the sake of the long-term relationships of the children with all parents involved.]

I sum all of this up by paraphrasing Gandhi: “Be the adult and parent you want your children to become.”

These guidelines might sound simple, but they become quite complex when you actually seek to apply them. I’d love to help you learn how to live a better blended family life in 2019!

Action step: If you or someone you know could benefit from learning more about this, be sure to share this or reach out to them and just encourage them.

Have an amazing 2019, and I look forward to hearing from you. For more info on blended family life, check out the video on my website https://reallifeleading.com/ or click on the Blended Family tab at the top of the page.