I thoroughly enjoy the sport of soccer. I love playing the game, I enjoy coaching and teaching children, and I always look forward to watching both of my kid’s games. As each child embarks on a new season, one of the training methods used to determine fitness and conditioning is the YoYo Test (also referred to as the beep test). It is the ultimate test of stamina, speed, and agility for an athlete and requires each participant to dig deep to perform at a high level. For those of you who have completed this type of fitness test, “lungs burning” or “wobbly legs” are two of the terms used apon completion. For those who have not taken the test, please click on the link below to see a brief example of a test for the US Men’s National Team.
While watching my son recently participate in his pre-season YoYo test, I was reminded of how similar this test is to leading others, and how leadership requires both stamina and speed, while also challenging us to overcome internal and external obstacles. One cannot fake their way to success with the YoYo. The YoYo tests humbles all participants, and being humbled is an emotion every leader should deal with on a regular basis. Being humble in leadership is one of the most important traits to me in future leaders. Effective training and time must be put in to succeed in leadership, the same as training for a sport or a race. And time is our most valuable asset as a leader. We are always looking for more time to accomplish tasks and rarely are successful leaders asking themselves “I have too much time and not enough to do”. Your time as a leader in developing your team is just as crucial as working with your most important customer. John Maxwell describes the value of time as below:
“To know the value of one year – ask the student who failed their final.
To know the value of one month – ask the mother of a premature baby.
To know the value of one week – ask the editor of a weekly magazine.
To know the value of one day – ask the wage earner with six children.
To know the value of one hour – ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To know the value of one minute – ask the person who missed the plane.
To know the value of one second – ask the person who survived the accident.
To know the value of one millisecond – ask the Olympic silver medalist”
So how do you increase the value of the time spent in leading others? How do you avoid feeling like a YoYo, being constantly pulled in opposite directions? Here are three ideas to consider:
- Turn your “if only’s” into “what if’s”: It is easy to say “I would be successful if only I had additional resources”. Often times, our employees are looking for easy ways out of situations by making excuses or blaming others versus finding solutions with their current state of business. The most successful people in life do not look at others for accountability…they look inwards and figure out a way to get things done. Challenge your team to come to you with problems and solutions. Also, challenge your team to imagine success with no boundaries or restrictions…some of the best ideas come out of these strategic thinking sessions.
- Are you hiring and retaining the right people? I recently listened to a prominent college soccer coach talk about what he looks for in potential athletes. He mentioned Grit, Love of the Game, Team Work, Self-Belief, and Competitive Drive as some of the characteristics he looked for in a student athlete. If a recruit did not possess one of these traits, then the coach and his staff looked elsewhere. In addition, the coach would re-assess these characteristics each season and challenge his players to maintain high scores in these core competencies. Do the same with both your potential new hires and your existing team on a regular basis. As a leader, your performance is based on the success of your team…make sure they are consistently engaged and focused on both short term and long term goals.
- Make decisions quickly: Sometimes, leaders suffer from “Paralysis by Analysis” and are slow to act on timelines or resolutions because they feel they need more information. They have fear in making the wrong choice. The most successful leaders in the world have made mistakes in their past and will make poor decisions in the future. However, each of these leaders will also describe how being first is just as important as being right. Some people may associate timely decisions with poor decisions, but to me, timely and thorough thinking usually wins. Set aggressive timelines with decision stakeholders to educate you on new initiatives and the data required to be both quick and accurate. Understand the risks and benefits to any decision…many times the biggest risk is not being timely enough. Be nimble in your leadership and realize that all of the planning in the present will not prepare you for unforeseen obstacles in the future.
Leading others is hard work. As Tom Hanks stated in the movie A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great.” A great leader should also realize their individual value to their team and their company. I don’t buy into the idea that everyone is replaceable. To me, I will do everything in my power to retain my most valuable employees and I should tell these “A” players how lucky I am to work with them on a frequent basis. Recognizing others is a detail commonly missing from our weekly tasks.
Effective leadership requires us to be in great shape both mentally and physically (a positive balance of health, mind and body and not just a gifted athlete). Building stamina in leading others is just as important as the stamina required of an athlete to participate in a sport. Also, understand that your time is the most valuable asset you have as a leader. Focus on being great with your leadership, investing in your personal development, and achieving new levels of leadership fitness with your own YoYo tests…strive to be better, not perfect.
Well Done > Well Said