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Friday, February 28, 2014

Progressive Leadership (Intro and Part 1 - Listen Before Speaking

I think we can all agree, these are very different days.  At every turn, we can think or say to our friend, "Man, this isn't quite what I thought it would be," or "They didn't teach us this part."  The structure is, there is no structure, and the model is obsolete.  On one side, its every being for themselves.  Make as much money as you can, spend it on a bunch of crap you think you need and make that big ole name for yourself!  On the other, we're yearning for unity and belonging, a tribe.  Too often, we lack a true community and brother/sisterhood.  And that community can be anywhere and I believe should be available everywhere.
Where did it go?
Why are we searching?
Most importantly, what happened to our leaders?  This is the topic that's been rattling around my head for a few weeks now.

Somehow, someway, I've been lucky that key words have come out of my mouth in the right moments.  Many of posts this year have referred to my aging process and how I'm feeling like an old man for some reason.  I really do think it's because I started coaching/training so long ago.  The other day, a memory came to me that... well, I obviously forgot about.  I was 19 and into working out, I'd say at a moderate level.  I had a good understanding (for 19) as to how the body moved and the joints/tendons/ligaments/muscles and all that, so my functional base was there.  (sidenote: my junior and senior year I skipped study hall and went to weight room.  There, a coach who I shouldnt name only because he was letting me skip class, taught me quite a bit about muscle growth and movement).  Anyway, I was 19 and somehow obtained my first clients, a few members of the girls track team.  No idea at all, how they thought I could help them or why they thought I was the guy to ask, but I was and I did.  So I designed a program, from the ground up, literally training the feet, ankles,shins, calves, quads, hammys all the way up to neck and posture positions.  For the most part, it was covered.  Anyway, 19 years old.  Then getting into gyms and having multiple training partners over the years... I'm just saying, I've been talking and training and coaching and leading for nearly 20 years... and that 20 number is whats making me feel old.
So along those 20 years of adult experience, and my teens as a high school athlete, I've come across many, many coaches.  And I'm a really good "people watcher."  I pay attention.  I read body language.  I notice things.  And over the course of my life, I've taken ideas from some coaches, I've taken habits and coaching pointers, I've taken criticism, I've taken as much as they'd give.  On the flip side, I've been around many that I studied for the opposite reasons. "I want nothing of what they're offering."  Coaches that I've watched and have no clue why they're here, what they're doing, what they're offering, who hired them, etc.  The problem is, I'm coming across more and more of these coaches than the former.

The will be a 8-10 part series, maybe more, but only adding one per post.

Listen Before Speaking 
     Be a better listener than speaker.  
Absolutely, Rule #1.  My best, most memorable coach was insistent about eye contact when communicating.  At the time, it was intimidating as all hell, but I learned why and being a great communicator is more about listening and paying attention to nonverbal cues than it is about waiting for your turn to preach.  And trust me, coaches LOOOOOVE hearing themselves babble away.
You have to listen fully, with your entire being.  When you're communicating with an employee, a student-athlete, or a client, or anyone, anywhere, you have to be present and in the moment.  Listen to what they're saying, understand they're prospective whether you agree or not, it doesn't matter.  Every person you come across has ideas and feelings and they want to, they need to express and get it out there.  You are fortunate enough to be the recipient.  Think about that... you have a position, that places you in a particular "seat," where someone is willing to ask for time with you and communicate something that is very important to them.  You owe it to them, as a leader, to listen, communicate, and help this individual fully express whatever it is they're expressing.
I've had countless conversations with student-athletes on such a side variety of topics.... and I bet I remember nearly all of them.  I see those guys now, I remember their brothers and sisters names, I remember what they went to school for and what they majored in.  I paid attention because even then I knew, these moments are important and it doesn't make a bit of difference if its coach to athlete, supervisor to employee or trainer to client, connecting human to human is always priority number 1.  Don't let the ego of your position absorb your character.  One day, that position will be gone... then who will you be?

Listen before speaking.  If you're not sure if you currently do this, pay extra attention to it, even if its just an exercise.  We all have areas to work on, so if this is one of them and you're aware of it, you're already taking positive steps.

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I often hear, "People tell you everything," or "People are always coming to you, why?"  Good question.  You'd have to ask them, but if I had one guess, it's because I'm a very good, attentive listener.  I don't just listen while rehearsing my responses, I'm putting myself in the speakers shoes, I'm engaged in listening w as much attention as possible.  Also, my responses vary depending on the circumstances, because not everyone wants an answer or the fix, sometimes people just want to share or vent.  Also, I don't think they think of me as some "answer guy," but someone they can start a dialogue w, then continue it at a later date.  A sounding board of sorts and I'm truly grateful that so many people trust me w their personal, professional or even spiritual lives.