Five Volleyball Lessons that Apply To Leadership and Life

I was on Facebook reading my newsfeed and I follow a page called Coaching Volleyball Champions, for a few reasons, mainly because both my daughters play volleyball but also because they have some good information on coaching and as an Executive Coach who believes that sport and business are very closely aligned it’s a solid resource.
They posted this set of five things you shouldn’t do on a volleyball court which I thought also made good sense for our professional lives. As such I’ve modified them to suit that approach. Original source can be found at http://goo.gl/kgJt9F
1. Don’t just watch your teammates play.
There is something to be said for team support, whether you are on the bench or in the game you should be paying very close attention to how things are unfolding. Your support could mean the difference between a win or a loss. Even if you are not directly involved in what is happening in some pocket of your work “there is never a time when you should stop working”. (John Speraw, Head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team) A company is like a machine, and so is a team, there are many moving parts but rarely do they operate independently of each other. How many times have you said ‘not my job’? The little things you do when you are NOT playing can make a huge difference in the outcome of the project, event or endeavour.
 
2. Don’t shy away from taking risks, especially in tight games or on match point.
Practice will only get you so far; developing confidence means performing a skill in tough situations when you are truly tested. Remember, taking risks sometimes results in failure, but experiencing failure leads to improvement.”
(Jordan Burgess, 2010 and 11 Girls’ Youth National Team member)
Are you at the point where you just show up at work, put in time and don’t care much about your level of effort? We like to get our pay cheques but we are less jazzed as time goes on to really do our best or try new things or take risks. Maybe we’ve had our ideas squashed or been left out of things or just ignored, which can at minimum be deflating and disengaging. Maybe we’re bored. I believe it also hurts our brains, engaging and being creative in your work is important to your own personal growth along with your professional growth. If you can’t exercise that muscle maybe you need a new gym? And if you are the leader and unengaged you may have to look at why you are feeling that way? Chances are good your example is lending itself to the attitude of your team. Innovation happens when people are engaged and invested, what are you doing to foster those risk takers? What are you doing to encourage effort? Are you just showing up? Are you taking risks?
3. Don’t follow the set when you’re playing defense behind the block. 
What does this have to do with business? “As a defender, you need to hold your position and read the play.”
(Nina Matthies, former head women’s indoor and current head sand coach, Pepperdine University) What I like about this one is that it is aligned with my belief that everyone’s job responsibilities are in a box. And all too often people don’t spend enough time learning their job or their box, they become enmeshed in other things for other reasons and also less effective in their intended role. But in order to work as a team you have to know your position and what your position demands. So don’t follow what others are doing blindly, don’t just move when they move, pay attention to what your job is as a compliment to the team deliverables. Don’t get distracted by what they are doing, stay on track, focus, then deliver support because you need to know what your job is before you can support them in theirs.
4. Don’t give up on your teammates, even in the slightest of ways.
Giving up on a teammate isn’t an option. It comes in all different shapes and forms, from the blatant ‘no effort’ on a play to less obvious actions like lack of mental focus, poor physical preparation or spiritually not being in tune to teammates. They will say and do the right things to bring the best effort and performance out of their teammates.” (Scott Wong, Associate women’s indoor and head sand coach, University of Hawaii) This quote is all about leadership. If you give up on someone you are leading don’t think it’s a secret. And don’t think it’s a secret if you give up on yourself; chances are, you are not hiding it very well. Your opinion will have a negative impact on your performance, and will only hurt you and your team in the long run.
Elite athletes never give up, and they don’t allow giving up to happen on their side of the court.”  Are you and elite leader? If you give up why won’t your staff? And if you permit them to give up, what does that say about you? What you make an option in regards to behaviour and effort is what will occur. The message is clear, if you made a commitment, then grow up and stick to your word.

5. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes in practice.
Understand that making mistakes is the best way to learn. Push yourself to try new things and possibly fail and then pride yourself on never making the same mistake twice.
(Jamie Morrison, Assistant coach U.S. Women’s National Team) If you think about anything you have learned in life; math, riding a bike, learning to drive or budgeting; how often did you get it perfect the first time you tried? Being afraid of making mistakes will render you useless and have the same effect on your team. Fear is an avenue not a dead end. Fear is appropriate when trying something new and when you don’t know how it will all work out, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t try. Just like sitting on the bench; if you are quiet and unresponsive and unengaged you are also not contributing, not adding value and not playing your position on the team. Try, assess, learn, try again, re-assess, learn, refine, practice, modify, excel. 
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