Our first exposure to sports is usually to choose up teams and play. From our earliest memories, the purpose of being at a sporting event is to play. And for the less-athletic people of the world, that purpose evaporates by the end of elementary school, and one-time vacant-lot all-stars are in the stands, relegated to a supporting role. Related: 10 Things To Know About A Career In The Sports Industry But for those who have a real thirst for sports, a desire to be engrossed in them, the lack of a Olympian's physique doesn't have to keep them away. The first thing to realize is that it's more than the players on the floor and the coaches on the bench who are making a sporting event take place. One of the easiest ways to notice all the other careers in the sports world is to watch high profile sporting events. Viewers of the NCAA Tournament 2014 will notice an unusual number of tables behind the benches and scorer's table, all littered with papers, laptops, and tablets. Who are those mysterious people with the best seats in the house? They are the sportswriters, there in hopes of catching that buzzer-beater or upset for their viewers and readers located four states away. How did they get there? Obviously, the Big Dance is a plum assignment among plum assignments, but there are several steps most of those journalists took to get where they are, and they include far more than getting a journalism degree and knowing how to pronounce "Joaquin Andujar." It's about getting involved and getting connected, and getting that inside information that will connect you with the jobs no one hears about. How did the game even happen? Who created the schedules that built RPI’s? Who made the arrangements for a home-and-home series against Tricycle U? Each of the schools represented has an athletics administration that was behind the procurement of the coaches, the creation of schedules, the generation of sponsorship, and the oversight of city-university deals for sports venues. Those administrators are probably at the game, too, in the hot-shot seats hoping for a good outcome from their decisions. Back on campus, there are also compliance officers who make sure that the many complex rules of college athletics are being followed. Most athletic departments also have academic services who hire and manage tutors to help their players keep up with classes during their extensive travel for competitions. If you've got a green thumb, you can get into the sports "field" as well. While many events take place on artificial turf these days, there is still plenty of live grass underfoot as soccer, baseball, softball, rugby, field hockey, golf, and many more sports take the field. If blacktop and highway materials are more your thing, bear in mind that somebody has to fix the potholes at Daytona. The key things to keep in mind with sports careers are these: Not everybody is a player or a coach, and the same strategies that land you jobs in other areas will land you jobs in sports. That means getting the skills of the trade, of course, but also goes with the usual steps of getting experience, creating connections, and carving out an identity for yourself that makes you stand apart from everybody else with the same framed piece of parchment.
A leader inspires and motivates others to do and be better. It’s about being a servant leader who focuses on the growth and well-being of others, regardless of title, bringing out the best in who they are.
Anyone can be a leader if they choose to develop the right skills. I know! I’ve made many mistakes along the way by focusing on the wrong things (i.e. micromanagement, poor communication, lack of flexibility, you get it). Once I realized that leadership requires being able to connect, motivate, inspire, and be present, I began to make a real difference in the companies and people I worked with.
Here are four things I do to earn my leadership every day.
Strong communication skills include being a good listener as well as customizing your communication style to suit each situation and team member. This is an area I’m continuously working on. I have written down the following and keep it visible in my work area so that when I interact with anyone, I am conscious of my communication style:
- Present, Attentive, & In The Moment
- Ensure Active Listening
- Ask Questions (Open-Ended, Clarifying, Probing) That Engage My Audience
- Not Interrupting
- Withhold Judgment
- Share Information That Is Helpful
- Brainstorm With My Team
- Summarize My Understanding
A leader who has strong communication skills will build trust and improve morale across the organization.
I grew up in the “kill or be killed” era of business and I’m glad it’s changed to a focus of connecting with people to form lasting relationships. I’ve learned to be a more empathetic leader who is able to understand the needs of others, their point of view, what they are feeling, and why they act the way they do. That said, I still have more to learn as empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger with use. What I try to do with my daily interactions is:
- Be Authentic
- Show Genuine Interest In Others
- Help Others Wherever I Can
- Be Self Aware
- Pay Attention To Body Language
- Be Open To Feedback
Empathy is a key element of servant leadership and leaders who are able to show compassion tend to be the most admired and are also able to drive significant business results.
Change is accelerating and at an unprecedented pace. In order to be successful, leaders need to embrace change in this constantly evolving global environment. I for one love change. While it can be somewhat scary at times, it can also bring about many opportunities. I’ve worked hard to embrace change and lean into the unknown by focusing on the following in my work and personal life:
- Being open to seeking and seizing new opportunities
- Have a clear purpose, develop a plan and prioritize new opportunities
- Remove obstacles that inhibit the path of progress to create quick wins
- Seek continuous learning and feedback
- Embrace risk-taking and the possibility of failure
- Take action quickly
Leaders who embrace change tend to be more adaptable, flexible, innovative, strategic, and have engaged employees. Change creates transformation and growth.
Develop Your Team
I was taught how to do my job but not how to be a leader who manages and develops teams. So when I first started managing teams, I struggled with continuing to do things myself vs. learning how to develop and inspire people. Along the way, I’ve made a number of mistakes, but through that, I’ve had some amazing nuggets of success that I work hard to put into practice all the time.
- Set clear goals and expectations
- Focus on serving, teaching, & mentoring
- Allow team members to problem solve
- Invest in people: resources, training, education
- Give direct feedback and ask for feedback
- Celebrate the wins and be quick to praise
- Foster collaboration and open communication
- HAVE FUN!
I’ve found that to earn my leadership every day requires a continuous journey of personal development and grace. Great leaders inspire others, bringing out the best in them while also leading by example. I hope these tips motivate you to earn your leadership. You’ve got this!