All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned at the Soccer Field

This week, Eklund Consultant Lesley Fisher describes how leadership can actually come from all team members to make the whole team successful.

We learn much playing on sports teams. There are important lessons learned by players, from coaches, from fans, and by fans watching other fans. Yes, there is much to be learned on a field, on a court, or in a gym. But this isn’t one of those pieces.

As a young parent, one of the more transformative lessons I learned was on a rainy spring afternoon as I dragged a bag full of balls among the sea of muddy cleats and splattered red jerseys; there it was, glistening with dew, waiting only for me:



Really? Sure, it made sense, but how could it be that easy? In that very instant, everything seemed to change. Within myself.

Those two sentences helped shape our family. Meals, vacations, bedtime, technology and curfew guidelines-all were made easier, more enjoyable, because we began to make decisions together.

Those words helped shape my professional and volunteer experiences. The best, most rewarding work I have done is in tandem with other individuals and teams. They hold many of the answers. My burden is lessened as I ask for and utilize their knowledge, while they experience validation and realize ownership.

A decade has passed (all too quickly) since I read those words for the first time.

I am one of the fortunate ones. For the many (and I mean MANY) who absent-mindedly walk that same path week in and week out, as crisp fall morphs into wet spring, they seem oblivious to the life-changing message just waiting to be infused into their every day lives: Everyone can help and it can make everyone’s load lighter!

This simple yet poignant motto can help shape your work too. One of the pervasive fears I see as I work alongside our leaders today is that they feel alone. There is an Us vs. Them mentality. In schools, our superintendents don’t want to bother Central Office staff, our principals don’t want to bother our teachers. The plate of a teacher is simply too full already. Everyone is just too busy.

Leaders are also afraid of appearing uncertain if they ask for help. Will their colleagues perceive them as weak? Incapable? Indecisive? While the various rationales our leaders use to avoid collaboration are understandable, all stem from fear, and we all know no good decisions are made out of fear.

Have you ever resented being asked for your opinion?

Have you ever resented being considered, being valued?

If we consider others, we are considerate. When we value others, they are valuable.

Get to know what your staff members are knowledgeable about. What are their interests? Their passions? Accept the fact - no relish in the fact - that they know more than you do about a variety of things; how freeing!

Do not misunderstand. The leader needs to lead. Because you ask for opinions and suggestions does not mean all input directly affects the final decision. But if you listen well, take the time to thoughtfully consider the intellectual capital within your very small reach, your solutions will be more effective and, in turn, your staff’s satisfaction will increase.

Give it a try. No lengthy, wet walk necessary.