There are always conversations about being a leader vs being a manager. Companies don’t seem to be as good at creating leaders, as they are at creating managers.
Leadership takes time, and one of the places you see real leadership is in sports. The best athletes in the world all have coaches. And, while the coaches may not be as “expert” as their protege’s at the sport, a good coach creates great athletes.
With that in mind, this video of LeBron coaching his son’s basketball performance was heading around twitter the other day. I thought it would be interesting to point out what I’m seeing as a coach in the way LeBron “coaches values into his son” on the side of the court.
LeBron pumping up his son Bryce after a game is one of the best things we've ever heard ❤️
— SB Nation (@SBNation) December 19, 2018
Here’s how I hear this feedback:
- Feedback is given in the moment. Feedback is in the moment so it’s fresh in everyone’s mind. Often feedback results in a conversation, this allows the conversation to focus on specifics (which makes feedback easier to hear). Also, I believe that in the moment, the athlete is in the flow of playing, improving, winning… meaning they’re open to coaching. It also forces the coach to always be watching the game through the lens of “what are our values?” and “what level is this player?” so that you can always be ready to provide great feedback (being ready doesn’t mean giving it… remember it’s not about how smart a coach you are, it’s what the athlete can absorb at that moment in time that’s most important).
- Feedback stories are specific. “Three of the biggest plays.” That’s a pretty specific statement. It also says, without saying, that “I was watching the whole thing, I thought about it, and this is what I observed after mapping what I saw to our values.”
- LeBron asks for permission to give feedback. In the flow is a great time to give feedback, but it’s not always the right time. Also, asking for permission empowers the listener giving them some control over a situation that might be difficult (even well worded constructive feedback can be hard to accept).
- Feedback centers around positive performance (plays). LeBron both focused on the positive and recited each play in detail reinforcing how close he was paying attention. He was positive, building his son up. It’s really easy to criticize. At our dojo, new instructors are only allowed to give positive feedback. They are taught to observe by pointing out the good things that students are doing.
- Feedback is an opportunity to reinforce values. Listen carefully, and you hear LeBron say something like “shots don’t matter, teamwork does.” He’s passing along values with his feedback, specifically reinforcing the long-term teamwork value over the short-term successful shots value.
- Feedback focused on effort, not results. “You played a heck of a game.” Especially at work, not everyone is going to win all the time. Recognize effort and you build the right mental state for your team to make the most of each opportunity. Effort (persistence, grit) eventually pays off.
- Leaders lead teams; teams are connected people. His final words, “I’m proud of you,” need no commentary. What player, child, or employee won’t get back on the field and give 100% after hearing those words?
Leadership comes at you sideways too
These conversations don’t only have to come from your manager.
I would often have conversations like this with the sales people I work with… having them help me understand how deals work… and what matters in each meeting or over the course of an opportunity. There’s always more to learn, and when you can create a habit of assessment, lessons learned, integration… you’re going to get better and that improvement will compound over time.
In fact, one of the first things I borrowed from the agile development teams in my presales team was to instill a habit of retrospectives after everything we did. They don’t have to be lengthy. Instilling a habit of thoughtful assessment after trying new projects creates a safe place for honest feedback making it safe to try new things.
When was the last time you had a conversation like this with your manager?