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Friday, July 01, 2011
Volume 17 | # 387
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To lead people, walk behind them. » Lao Tzu

Keeping Your Head Above Water

The woman in charge of volunteers for our sons' swim team this year is a good friend of my wife. When she informed us that they were in need of someone who wasn't afraid of a microphone to become one of their "starters", resistance was futile.

Speaking to large groups about topics I know a little about is one thing. Being the guy "controlling" a swim meet and not goofing-up the starts of some uber-competitive swimmers (and parents) is another.

I'm not exactly looking for a few dozen more opportunities to get yelled at each week. Ya know?

I attended an early-morning "clinic" one Saturday and was given a thick set of rules and regulations. It was the classic case of something seeming more difficult after training than it did before. Shouldn't you walk out of training feeling more confident, not less?

As the time approached for me to take my turn running a meet, I was a little more nervous than I would have predicted. Too many rules were running through my head. Luckily, the two guys who have served as starters for years were more than happy to mentor me.

In fact, there are few mentors more enthusiastic about helping you succeed than volunteers who want you to take their jobs.

When I started running scenarios by them, they chuckled and told me there were only a handful of things to really worry about. One said, "Training is important. But they tell you too much. This is what you'll want to focus on..." I smiled and thought that he sounded like a veteran branch manager.

He proceeded to share very simple (and a few illuminating) tactics for keeping things under control and assuring everyone was given a fair shake. One that I had to work on was keeping my announcements monotone. You don't want to amp-up swimmers waiting for the starting horn. Go figure.

They told me what to watch, who to reference, and what to ignore. And over the course of my shift, I don't know that I've ever had more pats on the back from "coaches" in some time.

Of course, when my shift was up, they told me I was doing so well it would be a shame to stop the momentum. (Okay, maybe I got played.) I almost kinda sorta enjoyed it.

Who are the mentors on your team able to help your new (or promoted) employees keep their heads above water while they figure out their new roles?

As important, who are you mentoring now?

Only Argument I Need, Shawn

There is absolutely no chance that either of my kids will see the movie "Bad Teacher" anytime in the next… oh, 5 to 7 years. We're not the kind of parents looking to earn "cool points" by letting them watch R-rated shows. 

However, a preview of that movie has produced a joke-line around our home. In one scene, a coach is arguing with a student about why it's nuts to compare LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

When the coach tells the student to get back to him when LeBron has 6 championships, the student yells, "Is that the only argument you have?"

The coach's screamed response, "That's the only argument I need, Shawn!!!" cracks us up.

Prompted by the popularity of that clip, I've referenced the pretty silly Michael vs. LeBron argument in a few recent presentations. Yes, it's silly. LeBron isn't close yet to being Magic, Bird, Duncan, or Kobe either. (But I digress.)

One point I've tried to make is how failure and (at least a little) hardship are usually key ingredients in making a person the best that he can be. And truth be told, I'm not a LeBron hater.

Sure, I'm not a big fan.  But the guy's off-the-court behavior has actually been better than many folks we choose to admire.

(*Cough* Charles Barkley. *Cough*)

When LeBron was in high school, NBA scouts were already calling him a #1 draft pick. Nike would have signed him on the spot if he had dropped out of the 10th grade. They called a high school kid "King" (with a straight face) for goodness sake.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team his sophomore year. Even after winning an NCAA championship, he was the 3rd pick in the NBA draft. The Bulls didn't even send a car to the airport for him on his first post-draft visit.

There is no doubt that James has greater natural physical abilities than Jordan did. He's bigger, faster, stronger, and (yes) jumps higher.

But Jordan was more driven. He worked longer and harder and continued to develop his skills even after multiple championships. One guy took setbacks and drew lifelong motivation from them. Another received accolade before accomplishment and now seems adrift trying to deal with criticism.

Remember that our most rewarding successes are usually only found after initial failures.

Failure isn't fun, but its part of the success process.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." » Albert Einstein

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