Three things that took me a while to understand as a leader.

The Less Control You Have, The Better

I always use a military phrase with my teams – “In command, without control.” That is our goal. I’ve learned over the years that the less control I have as the head coach, the better my team will play.

It’s a common leadership mistake. Traditional leadership is the boss in front of the group, in full control, telling them what needs to be done. That will create compliance. If they are good teammates, they will do what they are told. Your team has more than that in them, I promise you. But it’s natural to feel like, as the leader, I have to show I’m in control. I tell them what to do. That’s not the way to get the most out of them.

Leadership is about empowering your team, giving them control. They are the ones who have to make the decisions in the heat of battle. Your job is to train them to make those decisions without thinking twice.

If you feel like you have to have control as a leader, take a step back.Don’t be fooled into thinking that leadership is about control. It’s about empowering your team.

Listen More Than You Speak

Leaders are supposed to deliver the message. They stand in front of the group, set the tone, explain the approach and make the process clear. The leader does the talking. That’s what traditional leadership models tell us.

I’ve learned so much more about how to coach my team by listening to them. The more I listened, the better leader I became. More importantly, the better the team became. The connection you make with your team as a group, and as individuals, comes from listening to them. It helps you understand who they are, what makes them tick and how to drive them.

Listening is the most valuable and underused leadership skill. The more you are speaking, the less effective you are as a leader. Listen to learn, listen to connect, listen to motivate. Listen to lead.

It’s Not Yours, It’s Theirs

Too many of us as leaders take it personally. When a team member makes a mistake, we react like they embarrassed us, as if they ruined our masterpiece. Every mistake is not a reflection on you as a leader. Get over the mistakes and make your team better. The overall culture, approach and success of the group is what reflects your ability to lead.

We care a lot, we want to have success, and we are under a lot of pressure. It’s natural to hang on to it tight, squeeze it hard to get more out of it. But we have to learn to let it go. It’s understandable to want total control. The problem is that’s not the best path to high performance. If you are controlling everything, I guarantee you are holding your team back in some way.

Your organizational culture is simply the behavior of your group. Hopefully a shared set of beliefs guides that behavior. You help set the standards and explain the importance of what you believe in. But they own it. They are bought in to being a part of it (a requirement to be part of the team), and they make the culture work. You guide them, but your team members are really the leaders.

Trust your team. Give them room to own it. Let them make decisions. Your team can sustain a high level of elite performance when you understand it’s not actually your team – it’s theirs.

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