This past month has been filled with tense action, amazing athleticism, and tremendous teamwork from the world cup in Brazil. Soccer is truly a beautiful game with much to be appreciated. It has grown on me even though it is so different from the sport of my youth.
I grew up somewhat obsessed with sports. I loved playing and watching hockey, baseball, football, and basketball. I played them all competitively as a child and most of them through high school. And I loved them all even though I could be categorized as good but never really great at any of them.
The one sport I never played as a child was soccer, and I confess I never really understood the game very well. That is until my wife and children became totally immersed in the game as athletes and coaches. Over the last decade I’ve spent a lot of time watching from the sidelines and even assisting as a coach, so I’ve grown to love it.
One rule in soccer that I was able to immediately grasp, was that of staying onside when attacking the offensive zone. This rule made sense to me as it’s very similar to offside rules in hockey and football. If you can’t stay onside, you can’t score or win. You can’t reach your goal.
Staying onside is critical as well when it comes to leadership. I’d like to share my onside rules for leadership with you, it is developed from five principles that all share letters in the word onside and provide a handy anagram to help us remember them. These principles represent actions and behaviors that the best leaders have turned into habit. And the good news is that you can too!
The first principle represents the on in onSIDE and is taken from the word Honest. Great leaders are trustworthy. They say what they mean and they mean what they say.
In The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner call this DWYSYWD or do what you say you will do. Do you feel as I do that this is the very definition of honesty? People with honesty and integrity will do exactly as they say. If they can’t do something, they won’t say that they can and they build massive credibility with people.
Principle number two is to Support your people. Employees need to know where they stand, and this is the job of their leader. You best support people by providing them with honest feedback. Both positive and critical feedback are important to help build that solid foundation. Employees want direction and support, and that doesn’t occur without being willing to help them make corrections when you see them getting off track.
The third principle is to Inspire the people you lead. I’m not talking about acting like a cheerleader and holding pep rallies in the break room. Instead, I mean that you need to be setting up the conditions that allow motivation to occur within people. This means getting to know your people as well as you can. What are they good at? What do they want? What values do you and the organization share with them and how do they make a difference to you and the company? Inspire people by treating them like people and not an asset to be managed.
Principle four requires you to Develop your people. I firmly believe that all employees have a desire, or even a need to learn and grow their capabilities. The very best leaders I’ve been around had that expectation of their people and did their best to teach and share their knowledge and expertise. They didn’t worry about whether an employee would end up being smarter or more capable than them. That was the whole point! Great leaders go out of their way to encourage and develop the genius of their people.
Finally, principle five is to Encourage people. Work can get hard sometimes, everyone has more and more on their plate. But you have the opportunity to make the workplace an engaging, satisfying and motivating place to be. You can also make it a miserable place to be, the choice is yours.
Encouragement is one of the vastly overlooked skills of all great leaders. When things go right, great leaders talk about it, they praise individuals and celebrate accomplishments. When mistakes are made, they celebrate those too and talk about the valuable lessons that are learned. Encourage effort just as much as success as it will keep your people motivated and reinforce the behavior that will ultimately lead to success.
So in summary, the principles are:
- Be Honest with your people
- Support your people
- Inspire your people
- Develop your people
- Encourage your people
Leaders that stay onside have a much better chance of winning with their people. It happens because you are creating a team that is more competent, more motivated, and more engaged. When this happens, productivity skyrockets and profits or however you measure your success will follow.