Be a S.T.R.O.N.G. Leader to Unlock Higher Levels of Performance
When seeking ways to become a better business leader, it can be beneficial to look outside our industries to create a cross-pollination of ideas. This week, we’ll start a series of articles to explore strategies and secrets we can learn from the world of sports.
Sam Walker’s The Captain Class identifies 7 core qualities of world-class leaders of the most dominant teams in sports history. One of the leaders featured in this fascinating book is Fiao’o Fa’amausili (no, I don’t know how to pronounce that either!), who led the New Zealand Black Ferns women’s rugby union to 5 world championships.
One of the aspects of Fa’amausili’s story that most captured my attention is her determination to go out on top. In 2014, the team’s record was impressive. Having won 4 world championships in a row, they were hot in pursuit of a fifth title – and lost.
Fa’amausili was devastated. She didn’t want to end her career on a loss. She chose to stay in the game, focusing her attention on winning the next world cup – which was 4 years away.
She accomplished her mission. The Black Ferns won their fifth world championship in 2017, and Fa’amausili retired in 2018.
Obviously, there’s something special about a team that can win a world championship 5 out of 6 times. A key component was Fa’amausili’s leadership style, which she summarizes as S.T.R.O.N.G.
S – Share the Load.
Some leaders try to do everything themselves.
I encourage you reader to resist this urge!
Not only does sharing the load reduce your burden, it gives others an opportunity to step up into positions of greater responsibility and leadership.
This guideline also applies to your team members. Pay attention to how much everyone on your team is carrying. If you see someone who might need help or who is carrying a load greater than any one person should be carrying, step in. Help them disburse some of their load in one of three ways:
1. By eliminating tasks that really don’t need to be done.
2. By delegating some responsibilities to others.
3. By outsourcing – for example, hiring an outside contractor to handle tasks that aren’t your team’s core strength.
T – Trust Your Team.
A great team solidifies around a shared vision. Make sure everyone on your team understands the vision and buys in. Then trust that each individual will do his or her part to make the vision a reality.
R – Respect the Players.
Sometimes team members won’t achieve their objectives. Failure is simply a part of sports, business, and life in general. Failure can be an invitation to create separation and knock someone down – or an opportunity to lift that person up and create greater unity among your team members.
A powerful story that illustrates the importance of respecting players involves a football placekicker who missed a game-winning field goal. When the team gathered back in the locker room, they were crushed and heartbroken about the loss.
It would have been easy to point fingers and assign blame to the kicker. After all, he had missed the goal that would have clinched the win. But tearing someone down when they’ve done their best is disrespectful.
The coach took a different approach. Addressing the team, he said, “This is our kicker. We’re a family. We’ll get through this together. There will be no changes in our lineup.”
When the team returned to practice the following Monday, the kicker found a note on his locker door that read, “I believe in you.”
He went on to achieve an all-time record of the number of field goals scored in a row. Not only did he set a record in consistency, he won a championship.
Now just imagine if the coach hadn’t trusted and respected that player. What would have happened if the coach had given up on that player for missing a game-winning field goal instead?
O – Others First.
As the captain of your team – and even simply as a human being – it’s easy to think your needs should come first.
But as one of my favorite motivational speakers of all time, Zig Ziglar, said: To get what you want in life, focus on what others want.
As a leader, I know with 100 percent confidence that my needs will be met if I focus on fulfilling others’ needs first. What do others need? Definitely consider your team as you ponder this question. But also extend the circle to include your customers, vendors, family members, friends, etc.
N – No Negativity.
If any circumstances or experiences feel like adversity, let them go. Put it behind you, and turn your attention to the positive aspects of the situation or life in general.
Here’s why: What we focus on expands. If you’re focused on negativity, you’ll create more negativity. If you focus on the positive, you’ll attract more good into your world.
G – Great Communication.
Great captains know how to communicate well. This means speaking – and listening.
Seek to discover what’s in the hearts of your players. What drives them? What ails them? What frustrates or discourages them? Unless there is great communication, you won’t know.
If your team bottles up their thoughts and feelings, I can practically guarantee that they’ll have a lower level of performance than you want on your team.
To remind us of this important lesson, we use a special phrase here at the Brave Thinking Institute: Shovel while the piles are small.
This means that we address issues, no matter how small they seem. Talk about issues while they’re small. Get them out of the way and clear the energy, so you can be at your best – and your team can be at their best.
Put S.T.R.O.N.G. In Action
I encourage you to put Fa’amausili’s S.T.R.O.N.G. leadership principles into action and witness the rapid, positive change that will happen in your team/business.
In fact, here’s a powerful experiment I invite you to do today:
Go on a negativity diet!
Turn your focus and thoughts to the positive. Share only positive thoughts and messages with your team. If you notice yourself focusing on the negative, interrupt yourself and redirect your attention to the positive.
Then check in with yourself at the end of the day and take an inventory of what you noticed. Did you feel more optimistic? Did you get more done? Did your team members seem more engaged and uplifted? You’ll be amazed at what a little bit of positivity can do.
I’d love it if you’d share your observations below! Next week, check in here to discover another powerful leadership lesson from the world of sports.