This year my passion took over and I volunteered to be the coach for my son’s recreational league of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. I feel very fortunate to be able to impact the lives of children, but am still surprised at how much they teach me. We started our first practice with introductions and setting the mission for our team. Our mantra will be: Have fun, be a team and win. Winning comes with scoring more points than our opponents, but also in accomplishing the first two and learning together. One week into the season and I am a winner already because I received my first lesson.
During our first game I huddled the team together to call the play; I showed each player their position and directed them to the spot they stand; then I looked at the quarterback and said, “Once the ball is snapped, you do a hand-off to the running back who will run right.” I received an acknowledging nod from my quarterback who then proceeded to take the snap, drop back and throw the ball for a touchdown.
“Great play,” I celebrated with the quarterback, “but it wasn’t the play we called.” He just looked at me with a smile and then I realized something. I asked him, “Do you know what a hand-off is?” He shook his head no and with that same smile ran to celebrate with his teammates.
As leaders it is not enough for us to set the vision and mission; we must communicate effectively. It’s not enough to simply communicate vision and mission. It’s not enough for us to coach and mentor. All of this is lost if those we lead do not communicate effectively. Don’t assume those you lead understand what you consider obvious terms, particularly those terms that are either abstract (as opposed to concrete) or related directly to your industry or business. Don’t be fooled by a nod of agreement hiding the embarrassment of asking you for clarification; follow up to ensure each person understands. Also, don’t be fooled by initial success; you might've gotten lucky. But sustained results and success over time validates that you communicate effectively.
At the end of that first game, we had fewer points than our opponent. We lost on the scoreboard but achieved our goal of having fun.