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If You Want to Be a Successful Leader - Build Great Work Relationships
(Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned from My Basketball Coach)
Building great work relationships are one of the most important aspects of a business. It might sound like a phrase, taken for granted. However, my experience has taught me that great work relationships are rare. Instead of support, I often saw disregard, instead of taking responsibility - blaming, and instead of workplace solidarity - gossiping. A very few people have managed to create and maintain quality relationships at work. Nevertheless, I think it is the skill that could be learned, practiced and mastered.
When it comes to the concept of building strong relationships, most of us believe the focus is on other people. However, the opposite is true. The focus is on us. To form a strong rapport in the workplace, we need to get in touch with ourselves first. It seems like nothing is as easy as that. We believe that it goes without saying. Nevertheless, making a true connection with ourselves could be arduous. It requires courage to express our real self; to get in touch with our emotions, especially with uncomfortable ones. It requires to be present at the moment. The most important it is for leaders, who want to build rapport with his team members.
Nowadays, authoritative leaders are unwanted models in almost every company. At the same time, we may notice that the number of authoritative parents is also decreasing. Coaching techniques are becoming a necessary tool in parenting and business settings. Today, parents are coaches in the first place - someone who helps their children learn about life, develop skills, and pursue growth. No matter what our area of expertise is, to become a successful coach, we have to build a good relationship with coaches. This applies to children and the team members as well. A good rapport and trust are crucial.
In this respect, I remember my basketball coach who was a father figure and our best friend at the same time. Toma led our team instinctively. When I looked back at that time period, I found out that he applied the skills of an extraordinary coach. It was no wonder such examples gave birth to the idea of applying coaching principles in leadership. I have learned from him how to be an excellent coach and what makes a successful leader.
Toma was authentic. At that time, when we tried to find ourselves, we value authenticity the most. He had a strong attitude and opinion, which gained him respect. He was a kind of man who stands out from the crowd, not clinging to the mainstream. He was at peace with that. For him, it wasn't a big deal. When asked whether he feared consequences, he would only shake his shoulders. The quality of work and personality strength provided him a firm place in spite of occasional turbulence.
Toma has integrity. He was someone people could trust. It was not because of any special events, or his charisma that was worthy of trust. Toma was simply a man of integrity who walked his talk. Today, this type of leadership is known as leading by example.
Be More Personal
We all were familiar with personal details Toma shared with us. We knew the names of his pets, the problems of his children at school, the dilemmas about buying a new car and the pain of letting go his first car that served him almost 14 years. That was the way he differed from the teachers in school. We perceived him as a close relative, rather than some distant figure. That created a strong bond and trust among us.
His specific attitude helped him learn more about us than our parents did. We confided our problems to him. He never took advantage of our trust. We trust him with our secrets. Of course, we knew that he would talk with our parents if those problems overcome the common challenges of growing up.
Share Your Story with Others
Whenever someone of us had a problem, he would tell an interesting story or personal anecdote. He never gave advice. Sometimes, the anecdote he told seemed to have nothing to do with the problem. It is only later that we found out the true meaning behind. He encouraged us to look differently at the same situation. Our point of view has changed. Not only that he helped us see things from a different perspective, but also understand how relative the things actually were.
Show Your Human Side
He didn't hesitate to share his personal failures. When one of us wrestled with a love problem, he would tell a story about Svetlana, his former girlfriend. Even then, just the mention of her name caused him to look down for a moment. That was extremely important to us. By doing that, he showed that he treated us as his equals and that was exactly why we loved and respected him.
Own Your Mistakes
As he was guided by the instinct, sometimes that very instinct put him in a lot of trouble. At times, he acted reactively, unable to control his emotional outbursts. He was especially tempted to act out when the game became intense. When the game was over, he never blamed others for his emotional reactions. He would invite us for a drink and apologize.
He was looking for our opinion when was about to make a certain decision, even when that decision didn’t refer to us directly. He would talk to us about the pros and cons of various car features before buying a new vehicle. It makes us feel important and we were always ready to go the extra mile whenever it was needed - on and off the basketball court.
See Potential Within Others
When the center played a mediocre game, below his capabilities, Toma would come to him after the game and say:
"This was a pretty good game, a solid one. You played really well, but you didn't use your skills to your potential. You can do much more than that. This is the great pass and you perfectly anticipate the rival's next move. Yes, you can do more!” Next time, the center played the best game ever. No one wanted to disappoint Toma.
Whenever I have to face a challenge, I remember him. His example guides me through hard times. In these situations, I always ask myself: "What would Toma do?”. All techniques, courses, workshops, and knowledge that I have, are nothing when compared with his example. Even today, I can spot the huge influence he had on my behavior and my decisions. Throughout my career, it has helped me to solve complex problems and make important decisions.