There is one job that I hold in life that trumps all other jobs, and that is fatherhood. It’s something that I’ve dreamed about since being nine years old, and the experience has not disappointed me at all.
I think what is interesting about it is that the universe let me practice raising sons when it gave me the gift of raising my younger brothers. The beautiful thing about younger brothers is they are pretty resilient and can handle a few missteps when their older brother is just trying to help them and is learning along the way. My brothers have shown me a lot of grace and forgiveness over the years which I am eternally grateful for.
Now as I raise my son, I can focus on the relationship and the important things I want to teach him, and there is virtually nothing he can come to me with that I haven’t already practiced solving or talking through with one of my younger brothers.
A couple of days ago, my son was playing in his first Little League baseball game. It was a very interesting experience for me because I’m not coaching his team, and I’ve realized in a very acute manner over the past few years that I’m a coach at heart.
So I’ve chosen to sit on the sidelines and watch for this season while every bone in my body wants to step in and start coaching the team. Now that I’m seeing him play and seeing the potential that he and his team have, it’s hard to sit back and watch. With my travel schedule this year it wouldn’t have been a possibility anyway, but I’m seriously considering it for next season.
As my son ran out to take the field, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was playing first base.
I’m not the most avid baseball fan, but I played in the backyard with my friends as a kid, and played one year of Little League and hit an in the park home run, which I will never forget.
My coach Jerry Preyss said something to me that will always stick with me after I struck out at my first at-bat opportunity that day. I had let two or three pitches go by without even taking a swing.
He said, “Gabe, I want you to go down swinging. I don’t care if you hit it, but don’t stand there and not swing. Go down swinging!”
Apparently, that’s what I needed to hear, because I hit a line drive that got past the outfielder who was picking dandelions and I ran as fast as my little eight year old legs could carry me, and I could hear coach Jerry yelling the whole time excitedly.
He cheered me on, and I ran all the way home and hit the first and last home run of the season and my illustrious baseball career.
I remember sliding into home and beating the long throw from the outfield and being incredibly proud of myself. I’d accomplished something I never thought was possible, and it was because my coach had given me the right words and put me in a position to win.
All those memories came flooding back when I saw my son take the field and take his place just a pace away from the base. He got into his “baseball ready” position and intensely stared down the batter and watched as the pitcher threw the ball.
Every single time the pitcher and batter got set, so did he and he stared them down.
His level of focus for being seven years old impressed me, and so I was incredibly proud of him when for two innings he played his position and created five of the six outs between those two innings.
He focused in, he played his position, and he caught every throw that his teammates sent him and tagged up and got the runner out.
When he got an out, you could see his excitement, pride, and focus increase. It was truly motivating to him.
As I write this, the immense fatherly pride is welling up inside me and moistening my eyes.
It’s seemingly small things like that which can make a father, a coach, and mother incredibly proud of their child, and I’m sure that even if you have a younger niece, nephew, cousin, or little toddler that you’ve already had these types of magical experiences.
When he came in from that inning, I walked over to the dugout and told him how proud I was of his great work, and he was beaming with pride. I will remember those moments for the rest of my life.
As any normal parent would feel, I was a bit surprised and perplexed when in the last inning he was put in center field, and another kid was put on first base.
I’m not coaching this year, and I don’t think coaching from the stands is a good idea. I find it incredibly annoying when parents yell and scream about anything their kid is doing or not doing, so I observe and cheer when there is something good that happens.
When the inning started my son was baseball ready and focused in, but since nothing frequently comes to center field in most of the Little League games I’ve watched he quickly got distracted.
He started dancing around, losing focus, and picking dandelions like any good seven year old centerfielder should.
His teammate on first base wasn’t catching balls or paying attention, and I saw that when my son did bring his attention back to the game and saw missed plays at first base, he was disappointed and discouraged.
The coach in me immediately wanted to ask (which I only did in my own mind) “Why are we putting players in spots where they aren’t successful”?
My rational self quickly responded with “Well, each kid should get a chance to try each position,” and I do believe that was the right call for the game.
I couldn’t help thinking about the coaching that I do every day.
When we’re coaching ourselves or our team, it’s incredibly important that we pay attention to some key factors that affect the game of business as a whole.
I like to ask myself these questions when I’m reviewing the performance of any team member on my team:
- Have I truly served them by providing them the best coaching and resources that will help them succeed now and in the future (even if they aren’t on my team forever)?
- Am I continually building my relationship with them so that I can serve them at the highest level and max out their potential impact in my team and their impact on the world?
- Do I know what their strengths are so I can place them in an ideal position?
- Do I understand what motivates them so that I can do everything in my power to make their time on the field as positively challenging and enjoyable as possible?
- Am I willing to keep moving them around until I find their sweet spot position wise?
Those are just a few of the questions that I ask, and I do ask them about myself as well.
In order to truly lead others, you have to be able to lead yourself.
If you don’t practice self-care, self-love, and self-coaching, then how will you know how to give it to others?
If loving and coaching yourself with kindness and grace seems like a challenging concept, I’d encourage you to take the same advice that my friend Ash gave me one day that I will always hold in my heart.
She said “If you can love and show kindness to your partner Rachel as much as you do and at the level that you do, then you clearly have the capacity to love yourself at that level. You just have to choose to do so.”
Coaching your team always starts with coaching yourself, and when you’ve mastered that, then you’re able to grow and expand your team into multiple other players.
So as you think about your entrepreneurial goals, I want you to consider the following:
- Are you investing in yourself every day and every year?
- Are you practicing kindness and love when you speak to yourself inside your own head?
- Are you investing in your team every day by teaching them in an encouraging and loving manner?
- Are you taking deep focused time to ensure that you think through and then test the ideal position for each team member?
There are many questions we have to ask (as questions are the foundation of all great coaching work) and so today is a good day to start asking more questions.
When you invest in developing your own leadership and coaching skills, then your team can grow, and you’ll create an amazing culture of highly motivated rock stars.
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To your success,