Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Surround Yourself With Good People

To give some background for this post, my stuff was stolen from a meeting room at the Layouts fields on Saturday.  I've been compiling a list of what was stolen for the police, so I thought it necessary to balance that by compiling a more positive list to share with you all.

Last week, I wrote a post that has a lot of relevance to life outside of ultimate.  It's been an especially challenging week to be my best self, made easier only by this point in my last post.

Surround yourself with good people.

"I am who I am and I strive to be better because of these people."

- Naomi Trang (Texas) for shouldering a large share of the burden for making Centex happen these past few days.  Please find her and thank her this weekend.

- My teammates, co-workers, and friends for keeping the show going at Layouts while I frantically tried to cancel credit cards and file a police report.  I am not sure I would have made it through the weekend without them.

- My co-workers at VC Ultimate, especially my boss Adriana, for taking on most of my workload this week so that I can focus on everything else.  I am blessed to work for a company who believes in what I am doing.

- My teammates and family for supporting me even when my work takes me away from them for weeks and months on end.  You all deserve more of my time and attention, and that is on my immediate list of priorities.

- Emily McAfee (Swarthmore) for spending hours with me Saturday night trying to help me figure out how to begin recovering my identification documents.

Lien Hoffman (Northwestern) and Rebecca Enders (Wisconsin) for their messages which reduced me to tears.  I am so grateful to have known both of these outstanding players and people since they were freshmen.  Players like the two of you, and teams like yours, make what I do worthwhile.

- Kate Wilson, Angela Lin, and Katherine Wooten (Ozone) for housing me and helping me try to get a same-day passport in Atlanta.  It is humbling to have your regional rivals respond so resoundingly to an email of desperation.  I am grateful for my friendship with the three of you, and with Ozone.

- Rachel Johnson (Phoenix) for finding me a place to stay in Jackson, MS.  Thanks for being relentlessly positive.

- A group of Pleiades players (and Shellie's mom) for taking shifts at my apartment yesterday to make sure someone was there when my replacement credit cards were delivered.  It is embarrassing to have to ask for this kind of help, but I am so grateful for you.

- Ohio State Fever for all of their help in trying to make next week easier for me.  It has been such a privilege to see y'alls path to the elite level.  Thank you for being a team who does things the right way, on and off the field.

- The many other people who have texted, emailed, and called to check in.  Thank you.

I will be driving the last 10 hours to Austin today.  I am feeling challenged to be better because of all of you.  I can be more kind and more generous because at the end of the day, nothing that was stolen matters more than the good people I have around me.

See you in Texas.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Be Your Best Self

Despite my best intentions, blogging has taken a back seat to the craziness of the spring season and some unfortunate weather.  It seems that 5:30 AM is the only time I can find to write...

A few weeks ago at the Captaining Clinic, we talked a bit about how important it is to be your best self.  This is something that I have struggled with a lot as a leader, and I think it is incredibly important because of its relevance to life outside of ultimate.

A few thoughts:

Know your strengths and weaknesses.

I mentioned this briefly in my last post, and I think it is worth bringing up again.  I can be a better leader if I am honest with myself about what my strengths and weaknesses are.  This allows me to maximize my contributions to the team by ensuring that I am utilizing my strengths.  It also gives me areas to focus on as I train my weaknesses and strive to be a better leader.

Emulate, but don't compare.

Instead of comparing myself to other leaders, I should strive to pick out their best qualities and emulate them.  Be your best YOU.  Great leaders are not clones of each other.  I need to love myself for the things I bring to my team, and appreciate others for the fact that they bring different things to the table.

Surround yourself with good people.
As a leader, I need to have a circle of people I can trust.  I have been fortunate to not only have had amazing co-captains and coaches, but also talented and gracious rivals and friends.  I am who I am and I strive to be better because of these people.

Value yourself.

This might be the hardest part of being your best self.  As a leader, it is natural to take the blame for everything that goes wrong with a team.  We want to be everything for our teams-- solve all of the problems, make everyone happy, win every game, create a successful program.  We can do more of these things when we take time for ourselves and value our own mental, physical, and emotional health at least a tiny bit.

Be your best self... as a player, leader, and person.  :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Leadership Identity

Preparing for the Southeast Captaining 101 Clinic and meeting individually with a number of college leaders (and spending a lot of time driving by myself) have led to a considerable amount of thinking about leadership.  I am learning a lot from these college players, and I always leave those conversations feeling challenged and inspired to be a better leader myself.

I have a few posts worth of content about some of what I've been learning and reflecting upon, and I'll try to get some thoughts up on the blog over the course of the next week.

At the Captaining Clinics and in these individual meetings, we talk a lot about the need for team identity and the importance of cultivating a unique team culture, setting goals, and developing a plan.  Success doesn't happen by chance.  It requires a plan and intentional movement in a singular direction over the course of many months, or even years.

As team leaders, we need to develop our personal leadership identity alongside cultivating team identity.  Every team is a reflection of its leadership, and strong leadership has goals and a plan the same way a team does.  Similar to how team identity evolves over time, our leadership identity evolves too.  As we face new challenges, and as we grow as players, leaders, and people, our identities evolve (hopefully in a positive direction!).

All of this is a bit nebulous, especially for young leaders, but I think we can ask some key questions to begin defining our personal leadership identity.

First, why do I play this sport?
Our reasons for playing ultimate ground us.  When things get rough, remembering why I play reminds me that all of the struggle is worth it.  When I get discouraged, I go back and read the list I've made.  It usually works wonders.  This list has also helped me to recognize that not everyone plays for the same reasons I do.  That recognition is key to helping me understand what makes my teammates tick, and shaping my approach to putting them in a position to succeed.

Secondly, why do I lead?
For me, articulating why I lead serves as a heart check.  When difficult situations arise and practice planning, emails, and one-on-ones start piling up next to life stuff, reminding myself of why I lead brings joy to the "work."  It also means that I can bring more positive energy to my interactions with my teammates, because ultimately, my reasons for leading are tied to them.

Next, what are my strengths and weaknesses?
Know thyself.  As leaders, we assess our roster for strengths and weaknesses, and develop a strategy based upon our assessment.  Similarly, when we know our own personal strengths and weaknesses, we can put ourselves in a position to be better leaders.  Good players train their weaknesses and maximize their strengths.  Good leaders do the same.

Lastly, what are my goals as a leader?

This John Wooden quote summarizes many of personal goals as a leader:

"Others may have far more ability than you have. They may be larger, faster, quicker, able to jump better, etc. but no one should be your superior in team spirit, loyalty, enthusiasm, cooperation, determination, industriousness, fight, and character. Acquire and keep these traits and success will follow. Define success for those under your leadership as total commitment and effort to the team's welfare."

Outcome goals (e.g. "cultivate a happy team") and process goals (e.g. "be kind in every interaction I have with my teammates") give me direction.  They dictate where I put my time, energy, and effort.  They also give me something to work toward.  Goals allow me to push my boundaries and strive to be my best self.

If you haven't done so already, go out and buy a notebook and answer some of these questions.  Document your journey.  Having it all written down will help guide you along the way, and is an awesome thing to look back on after the season.