Lessons from the Court: Know Your Team

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Have you ever misjudged someone’s character? Have you ever expected someone to do something, only to be disappointed (or even angry) when they don’t follow through? Have you ever wondered what that says about you?

For the past couple years, playing pickup basketball has been one of my more consistent events week in, week out. Recently I spent some time reflecting on the leadership lessons I can share from my time on the court.

One of the tricky things about pickup basketball is you seldom have the same team from week to week. So when teams are divided out, it’s important to know who’s on your team. Here’s why:

You don’t want to pass the ball to the wrong person, obviously. If you have someone around you who is aiming for the same goal (literally), don’t pass the ball to someone who doesn’t have the same goal.

Second, you don’t want to neglect potential on your own team. We don’t mess up only when we pass the ball away, but also when we neglect a teammate. If we’re playing 3 on 3, why would I want to exclude a teammate and essentially make the game a 2 on 3 affair? It doesn’t make sense.

Now, the leadership principles are the same.

As you begin to lead people, you need to take some time to evaluate who’s on your team for the same two reasons.

First, you don’t want to misjudge someone’s motives and hand off a critical task only to realize (often too late) your goals didn’t align. They were shooting for their own target, not yours. And now you have to deal with the fallout.

Second, why would you neglect someone who IS willing to help? If I am completely honest with you, I struggle with this more than I should. It’s not that I willfully neglect anyone, it’s that I feel guilty asking someone (who’s on board) to help. That’s why the three questions are so helpful for me.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, your job as a leader is to make the most of the team you have around you. That starts by knowing who is on your team and who is not.

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