My two older sons are fortunate to play soccer together on a team with a great group of young men. They are all very good soccer players, but more importantly, they are young men of tremendous character. They are what some coaches call “character guys.” These are the guys (and girls) that coaches can count on to do the right thing, to display a great attitude, to treat teammates and opponents with respect, and to play hard at all times. I think it’s rare to have a team full of character guys. So you can imagine, it’s a special group to have 18 of them on one team.
I’m writing about their team today because this weekend they traveled to Rochester, NY and won the championship of the tournament they attended. Many of the players on the team have played together for a number of years. They’ve won quite a few games during this time, but this tournament victory was especially meaningful. You see, the team had participated in five tournaments prior to this one and in 4 of those 5, they were defeated in the championship game. They had been the runner-up in four of their five tournaments. So finally, this weekend, they were able to break through and bring home a championship.
So what can this group of teenagers teach us about leadership? Here are a few lessons we can apply to our organizations.
You win with “character guys.” We need to fill our teams with character people. We need to surround ourselves with team members who do the right thing, who have great attitudes, and who are dependable and accountable. If you build a team of people with these attributes, you have a great chance of succeeding.
If you persevere, you will succeed. It took six tournaments over a course of five years for this team to get their championship. But they never quit. They kept working hard and competing with passion. They made it to four championship games, all ending in defeat. But they never quit. This championship game was 0-0 after 76 minutes of play and then was decided on the very last kick of a shootout. They prevailed because they never quit. If you quit, you have no chance of succeeding. If you persevere, you will succeed. Does your team persevere? Or do they quit when times get tough?
Culture is key. The players on this team have created a winning culture. They support each other and never criticize. They are unselfish and put the team above their own interests. They play together and not as individuals. They enjoy being together, not just playing together. They model respect, integrity, and accountability. The team is successful because of the culture they have established. What is the culture of your organization? Is it a winning culture?
Believe. Even though the team had been defeated in four championship finals, they never doubted themselves. They continued to believe in themselves and always had the confidence to compete hard and give their very best. Do you believe in your team? Do they believe in themselves? If you don’t believe, you will not achieve!
Teambuilding works. The day before the semi-final and final games, the team went to a beach on Lake Ontario. While there, the guys started to build a “monument” with debris that had washed up on the beach. In a short time, they had built such an impressive towering monument that people on the beach were coming to see it and to take pictures with it. This team effort helped to bring the group even closer than they were. We’ll never know for certain if this was the difference, but we do know the team won the championship after this impromptu team building exercise. Does your team work on team building? What do you do to help make the team a tighter unit?
You never know where your leadership lessons may originate. I certainly didn’t expect to learn all this from a group of teenagers. But then again, these are no ordinary teenagers; they are all character guys.
Thanks for reading,