What My Ten-Year-Old’s Team Continues to Teach Me About Leadership

Recently, as I was coaching my 10-year-old’s Lacrosse team, I was faced with a leadership/coaching challenge: the disruptive team member. Yes, here I was with all my professional credentials, having worked with senior leaders across the board, having led merger talks and having even dabbled in some labor relations — yet now here I was being blindsided by this… lets call  her a “spunky” 10-year-old. As I saw it, from a leadership standpoint, she had the potential to derail an entire team, a season of building trusted relationships and the girls’ ability to focus all in one disruptive play of the game.

There’s nothing worse for a team than a disruptive “spunky”  individual. One individual working against the group can drain the time of their teammates and/or colleagues and distract management from the issues that should really be being dealt with. Or in my case, stop a team of girls from playing a game.  As a leader or a coach it’s essential to identify problems as quickly as possible, to ensure that they can be addressed and resolved – so that the business or game can continue as usual.

So, what to do? When a teammate or co-worker or an employee exhibits behavior that is identified as being disruptive, that individual needs to be asked with diplomacy that they desist. This behavior could consist of any range of things, whether the individual makes inappropriate comments, has poor punctuality or is inconsiderate of their colleagues or teammates. Perhaps it takes doing this, like I did in my recent challenge: reminding the entire team of the rules and code of conduct of the team.

This will prove effective for some employees. Others will test the water. The employees that continue with damaging behavior should be handled appropriately. The consequences verbalized to the employee should be put into effect immediately, if it is clear that they will not change their behavior otherwise. Leaders should keep a keen eye out for the need to take precautions to remove an employee from a certain office or employee work space. It may be better to separate the teammate  from the environment that they are disrupting. Before this is accomplished, however, every effort should be made to make sure that the individual  knows that his or her behavior has consequences. *I have also been very candid with persons that dismissal may be a result if behavior is not modified.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, an individual who is not productive should be given another assignment or forced to complete tasks in shorter time periods. Pressing deadlines may cut down on the time that the person feels that they can afford to waste. This may help them realize that their time within the organization cannot be comprised by disruptions. These individuals should then be reprimanded if they do not finish assignments in the required time. In the case of my daughter’s team, running laps in the rain was a huge deterrent. This may push them in the right direction before it is too late or in our case the game was lost.

Some of the toughest challenges that we face as leaders or managers is to catch this behavior early because if it builds over time it has the potential to erode the foundation of all that you have worked to accomplish either as a group of 10-year-old girls or a highly skilled team of professionals trying to drive results.

Photo Thanks To: cooper.gary


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