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Great Questions Great Leaders Ask Themselves

Great Questions Great Leaders Ask Themselves

Leadership rarely goes as planned. To grow in your leadership is the single greatest attribute of an effective and worthwhile leader is asking the right questions

How to Lead: 6 Lessons from Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game was written in 1985 by Orson Scott Card has remained popular for having “lessons in training methodology, leadership, and ethics.” This story is worth paying attention to.

The Art of Coaching (Part Two)

Coaching is an art, a skill, and a constant case of behavioral science. A good coach needs to be a good scientist. He or she must take careful notes through observation and constantly test out hypotheses. To get an athlete to improve is a serious responsibility. The coach must incorporate different environments, various motivations, and a specific set of tools to ensure the athlete can reach their maximum potential. In my most recent post, The Art of Coaching: Part One, we looked at the tools of being a master, making it simple, and being as specific as possible.

Click Here for Part One

Tools needed (part two):

4. Demonstration

The best teacher is the one that can demonstrate what is being taught. Literally, show the athlete what the skill should and can look like when done right. This does not mean, for example, the coach needs to be fast or faster then the sprinter, but what is important is for the coach to demonstrate the proper form, posture, and technique (even if in slow motion). This will give the athlete a visual to mirror. Being a demonstrator means you need to workout. The older I get the harder it is to demonstrate. I also talk more then I warm-up. So pulling muscles and ending the day sore is a common occurrence.

Try downloading the free app Ubersence. Your slow-motion video taping at practice has never been easier.

5. Observation

In part one, I called the coach a scientist. Observation is one of the key elements of any good science. The coach must learn how to watch their athletes. I video tape practice and meets, put it in slow motion at practice, and observe the movements of the athlete. This type of observation has helped me learn to can count an athlete’s steps in between the 300m hurdles. Good observers know where to place themselves physically to capture the correct movement. I once heard that John Wooden used to sit in the nose bleed section to observe and watch his team from a different perspective.

6. Memory

Practice to compete. This happens when you slow down and teach the correct movements. If the athlete hurdles, jumps, throws, vaults, or sprints in the wrong way, they will only learn how to continue to do it wrong. “Perfect practice makes perfect.” My warm-up is 35-45 minutes long and breaks down proper sprint drills. You have to walk before you can sprint. We walk our A-skips, C-Skips, straight leg bounds, etc. before the athletes go full speed.

7. Vision Plan

A good coach creates a vision plan with strategic goals for the season. If you want to get from point A to point B you must identify where point B is. For my athletes this season, it is the League Championship. We work to that end goal. I work backwards from that date and create a template for the work I would like the team to accomplish. Each week I write the specific workouts based on the needs for the team in light of my vision plan.

Too many coaches show up the day of and make up the workouts. This is preposterous. You will see so much more improvement you if you have a plan.

The best coach learns how each athlete learns.

Then they meet them there.

The Art of Coaching (Part One)

Coaching is an art, a skill, and a constant case of behavioral science. A good coach needs to be a good scientist. He or she must take careful notes through observation and constantly test out hypotheses. To get an athlete to improve is a serious responsibility. The coach must incorporate different environments, various motivations, and a specific set of tools to ensure the athlete can reach their maximum potential.

Tools Needed

1. Master

It takes 10,000 hours to master a particular skill. So they say. This involves patience while you learn from every mistake. You will not do it right all the time. Take notes of each workout and conversations you have with your athletes. How are you communicating and executing your plan? Is it well received?

What are you teaching? Are you teaching? Regardless of the level you coach, you must reinforce the basics everyday. Do you know the basics? You should be a student of your sport. Learn the science behind each movement (Newton’s Laws of Motion, Kinesiology, energy systems of the body, the Central Nervous System, hydration, nutrition, specific race plans). Take your new knowledge and apply it in light of your goal for the athlete and season. Observe and report. Remember you are a scientist just as much as a motivational speaker. Read, listen, and take someone out for lunch to learn from their experiences. (I personally have a goal to take 3 coaches out to lunch/coffee a year. This has helped my training philosophy greatly).

2. Simplicity

 There is such a thing as too much. Know when to stop. Under training is better then over training. Have a plan, but keep it simple. The more complicated the workout or training plan will call for a complicated explanation. The athlete may lose what you are trying to have them achieve in their training. This loss in translation can make or break a workout and season. 

3. Specificity

A simple Google search will bring a long list of activities one can do to get better (for example, 400m workouts by Clyde Hart or Jim Bush). If every coach did this, wouldn’t everyone be successful? Only you know your culture, school, team, and athlete. The big question here is how does it all fit in with what you are trying to accomplish. It is the task of the coach to write a meaningful training regimen with this big picture in mind. The coach is preparing the athlete to succeed at the highest level in and during competition.   Do not waste practice and be intentional with every minute you have in regards to your overall goal.  This takes planning and preparation.

The best coach learns how each athlete learns.

Then they meet them there.

Next post: The Art of Coaching Part Two - Demonstration, Memory, Vision Plan

8 ways to Grow as a Leader

Coach Ayers fist.jpg

1. Desire Growth

First, you have to want to get better. Are you satisfied with “pretty good” or just getting by? You may justify that you like to be comfortable in your job, but in reality are you striving for a reason to be lazy? Laziness is not a trademark of a leader. Lazy is for sheep. If you are reading this, you want to be a shepherd. You desire growth.

2.  Be Humble in the Face of Criticism

Correction is hard to take. But no one does it perfectly. Some of the best lessons I have learned as a leader have been challenging and hard. I like to think that correction from someone not only gives me the opportunity to change, but allows me to think through other perspectives. As a leader, you must have thick skin. You can’t build massive biceps unless you work hard and tear up your muscles at the gym.

3. Seek Wise Counsel

It is important to have people in your life that are readily available to give you wise and trustworthy counsel. I have 4 guys I regularly go to; each of these friends have a specific role in my life and how they counsel me in my leadership. Do you have anyone you can go to? One of George Washington’s best contributions was the invention of his carefully appointed advisors, known as the Cabinet. This wasn’t written in the Constitution, but he created this because he knew the importance of having a group of men around him to give him counsel. Who is in your cabinet? Do they know their roles?

4. Have a greater purpose

The famous quote by Eric Liddle states, “God made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure.”

I recently had a talk with a mentor of mine who mentioned this statement. He talked about the importance of what I do and how I feel when I take part in it. Fill in the following blanks:

“God made me ________, and when I ________ I feel his pleasure.”

What would you place in those blanks? What is your greater purpose in your leadership?

5. Stop the Repeat

I have been an assistant coach for a number of head coaches who have said the same thing. “I have been doing this for 35 years. I know what I am doing.”  What I wanted to say in response was, “No, you did it once then just repeated it for 34 more years.” This should give you a healthy fear of repeating the same performance. Stop the repeat and get better. There is always something to tweak, change, or make better. Good leadership never settles for mediocrity.

6. Learn from Everyone

My dad used to tell me, “They teach you how to do it and how not to do it.”  Before I became a head coach, some of the worst coaches I coached for taught me a lot, mostly how not to do things. Are you looking to learn from the worst leaders?  They can teach you more than you may realize.

7. Read

Harry S. Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Read. Then read some more. Read with a friend. Read with a spouse. Gain new perspectives and further your understanding in order to improve on whatever you’re reading about. I try to read for about 30 minutes before I sleep every night. (Sometimes more if the book is really good). I sleep better and I learn something. Knowledge is in books, not on American Idol. 

8. Celebrate Small Victories

Do not be too important to be passionate about your role. Be enthusiastic with your leadership. Some of my favorite coaches to watch are Pete Carroll or Jim Harbaugh – their passion and excitement is contagious. Athletes want to be led by a coach that is charismatic in their beliefs. Do you believe in your own leadership? Don’t be too important to miss out on what is happening around you. Be excited about having Gatorade dumped on you after a win; tackle an athlete that just broke the school record; storm the court after a win. Show that you care.

Growth will happen when you seek it out. It will not happen because you were given a title. It is an unfortunate commentary, but a good leader is an exception not the norm. Be the exception!


How to Make Bad Decisions

How to Make Bad Decisions

You made a wrong choice. It happens, but why did it happen to you? Leaders are forced to make many decisions throughout the day. Some are necessary; others can wait. This is how you avoid making bad choices

You have reasons to worry. You have better reasons to stop!


You have plenty of reasons to worry

This post is not going to persuade you to think you have nothing to worry about. Of course you do! Daily we find ourselves plagued with worry.

-       Will I ever have enough money?

-       Will I ever get my dream home?

-       Will I succeed in my job?

-       Will I get a decent job?

-       Will we win the game?

-       How am I going to pay for college?

-       Will I ever find the one?

-       Will my kids turn out ok?

-       Do I have any real friends?

-       What about my health?

Each new question raises two, then four (and so on) new questions in its place. It is a never-ending cycle that can easily lead to terrible decisions and/or depression.

There is always going to be something to worry about. This worry will ruin your health, your money, you relationships, and your achievements, if you let it.

So why do we do it? Because we lack control. We will never be able to take control of these issues and questions. This is why we worry. We worry about the control we will never have. Life is uncertain, and so we worry.

“Worry assumes the possibility of control over the uncontrollable. The illusion of control lurks inside your anxiety. Anxiety and control are two sides of the same coin. When we can’t control something, we worry.” – David Pawlison, author of Seeing with New Eyes

You have better reasons not to worry

 You can let go of the control. You can live in the moment and make decisions with wisdom about your future, but recognize that you ultimately don’t have control over it. Your retirement or 401k may disappear when the market crashes. When all is said and done, what or whom do you put your trust in? If you are trusting in yourself to control all the problems and challenges that come your way, you will regrettably fail. You are only human and limited by nature. I am a Christian. I decided (and have to remind myself daily) to trust that my Creator has a bigger purpose in everything.

Read Luke 12:22-34

This next section is a direct quote from an amazing book by David Powlison, Seeing with New Eyes

There are 7 reasons to not worry:

1.     Your life is so much more than food or clothing.

2.     Jesus tells people to look around the world.

look at the crows, they eat just fine

3.     Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

4.     “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.”

wild, beautiful, and without much

5.     Don’t seek what you are going to eat and drink.

watch out for obsession, are you doing it because everyone else is?

6.     God promises you…Himself.

most significant of all – its God’s world so life works the way He says it does

7. Having given you so much, your Father calls you to the radical freedom of giving your life away.

we are afraid of losing what we have and will get. We desire only a life of comfort and leisure not purpose. Jesus gave Himself; we should do our best to give as well

You will experience anxiety. It is part of the human condition. Nothing is safe or for certain.

You need a game plan (here it is):

1.     Name the fear/pressure or what drives the anxiety

2.     Name how you normally respond to that fear/anxiety

3.     Ask yourself why are you feeling fear/anxiety

4.     Read Jesus promises from the list above

5.     Pray to your Father. (This is the easiest one)

6.     Give (do something for someone else)

You may be overwhelmed. You may even be overwhelmed reading this post. Do what Jesus did and give yourself to something bigger or different then your problem.



Improvise. Adapt. Overcome

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome

True Leadership is defined in how you respond when things do not go according to plan. Let’s be honest, life rarely goes as planned. In your leadership, it is exhausting and frustrating if you try to control every situation. Truly great leaders are the ones who are able to rise above the unplanned problems and difficult situations that come up, while maintaining their goals, vision, and authority.