I really admire boxers for their dedication and commitment to reaching a goal. Think about all that goes into a fight that can last as little as a minute long. They thoroughly watch what they eat months ahead of time, They are constantly training, and they sacrifice other non-essential items that distract them from the upcoming fight.
From the prep, to the fight and recovery; a good boxer can teach us a thing or two about leadership.
They are constantly improving and preparing
Watch any boxing movie and the vast majority of the time of the film is focused on the training and planning as opposed to the actual fights. A boxer quickly loses their standing and reputation when they stop furthering their experience.
When I talk to successful and well-respected leaders, one of the most common traits that they look for in other leaders is the act of being a continual learner. On the flip side, I’ve seen and coached many leaders that plateaued in their careers. At some point, they had a sense of arrival and stopped pushing their personal expertise and lost the desire to continue to change.
If there is one trait or ability that I would recommend to keep sharp, it’s this one. Being a continual learner feeds so many other aspects of your leadership. It keeps you agile against a constantly shifting environment, helps you stay relevant, and helps you relate better to others.
They know how to dodge a punch
Boxers practice dodging punches just as push as they do on focusing on their hitting skills. It doesn’t matter how hard you hit if you are constantly taking punches too. While you might not be in a physical fight on a regular basis, there’s a good likelihood that you face verbal and emotional fights on the regular.
Some people easily fall into these traps and find themselves in fights that they know that they shouldn’t be in. Dodging these proverbial punches heavily ties back into our EQ series.
Self-management – Ok, you got hit, now what? How you react here makes all the difference. A good boxer knows that they are going to get hit and have to keep dodging if they are going to be successful. Understand your hot buttons and work to control those in the heat of the moment.
Social awareness – Boxers learn to quickly pick up on the non-verbal cues of their opponents in order to react quickly and last longer in the fight. Hone in on the social cues around you to anticipate when things are about to take a turn for the worse. How does the room feel? What is the demeanor of the people around you? Who is not acting like their normal self?
The ability to dodge a proverbial punch can save you and the other person from a painful interaction.
They get back up after a defeat
We get knocked down in life. Sometimes it may be a smaller thing like feeling down and disappointed with someone close to you, to something big as suddenly losing your job or a family member.
A boxer with any worth doesn’t quit and walk away after their first defeat. They take time to re-assess the fight and then work to heal and start training again. Don’t give up because you have had a setback, no matter how big or small it may be. Take time if needed to heal mentally, emotionally, or spiritually and then get back on the road to recovery and growth.
Put the work in ahead of time, be agile in the moment, and take care of yourself along the way.
As a kid, you may have loved playing with magnifying glasses. As an adult, you may need one to function a little better! Whether digital or in the analog world magnifying glasses are something that we can take for granted but can teach us a thing or two about leadership and life.
It obviously magnifies
The primary function of a magnifying glass is its ability to help you see things better, bigger, and clearer. Think about your team, those you work with, and your friends and family. As a leader, you should magnify their lives in many ways.
Magnify their talents and general awesomeness: Showcase, call out and recognize the talents, skills, and accomplishments. This helps your team feel more confident in their role and creates more personal buy-in to your leadership. Take time in the real and in virtual meetings to highlight and celebrate others. This is also a great way to model the behavior that you want to see in those you interact with on a daily basis.
Help others see themselves: We speak often about the power behind strong emotional intelligence. The foundation of EQ is self-awareness and it’s also an area that many leaders struggle in without even knowing it. Do your part to help others see aspects of themselves and how they come across to others. Take an empathetic and caring approach so that the person accepts the feedback well.
Use your talents to magnify the situation: You have unique talents, abilities, and skill sets that others don’t. Leverage those skills to show others the bigger picture and impact of what’s going on around them. If you are great at technology, you may bring up how a project impacts a system and explain the larger implications. In your personal life, you may use your talents to help a person learn a new skill or to understand a situation better.
It can be used to bring the heat
When focused under the right conditions, a magnifying glass can literally bring the heat. Certain types of magnifying glasses can even start a fire with enough precision.
In Facelifts, overhauls, and funerals we talk about the need to assess your life and situation and make adjustments accordingly. Shrubs and plants can be pruned so that they grow healthier, fuller, and stronger, Burn out the dead parts of your life and your leadership so that you can continue to grow.
As a leader, you have the responsibility to help others excel in their role and meet their career aspirations. This often means helping them refine their own ways and behaviors in order to make it to the next step in their career. Bring the heat when needed in a concentrated way. You don’t want to come in and scorch the earth! Be precise and intentional in your approach.
It magnifies only what you want it to
Most magnifying glasses are relatively small and while they are great at doing what they do, it only works where you point it.
Make sure that you are magnifying the right things in your life. It’s easy to get down on ourselves and then have a confirmation bias to affirm the negative situations currently happening to you. For example, maybe you got reassigned to remote work during the pandemic and didn’t like it. You missed your friends, the perks of the office, and getting out of the house. If you keep magnifying the downside, your confirmation bias will only keep bringing out negative things that catch your attention.
Be aware of your current mental and emotional state. Are you focusing on the right areas? It very well could be different depending on what aspect of your life you are looking at. Maybe work is going well, but you’re struggling in a personal relationship. Move your focus when needed and point it in a positive direction. There is enough negativity out there as is, without us needing to overfocus on it.
Focus on the right things, bring out the best in your team, and be willing to burn away the things holding you back.
I’ll admit that I am an awful card player. Even though I would get destroyed in a high-stakes game, I have always admired the tenacity, mental fortitude, and the surprising complex mental game happening underneath the cards in the players’ hands.
There are several things that we can learn from poker players to help strengthen our own leadership and teams.
Learn to read people well
A professional poker player becomes an artist when it comes to reading other people’s body language or “tells”. From the vein on your neck that moves as your heartbeat increases to abnormal eye movements and fidgeting, a great poker player picks up on the smallest nuances to get an understanding of what’s going on in your head.
We talked before about the power of body language. Just as there is power in how you exhibit and leverage your body language in communication, there is also power in how you correctly observe and assess other people’s body language. Slow down and take time to observe others. We’ll cover how to grow your observation skills in the upcoming episode: Growing Your Observation Skills.
Having a strong ability to grow your observation skills, can help you fully access the situation at hand, what the true undercurrent of the conversation is, and potentially address the root cause of an issue before it worsens.
Strengthen your Self-Management skills
In addition to great observation skills, a solid poker player also has to have strong self-management skills. Just as you are observing others, those same people are also observing you. Being able to control yourself in stressful and high stakes situations is essential if you want to keep your money.
As you learn to strengthen your self-management skills reflect on past experiences and seek to find and understand what your “tic” is. I know a leader that begins to shake his leg in the chair when he’s frustrated. Others roll their shoulders as they tighten up with stress, and breathe differently when they are upset. If you aren’t sure what your tells are to others, ask those that are close to you and are fairly observant. They can give you the extra insight to understand how you are communicating with others without even knowing it.
Be a risk-taker and be willing to fold
Poker players are certainly risk-takers. In fact, every hand that they play has some level of risk involved, because they don’t have all the information at the table. If they did, it really wouldn’t be a fun game. As a leader, you’ve also got to be a solid risk-taker. Without risk, you won’t change and without change, you won’t be relevant in the future. See examples: Sears, Blockbuster, K-mart, and others. Lean into risk and step out of your comfort zone to grow.
As one player takes a risk in order to push another player or to learn their body language, they also know when it’s time to fold and walk away.
Let go of emotional attachments to processes, projects, and even people sometimes, so that you can let go of things that aren’t healthy for you or your team. Outside of the emotional aspect, people have a tendency to hang on too long just out of stubbornness. They don’t want to feel like a loser or that their way is antiquated. Help those people see the why behind the change and provide them with tangible steps to get from point A to point B. Then schedule regular check-ins to help support the person.
Be the poker player in your leadership and life; learn the full story that the people around you are telling, have strong self-management, and take some risks. You’ll begin to realize that a deck of cards can be a start to becoming an artist when it comes to engaging with others.
You rely on thread every day, whether you realize it or not. Yes, the obvious example is your clothing, but think about other subtle items that you count on like seatbelts, most books, and other items in your daily life.
Today we’ll look at how we can model that purpose of thread and become better leaders ourselves.
It connects things together
Thread’s number 1 purpose is to connect things together.
Be the thread by connecting people across your network. Build continuity between groups in your work environment. Help make a connection for someone who is trying to find a job. I find a lot of joy and value in being able to a part of someone’s story by helping them connect with the right people/resource.
Subordinates of connected leaders are three times as likely to be high performing employees!
If done right, you won’t even notice it
My father was my scout leader growing up and he also sewed all of the patches on our uniforms. The patches were on there but it wasn’t pretty. Thread mostly matched the patch and it was sloppy at best. His goal was to get the patch on there and didn’t hold a lot of value on the finer details of how it looked. His sewing did the job, but sometimes the sew job brought more attention to itself than the actual award did.
Being a great connector means that there will be many times when you are essential to success, but should not have the spotlight. Set ego aside and let others have the spotlight. The whole project or goal may have hinged on how you helped them connect to the people and resources that they needed, It doesn’t matter. In the long term, you’ll gain more equity in your team when you equip for success and then move out of the way rather than equipping and then holding up the trophy at the end.
Now that I’m back in scouts leading my son, I take our uniforms to a professional that uses a machine and invisible thread. It looks great and you can’t even see how it’s sewed on.
The more it’s used the stronger it becomes
I’ve had to do some crazy sewing for some of the costumes at Disney running events. There are never instructions, just crazy ideas to turn into reality. There are times where 1 pass of thread wouldn’t work to secure the two pieces….there were times when 5 passes wouldn’t do it! Every pass always makes the bond a little stronger. You just keep going until you get the desired look and strength.
A one-and-done connection with someone might be good, but it will weaken over time and certainly won’t hold up against stress and wear and tear. Invest time in your connections and network, especially those that are important to you. Not all of your connections with others should be at a 10, just ensure that you are making the extras touches and passes with those that you care about and those that you want to get to know and support more.
Be the thread for others. Be a leader that connects people to others, do it well without hogging the spotlight and be present enough to keep those relationships solid.
People rely on each other to make it through life and It often falls down to a close circle of friends and family. Some people aren’t as fortunate to have a strong inner circle and as a result, they isolate themselves, their mental and physical health deteriorates and they will never reach their fullest potential.
When I say Be the Why, I mean for you to be someone else’s why. “You are the reason I made it through all of this.” “I would follow you anywhere.” “You kept me from making some really bad decisions.”
Be a relationship builder
Strong relationships can be taken for granted or undervalued. One of the top reasons great people stay in awful jobs is because of the relationships that they have built with their peers. They are willing to endure stress and dissatisfaction in order to keep relationships that are important to them alive.
Be the Why for someone by building a strong and edifying relationship that adds true value to the other person. When someone feels like you have impacted their life and care for them, they will do just about anything for you. Listen to the person’s troubles and fill in their blind spots for them. Take time with them; time is more valuable than money itself in most cases.
People are creatures of habit and highly value consistency. Oddly enough, consistency is also hard to come by in human interactions. Rooted in poor planning and prioritization and made worse by modern-day distractions, being consistent can be more elusive than it has to be.
Be the Why for someone by being consistent. Be careful of the things that you say you’ll do or promise and then always come through on those things that you do. Just being consistent in a few small things with someone will go a long way. Every time I play music with a guy in town, he texts me afterward to thank me. In five years, he has never not texted me! It’s not a monumental deal for him to do, but it has added a lot to our friendship. I know he appreciates me and I feel valued and as a result, I’ve gone out of my way at times to play just because he’s going to be there. (More to this story can be found at PTB# 107: Finding Leadership in Music)
Be the Why by your willingness to sacrifice things that are important to you for the sake of the other person. It’s important to have a sense of what the other person feels is a sacrifice so that there is not any unneeded tension. For example, Let’s say I missed seeing my favorite band to help my daughter with a school project. She might not realize they were in town so she shows no appreciation for the gesture. I’m then upset because I feel like she doesn’t value what I gave up to help her. On the other hand, my co-worker is over the top grateful because I gave up my lunch to help them on a project when lunches really aren’t that important to me.
Understand that sometimes people will over and undervalue the sacrifices that you make for them. Prepare yourself mentally for both of those occasions. Don’t let the misunderstanding of the amount of sacrifice impact your willingness to continue to sacrifice things for them.
Someone out there likely needs you to be the Why for them. Look at those around you. Build them up through strengthening the relationship and being the most consistent person they know. Sacrifice what you need to in order for others to be successful. Being the Why for someone can change, and even save, a life.
A few months ago I was working on the set of Dynasty and as with any film set, there is a lot of downtime. A few of us were hanging out between shots and watched as giant industrial cranes worked on building projects across the road. One person commented on the fragility of such of a large piece of equipment and they were right. As large and strong as they are, everything depends on the counterweight for it to stay together.
Serving without a show
It’s likely that you haven’t even noticed the counterweight on these large cranes. (It’s the rectangle piece at the end of the crane in this week’s picture) That’s because it’s the one part that is not putting on a show. You notice these cranes pivoting over the skyline and lifting large objects from one place to another. The counterweight may be the most important piece, but it largely goes unrecognized.
When you are working hard at your job or helping someone else out, don’t do it for the glory or the credit. Do it because you can make an impact on others. It can be difficult to work hard on a project only for someone else to get all the credit for it. You may feel underappreciated, undervalued or left out. Keep at your best and reward yourself if you feel yourself falling into this situation. Enjoy some pampering, go out to your favorite restaurant, or take a trip. Be sure to keep your work or assistance at the high level you are known for.
Some people actually love to play this part of the counterweight role. They love to help and contribute but have no desire to be in the spotlight. If this is you be an encouragement to those around you that may struggle in this area.
The obvious function of the counterweight is to provide balance. Without it, the crane comes tumbling down as soon as it picks something up. Groupthink, where everyone constantly shares the same consensus, is dangerous for the team and business. Be brave and speak out when you feel a decision or action isn’t the best solution and support those that do the same.
My wife serves as my counterweight often. She balances out my decision making and helps me make sure that I am not overworked or overcommitted. Make sure you have someone in your life that is the counterweight for you and then be that for someone else as well.
The perfect amount of presence
The counterweight has to be weighted perfectly to be functional. If it’s too light the crane will tip over forward. If it’s too heavy, you’ve just created a version of a catapult.
Use your self-awareness skills to find that perfect balance and presence. Step in when needed to provide a missing perspective while avoiding being too forceful in the interaction. Understand your place on the team and project. If you are the counterweight, don’t try to make yourself in the cabin, the arm, or the hook. Continually analyze your contribution and interaction with others and make adjustments as needed.
The counterweight may not be the center of attention, but it plays a critical role in keeping everything together. Help without need for the spotlight, and balance out those around you.