Sharing the lessons along the way…

Posts tagged ‘leadership’

March Madness

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

~Margaret Mead

For most of my teenage and adult life, madness has been a part of my March.  I love college basketball, so each year basketball season is one of my favorite times.  I love watching a team working together and rising no matter what the other team throws at them.

All of the sports I played were team sports.  To me, there is nothing like being a part of and watching a team playing/working well together.

I am aware that my team mentality is often lost on those who didn’t play sports or played individual sports, but most workplaces want someone who is a team player.  Even the college classes I teach require some part of the work to be produced by a team.

Every team has a leader—a true leader.  It doesn’t matter the sport and it doesn’t matter the position or role within the team unit.  Invariably a team leader will emerge and provide encouragement, guidance and support for the rest of the team.  A team who respects and trusts the leader will work well as a unit.  A team who doesn’t, isn’t likely to do as well.

Last year, as I launched the wellness initiatives at work, there wasn’t a team.  It was just me to start with, and I couldn’t wait to get others on board.  I worked with other teams and remembered just how much fun it can be when everyone works together and does their part to find creative solutions.  And of course, just how frustrating it can be when it doesn’t work so well.

In a short time, the team has grown.  The team has not only grown with employees, but also with volunteer team members and other partner agencies.  I look forward to watching the teamwork become more seamless as we all move forward.  And to then watch how much better we are all able to impact someone’s life as we do so.

It is almost as exciting to me as watching the tournament games, but as I am watching the games, I am really looking at the teamwork from a bigger vantage point.

What I know for sure is that at some point along the way in this life, we are going to need a team.  It might be a treatment team or some other group of folks banning together to help us get through something we never imagined.  Should that happen again in my life, I certainly want to have a team that works well together guiding me through the madness.







With a smile and a nod…

Just Keep Smiling

In one brief snap shot of my morning, I had a fairly obtuse conversation about connecting with other human beings.

There was mention of being genuine, being real, being available, approachable and engaging others no matter where we are.  “All great leaders walked alongside the ones they were leading,” they said.

It is natural for me to engage others while standing in line at the grocery, walking around the campus at work or walking my dog, but what was suggested was that this could be taught.  Could it?  Can you teach someone how to be genuine and real?  Can you teach someone to be out there, available and engaging?

In spare moments throughout the day, I heard the questions echo in my mind.  What really goes into a real connection with another human?  For me it starts with the genuine concern and interest in others, so I wasn’t clear exactly how to teach that sort of thing.  So I tried to break it down further.

More often than not for me, initial connections with other humans involve eye contact and a smile.  Perhaps a nod, a hello, or a comment about something such as the weather will accompany them.  These are my in passing connections who I see as I am walking to or from one building or around the neighborhood.

What I notice is that these passing connections often open the door to a deeper level of connection that might involve introductions, a hand shake (still smiles and more eye contact) or directions to somewhere or to someone else.

I am mindful to never ask a question unless I actually have the time to hear the full response, so if I ask, I listen.  I am enough of an extrovert to do this and curious enough, by nature, to almost not be able to help myself.

Here is what I know for sure.  Communication skills can be taught.  Mindfulness can be taught.  We can present someone skillfully with information about a person that makes them seem more human and likable because of their story, which can sometimes initiate genuine concern or interest in what happens next in the story.

We can skillfully argue the “we are all human” card, and connected by that very fact, which might lead to an interest or genuine regard.  However, what if the story isn’t very great, doesn’t grab interest, or the story is deemed insignificant?  Does that mean that we are no longer connected to the human to whom the story belongs?  Does the capacity for empathy end when the story stops holding interest or feels threatening?

The connection doesn’t break for me there, as I am still genuinely interested in what happens next.  But can you teach that?  It seems the genuine interest and regard is the foundation of the connection with other humans—it is the key ingredient that makes the rest feel real to the other.  How can we teach someone to really care about another?   I feel confident we can, although the particulars are not clear (yet)!

It is Day Three of November’s writing challenge, so perhaps by the end of the month I might find a way!  In the meantime, feel free to chime in your thoughts on this stream of consciousness.





Basketball and the Universe


As a point guard, back when I played basketball, it was my job to see the big picture on the court.  It was my job to see the whole court, call the plays, help to execute the plays, and to make sure the ball was taken care of when we had possession.

Taking control of the ball and the court was my role.  Leading my team was my role on the court, as much as it was the coach’s role off the court. I had to have vision, and my team had to trust that vision.

I preferred the point guard position to the shooting guard position, even though I had a nice fade-away jump shot.

Sometimes I got down on myself for not being able to take care of my own little picture—the basic fundamentals of the game—and lost sight of the bigger picture for the team.  During these times, I wasn’t great at the point guard role.

Each team member had their own individual role to play on the court and fundamentals for which they were responsible. If each of us was clear about our purpose, and our individual roles during a team play,  then we did well collectively.

I like basketball as a life analogy.  It is fast-paced, action-packed, not without drama, injuries or missteps.

Each of us has a role in the bigger picture.  If we don’t know what that role is, then we aimlessly flail around each day not sure we are supposed to be doing individually toward the bigger picture of our lives.  If we know what that role is, then it is our job to do it to the best of our ability because we know that doing so is not only serving our life, but is also serving the bigger picture of humanity.

Our friends, coworkers, and family members are our team members.  Our community and society as a whole make up the entire student body or sponsoring company backing the team.

As a point guard, I had to periodically slow down the play, allow the team a chance to re-focus, catch their breath, and remember that each play mattered in the bigger picture of a game.

Everything we do matters in the bigger picture—whether on a basketball court or out in our daily lives.  Everything we say, every reaction we have to what life throws at us, sends a ripple out into the universe.

It doesn’t matter what we find our role or our purpose to be, as long as we do it to the best of our ability.  Striving to be the best possible at it, no matter what “it” is, will serve the bigger picture of our collective lives.

Do you know your role on the team?  Are you a team player toward the bigger picture?  Ever consider basketball as an analogy for life?

Kitt O'Malley

Bipolar Writer and Mental Health Advocate

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