This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of Lisa Meyer

When you hear the term “team,” our thoughts generally go to sports and athletics although “team” can refer to any group of individuals working together with one common goal. The team or group with the most cohesion and skill usually ends up in the win column. The skill part is easy to assess . . . best players, MVPs, all-stars, etc. but beyond the physical skill, the questions arise of how to be the best, most skilled player and what does it take to be that player? And what about the intangibles? Leadership, dependability, loyalty, hard work, motivation, etc. The Ray Lewis types don’t come around very often. The book, You Win In The Locker Room First by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith, discuss their beliefs from a motivational/business perspective as well as a professional coaching perspective, of how to create a winning attitude/atmosphere behind the scenes that allows for success on the field. Their seven “C’s” of building a winning team are the foundation of how to be successful in every walk of life.

Whether it is in the school house, military, fire or police departments or in the business world, the best in the business starts with the leadership and their fundamental beliefs and ability to see the big picture and focus on the process and not necessarily the outcome. You “win” by cultivating the right culture, mindset, leadership, expectations, relationships and habits before it is time to step on the field and play the game. It is first started with establishing the ­Culture­ of the organization. “Culture drives expectations and beliefs; expectations and beliefs drive behavior; behavior drives habits and habits create the future. It all starts with culture.” The first C is culture. It is established from the top down but is brought to life from the bottom up. Total buy in from the entire organization. One team=one culture and everyone who talks the talk has to walk the walk. Winning and losing are the end results but focusing on the process allows for sustained high expectations and accountability. Build your culture of your classroom, of your school, fight for it, value it, live it and reinforce it. I truly believe the culture of the building/team by far is the most important aspect of success. Without culture, everyone is in life boats trying to stay alive instead of on the big cruise ship headed toward the same destination.

“C” number two, Contagious. As a leader and team member, your attitude is contagious. Are you a germ or a shot of vitamin B12? Energy vampire or a dose of vitamin C? Develop an attitude, mission and vision that has meaning, not just word speak, and live it each day . . . verbally and non-verbally. Be an over-believer. In a school building, there is only one principal and a few APs but you are a leader in your classroom. Be an over-believer in your students and inspire them to work hard and be positive. Your students take cues from you. Don’t be an energy vampire and suck the life out of your class, your team, your school. One person won’t make a team but one person can break a team. Life isn’t perfect with a contagious positive attitude can go a long way to help smooth over the rough spots.

Number three is Consistency. If you aren’t consistent, you lose the trust others have built up in you and in turn when you lose trust, you lose the team. One philosophy, one attitude, one vision as a leader or team member. We are responsible to each other and once you buy in to a consistently, contagious positive culture, it becomes difficult to feel you are letting a team member down. Bring your A game each day, be consistent in your planning and desire to be great, don’t become complacent, stay hungry and humble and enjoy the process. Working hard and being consistent does not require a high level of skill. Expect it of yourself and others will follow.

Communication. Number four. The foundation of all relationships and we all know that one of the biggest keys for teachers is relationship building. You need to know your “players” and how they are feeling, how they respond and what they need from you in order to get better. Even marriages dissolve quickly when there is a lack of communication. A lack of communication leads to a void in which the possibility of negative thoughts and anything negative can spread like a wildfire. Open and honest communication whether it is one on one or whole group can set the tone in order to move forward. Communication doesn’t just mean speaking, effective listening is critical in communication, as are messages sent non-verbally. Engage with your “teammates.” Take the temperature of the building, walk around and interact and by doing that you get to know what is going on and how to head off any small issues before they become bigger issues. And even more meaningful than simple communication is the collaboration that follows.

One of the best lines of the book is “Team beats talent when talent isn’t a team.” Connecting, the fifth “C.” “We” beats “me” every time. The outside sources of individual team members reinforce focusing on their own personal goals and feeding the egos. That undermines the team and builds a disconnect. A bonded and committed team can accomplish much more when everyone is in it together. Tough moments test a person’s resiliency which test the connectivity of the group and can lead to underperformance and dysfunction on the job. Connectedness leads to synergy and everyone working together for the good of the group. It is also helpful to stay connected outside of the work environment. Tighter bonds are built through social engagement if for no other reason than to relieve the environmental pressures. Co-workers treat each other differently and support each other more.

The sixth “C” is Commitment . . . it’s not about you, it’s about committing yourself to a team. All in or all out. As a leader, it is important to make sure you show your group that you are 24/7 committed to the greater good, a “whatever it takes” mentality. It is a top down approach that builds from the bottom up. When leaders demonstrate that they are committed to helping everyone be their best, then everyone will return the commitment and give it their all. It is a serve “we,” not a serve “me” attitude. Check the ego at the door, it’s not about the leader, it’s about the leader putting the team on his/her shoulders and sacrificing yourself for the team’s gain.

Through commitment, comes Caring, the seventh “C.” When relationships are the foundation of the team, program, business or school, it is impossible not to care. When each team member is valued as a person, he/she cares more about the job they have to do and how it contributes to the team. A leader that cares inspires others to care and go beyond the expected. Caring people create a caring environment which in turn creates the culture you expect to see in successful programs.

This book mostly deals with leadership through a coaching aspect as well as a leader of a business or company. That said, as teachers, we are all leaders at least three times a day in our classrooms. We lead, mentor, develop, encourage and guide our students. We hope to create more leaders through our teaching. Through the seven “Cs” of leadership as defined by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith, “By coaching them up and down you create your culture. By coaching with optimism and positivity you become contagious. By coaching your team and mentoring them individually you earn their trust and connect with them. By helping them get better through adversity and challenges you show you are committed to their growth and progress. By caring about them, you give everything you have to help your team become all they were meant to be.”

I highly recommend this book. A short, easy read that is impacting and stresses the importance of leading before you ever step foot in the classroom. GO TEAM! GO OM!

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