What leadership and curling have in common

My husband Chad is a competitive curler.  With curling season upon us once again, here is a revised post from last year, with leadership advice from the ice.

1. Play the Best Shot

A skip Chad used to play for would say things like “If you’re going to miss the shot, whatever you do, don’t be inside.”  The skip then placed the broom so that if the rock was thrown inside, the worst case scenario would be avoided.  The opportunity to make the best shot was taken away from the player.

Being aware of the risks is wise.  If the risk is too great, choosing another option is wise, but once a decision is made, don’t sabotage best results and settle for so-so results out of fear.

When you ask your team to take on a challenge, a new role or a new responsibility, train them, support them and then let them take their best shot.  Don’t sabotage their efforts or learning opportunities with too many adjustments, check-ins and dire warnings of what could all go wrong.

Assume your team will be successful.  If they miss, regroup, discuss options and move on.

2. Support your Team

In curling, every team member has the right to share their suggestions throughout the game.  Team members discuss take-outs vs. draws vs. hit and rolls.  When four and sometimes five people make up a team, plus perhaps a coach, there is very often disagreement on what the best shot is.  It’s the skip that makes the final call and at that point, discussion needs to stop.

Chad has curled on teams where the disagreement continues after the decision has been made.  Instead of getting in the hack and focusing their effort on making the called shot successful, the player focuses on how he’s been asked to make the wrong shot.  If it’s the skips turn to make the shot, the lead and/or second continue trying to make their case, instead of allowing the skip to focus on the shot.  Chad has also played on teams where once a decision is made, the focus turns to making the shot successful.  As the player gets in the hack, they hear words of encouragement from their team member instead of second, third and fourth guessing.

Successful, fully engaged teams understand that everyone on the team has a voice. They also understand that when a decision is made, everyone needs to pull together and work towards success.

3.  Maintain Control … of you

There is only thing every player on the team has 100% control over … their response.  If you watch curling, you’ve seen it; a missed shot followed by a slammed broom. Getting angry because the ice is poor doesn’t make the ice better. Getting angry because the rock picked doesn’t change the fact the shot did not work out as planned.  Getting angry because the rock was thrown off the broom or with the wrong weight doesn’t bring the rock back. The only thing getting angry does is bring team morale down, which in turn increases the odds of more missed shots.

Being disappointed is understandable.  Temper tantrums are not. The same thing applies at work.  Bosses, supervisors who respond to failure or set backs with cutting remarks, slamming doors or yelling do not inspire their team to greater success.

In conclusion …

  • On or off the ice, leaders need to believe their team members will be successful. Leaders need to ask for the best work possible from their team members and give them the tools and direction to achieve it.
  • On or off the ice, team members need to share ideas and suggestions for success and then, when a decision has been made, work together for success.  They need to focus on the goal instead of continuing to focus on what could have been or in their mind, should have been.
  • And on or off the ice, team leaders need to maintain their calm.  When anger and frustration are allowed to enter the game, more shots are missed.

The team Chad curls with now has played on their fair share of games on poor ice. Their rocks have picked and they’ve all misjudged their throw at some point.  But, I believe they just secured their spot in February’s provincial bonspiel because they play to win, they support each other and they have the ability to put the last missed shot behind them and focus on making the next one.

What do you think?

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