Major debate is taking place in the sport I played and coached in for over 30 years, with my children now heavily involved in juvenile teams. This debate centres around whether juvenile players under 12 years of age should be exposed to competition. Many advocates of competitive sport for juvenile players at this age argue that competition develops resilience. Personally, I feel that competitive sport at such a young age erodes control.
At this age, competitive sport certainly does not actively build resilience. As I have said in earlier articles in this Resilient Leadership series, resilience is much more than bouncing back from a defeat or a mistake. There are many components to building resilience, with control being one of the most important.
The only thing any sportsperson can really control is her game. To develop her game to its full potential, the young player needs space and time to learn this skill which includes recognising and emotionally detaching from things that she cannot control. Competition introduces too many ‘uncontrollables’, such as playing conditions, spectators, coaches, parents, peers, teammates, opponents, officials etc., all at the same time too early for the young player to develop strategies to cope. She cannot learn to control her game with all these distractions. She hasn’t learnt yet how to emotionally detach from them.
The importance of this story to resilient leadership is that resilience is built on control. Developing control is that important if you want to be a resilient leader.
Control in Resilient Leadership
Just as in sport, leadership is full of ‘uncontrollables’ that only serve to distract the leader, wasting time and energy. To enhance resilience, the leader must learn to recognise these uncontrollable and to emotionally detach from them so she can remain focused on her goals. This will help the leader stay in the right mindset by taking judgement out of the situation.
Remember, just like the sportsperson, the only thing the leader can really control is how she leads (her game in sporting parlance). She can achieve this by controlling how she responds and reacts to avoid undesirable behaviours, increase desirable behaviours and achieve her goals.
In the context of becoming a more resilient leader, the concept of ‘control’ means controlling the faculties of your mind so they do what you require of them. It refers to controlling how your mind makes decisions, develops strategies for different situations/people, plans ahead, prepares, and controls the environment you lead in.
Like the other skills discussed in this Resilient Leadership series of articles, control can be developed through learning, practice and application. The added benefit of developing your control is that it is also an outcome of resilience. In other words, you practice and develop control to become more resilient. By being more resilient, you have greater capacity to take control of your circumstances. It is a loop.
Leaders who learn to exercise control to a higher level will perform, and lead their team to perform, at a higher level. Remember, it is the leader who sets the tone and culture in the team. Team members will observe and learn from this exhibition of control and resilience, seeing it as the ‘way we do things here’ and as the way to success, therefore also learning to practice control and develop resilience.
Developing Control: 6 Tips
As stated above, you can learn control and I always like to give my readers some easy to apply tips. Here are 6 tips to get you started developing this skill and building your resilience:
Accept things for what they are.
At the height of his success, Tiger Woods was known for his personal take when things didn’t go according to plan. “It is what it is”, he would often say, showing that he accepted things for what they are. This allowed him to get clarity on the situation, remove distractions and form a clear strategy to move on.
To develop control, one of the first steps for the leader is to learn how to accept situations for what they are, emotionally detach from things that cannot be changed, and focus on her own leadership.
Recognise the ‘uncontrollables’
To be both resilient and effective, the leader must be able to recognise the uncontrollables in each situation and accept that some things cannot be either changed or controlled.
Set clear goals.
It is much easier to develop this skill when you know what you are working towards. Set clear goals for your key tasks and projects so decisions and choices become clearer and easier to make. The uncontrollables are also more easily identified.
Know the consequences.
It is important to explore and understand the consequences of a lack of control. Every action has a consequence. When planning ahead, you should consider the impact of hasty, unplanned or ill-thought out actions on your goals, your leadership and your team.
Develop clear boundaries.
Identifying what is within your control requires boundaries. Intentionally setting clear boundaries based on how you want to interact with people, projects, peers and customers will give you a secure position in your leadership and organisation to practice control.
Relaxation and balance
To maintain control, you should also practice relaxation, perhaps through meditation, mindfulness or breathing techniques, and seek a healthy balance that allows you time to pursue non-work interests.
Do you want to become a more resilient leader and bring your team to higher performance? Check out my Resilient Leadership courses.