While certain people may be given more authority (‘in charge’)… leading is actually a choice. It’s not a title. It’s not a position. It’s not a rank. It’s choice. It’s a mindset. Regardless of where you fall on the org chart, you, decide whether or not you are a leader.

Here are six pillars to leading others that directors, coaches and athletes can apply to this season.


A Gallup poll revealed that #1 cause of employee attrition (65%) is because of poor management and leadership. Thankfully leadership skills can be improved and developed through purposeful practice. Investing in these skills is one of the soundest investments you can make.
From an organizational standpoint, the more team members that view themselves as leaders, the better. That’s because a ‘player’ led team will always outperform a ‘coach’ led team.
The research backs this up: According to the Manchester Consulting Group, organizations that focused on leadership development training improved:
  • Relationships (77%)
  • Teamwork (67%)
  • Job satisfaction (61%)
  • Productivity (53%)

The foundation of effective leadership is acknowledging you must connect before you coach. Connect 1st. Coach 2nd.

Everyone talks. Some people listen. Very few connect. And connection creates buy-in and believe-in.

As a personal audit, here are some internal and reflective questions leaders must ask themselves consistently:

  • Do I have people that make my team better?
  • Do I have a culture that makes my people better?
  • Do I have the right people on my team?
  • Do they care about the vision/mission?
  • Do they care about their teammates?
  • Do they care about improvement?


After establishing a solid connection, a leader’s primary job is to find out what each team member does really well… and how to best utilize that skill set for the team’s benefit.
To be a successful organization, you need the right people in the right positions. Many teams have the right people in the wrong positions (which is fixable). When this happens… morale, productivity and efficiency are low… and attrition is high. It should go without saying, but if you have the wrong people… it doesn’t matter what position they’re in!
When adding someone to the organization (a new hire), they must have a talent that fills a team need. The organization needs the mindset of ‘What drives us must be good for you and what drives you must be good for us.’ When a new team member is added, they must be put in roles that they enjoy and excel at.
3 types of job responsibilities (from an employee’s perspective):
  • Things I’m really good at and I really enjoy
  • Things I’m OK at and I don’t mind doing
  • Things I’m not very good at and I don’t like doing

Efficiency, productivity, and job satisfaction skyrocket by eliminating #3. One person’s #3 will be another person’s #1!

It should be to no surprise that a Gallop poll of thousands of organizations showed that when management focused on an employee’s strength – the employee’s level of engagement was 75%. When they didn’t? 9%. You can conclude how that affects productivity.

Here are 3 weekly questions leaders must ask to ensure high levels of engagement:

  • What did you do this week that you want to do more of?
  • What did you do this week that you want to do less of?
  • How did you use your strengths this week?

The goal is to make sure everyone in the organization knows, understands and embraces their role. To do that, you must clearly establish and communicate each individual’s role, create buy-in and believe-in with their role and openly praise those that star in their role (regardless of what it is). The most influential leaders go out of their way to acknowledge and praise the ‘smaller’ roles.


What is a team? A team is not simply a group of people working together. A team is a group of people that truly care and respect each other… that puts the team’s needs ahead of their own… and works relentlessly to fulfill their role to accomplish the group’s shared vision and mission.
The key to building a successful team is to create a culture where people care – care about each other and about the mission. Caring is an act of will. Caring is a choice. And caring is the foundation of which elite teams are made.
After all, when it comes to massive achievement, working together is more efficient, effective and productive than doing your own thing and going at it alone. But it takes a special person to be we driven, not me driven.

Improve your team’s cohesion with ‘10 Assists’ (Credit to Rich Sheubrooks)
Every morning, encourage every member of the team to put 10 pennies in their left pocket or 10 rubber bands on their left wrist. Every time they assist a teammate… they transfer one penny (or one rubber band) from their left pocket to their right pocket (or left wrist to right wrist). An assist is anything they do to serve a teammate or to add value to their life… from bringing them a cup of coffee to rescheduling a conference call. But here’s the catch. They don’t leave the office until they’ve dished out 10 assists.


Rules are decided by the top, handed down the org chart, and expected to be followed blindly. Standards are collectively agreed upon (giving everyone on the team a voice) and collectively upheld.

Why is this important? People will always give a better effort when they feel like they have a voice and feel like their voice matters. Effective leaders realize that people should always have a say in the work they help create and they always involve people in the work that directly affects them.

However, before you create standards – for yourself or for your organization – you must first clarify your identity.

Your identity is the collective answer to these questions
  • Who are you?
  • What do you believe?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What is your philosophy?
  • What is your mission?

Your standards are the code you live by to uphold your identity. If you want to immediately raise your performance… raise your standards!


In order to be a true team, everyone must acknowledge that no one is above the team and that everyone must be held accountable to the team’s standards (no one is immune). It helps to realize that holding someone accountable is something you do for them… not to them. Holding someone accountable to the team’s standards shows that you care.

To lay this foundation, these 4 questions should be asked of every team member:
  • Are you coachable?
  • Do you give me permission to coach you?
  • Do you give me permission to hold you accountable?
  • How do you want me to hold you accountable? It should be made clear that, ‘You are responsible for your role and you are accountable to our team.’ And when it comes to accountability, you either accept it or you correct it!


Here is an organizational success flow:
Identity –> Standards –> Accountability –> Culture –> Results
As you can see, culture is what drives results (long term, sustainable results). What is culture? How do you define culture? How does your team define it?
I’m willing to bet if you ask everyone on your team to define it you will get a wide variety of answers. How can you expect to collectively improve a trait that each of them defines differently?
Culture is the collective values, beliefs, behaviors, decisions, and environment of your team or organization. The strength of your culture is the environment when the CEO (or ‘head coach’) isn’t around. How does everyone act, behave, and perform when the ‘boss’ isn’t present? That is your culture.
A positive culture increases efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. A poor culture lowers morale, increases attrition, and undermines every aspect of team cohesion.
People are not loyal to jobs. They are not loyal to businesses. They are loyal to other people. And effective leadership creates strong loyalty. And loyalty creates commitment. And commitment strengthens culture.
One of the glues of a strong culture is showing appreciation. Regardless of what business you are in, your people are your primary competitive advantage. And people need to feel appreciated. You can copy products. You can copy services. You can copy technology. It’s very hard to copy people (thus culture).
About the Author
“Raise Your Game: What the Highest Performers Do During Unseen Hours”
Alan Stein, Jr. teaches proven strategies to improve organizational performance, create effective leadership, increase team cohesion and collaboration, and develop winning mindsets, rituals, and routines. View Alan’s website HERE.