Leadership through the Eyes of a Tennis Ball: Lessons from Wimbledon

With a new Wimbledon winner recently crowned, we encounter an opportunity to look at leadership through the eyes of a tennis ball.  Wimbledon, a tradition since 1875, has hosted some of the biggest names in tennis history.  Tennis is a mental sport that requires discipline, dedication, and focus—much like time spent in the office.  So what connections can we draw from Wimbledon to leadership development?  Plenty:

 

Pick a winning partner

In doubles tennis, it is important to have a partner who can help achieve your goal of winning the match.  In leadership development, it is important to pick a partner who can help you achieve your goals of personal development.  By “partner” we mean a couple of things.

 

1.)    A great evaluative tool.  Playing at Wimbledon with a shoddy racket would create a serious disadvantage to the person using it.  Using a racket that matched your needs gives a more accurate picture of your playing abilities. Personal development is the same: using an instrument that will not fully evaluate your skill set will present you with a serious disadvantage.  To truly see where you need to improve, evaluation is key.  This is why we like 360 degree feedback so much.  Three-sixty degree feedback provides the opportunity to acquire information from all those around you to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, and areas of opportunity.  We tend to fool ourselves on self-evaluation surveys, so allowing others to take part means a more honest look.  Choosing a tool provider is important, too.  Make sure that the company you chose has a record of success and can provide both survey validation as well as comparisons to industry norms.  Without anything with which to compare yourself, how will you know where you fall?

 

2.)    A companion who can keep you on track. This person is your “check” if they see you engaging in “backsliding” behaviors.  They can push you to run the extra mile, encourage you put forth that extra bit of effort, or help you up when you slip and fall.  They will be your companion while running that last lap, chanting your name as you cross the finish line—and making it easier to achieve your goal.

 

Partner with a good coach

Any consistently successful sports team has a great coach behind them.  The coach will ensure the functionality of the team, and will give crucial observations and feedback that will ensure the continual growth of the team and its players.  Finding a good coach is important for personal development as well.  A good coach can interpret individual strengths and weaknesses, identify opportunities for advancement and honing of certain skills, and prioritize certain areas of development over others.

 

Practice!

The saying goes, “Great leaders are not born, they are created.”  Creation of a great leader—as well as a great sports player—requires lots of practice.  Some skills will come easier to certain people; some skills will be more difficult to acquire. Practice will ensure that no matter how fast you learn, you will achieve your goal.

 

Play to win

Don’t approach personal development half-heartedly.  You will get out of it only what you invest into it.  Before starting a personal development plan, make sure you are aware of the work you will need to put in to achieve your goals, and then attack them with vigor.

 

After-the-match recap

Re-evaluation as to how far you’ve come is key.  At TBC like to follow up our 360 feedback with what we call 720 feedback®.  720 Feedback® provides a comparison of a participant’s results over a period of time, often 12-18 months. This comparison informs participants of their developmental progress and gives them an opportunity to update and change their individual development plan.  Because to truly get the most out of a personal development plan, one must keep a continual watch on their skills and competencies to ensure they are actually improving.

 

The next time you stumble across a Wimbledon match on TV, take a moment to look closer at the players, the coaches, and their tools.  They have become their best by using the best—are you?

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