Compassion, Sports Performance, and Leadership
This week and last week my wife and I are on a big road trip following our daughter’s volleyball team around the country during their pre-season matches. It’s been a blast! We started by attending Nebraska Volleyball Day in Lincoln and got to help break the world record for attendance at a women’s sporting event.
Since then we’ve driven over 1500 miles to meet up with the team, hang out with fellow volleyball parents, and enjoy new sights and experiences along the way.
I have three daughters who have all played competitive college volleyball. It’s a tough journey with a lot of ups and downs. I’m continuously struck by the similarities between a college athlete’s experience and the experience of talented high-potential employees in most organizations.
Similarities Between College Athletes and Talented Employees
- They’ve worked hard their whole life, are used to winning, and want to excel.
- They are willing to put in the time and effort.
- They want to be treated with respect and dignity.
- They want a clear path to advancement.
- They want clear, consistent, and transparent communication.
- They want a coach, not a boss.
- They want to learn and grow.
- They want to be maximized.
- They want someone who cares about them as a person as well as an athlete.
- Culture matters.
- Leadership matters.
- Every interaction matters.
I’ve noticed another important dynamic; the relationship between the desire to please and psychological safetfy. Without psychological safety, the desire to please can morph into lowered self-esteem, self-criticism, loss of confidence, and self-destructive behaviors.
With psychological safety, athletes and employees are able to speak up without fear of retaliation, ask for what they need to perform better, take healthy risks without fear of criticism, and make mistakes without fear of rejection.
Compassion Is The Differentiator For Better Performance
Whether you are a coach, a leader, a parent, or an educator, it comes down to compassion. Contrary to what many hard-driving leaders believe, compassion actually produces better performance.
This terrific article shows research and examples of how compassion increases resilience, bounce-back from failure, persistence, teamwork, and even stress management. Mentioned in this article is Kristin Neff, noted compassion researcher who was featured on my podcast, OnCompassion with Dr. Nate.
Are you a hard-ass who bristles at the thought of adding compassion to your repertoire? That’s OK. There’s hope. It’s called Compassionate Accountability®. Compassionate Accountability combines attention to people with attention to results, no compromises, for breakthrough performance.
Compassion doesn’t mean getting weak, compromising boundaries, or being too emotional. It means being human and struggling with others through tough times instead of creating adversarial and psychologically unsafe conditions that undermine top performance.
Know Better. Do Better.
The research is clear. Compassion improves performance.
I have a ton of empathy for leaders and coaches who are in the difficult position of being held accountable for their ability to produce results. I get it. I deal with this every day. For coaches that means winning. For leaders, it means delivering on KPIs. Either way, compassion will help you get there.
Now you know.
- What will you do differently tomorrow to take action on what you know?
- What do you tell your athletes or employees about taking action on new learning?
- Are you a coachable leader?