Let’s face it. You and I both know who the hypercompetitive kids are early on. In T-Ball, they are the ones making tick marks in the infield when no one is supposed to be keeping score.
Here is an example.
When my son Britton was eight, he was part of a good baseball team. Our good friend Ralph Watson coached the technical aspect of baseball and did a superb job. As a high school coach, he knew talent and he recognized “the fire in the belly” attitude. On this particular year, both came together in biblical proportions on our team. Ralph attempted to curb his enthusiasm, but he was practically giddy after the draft.
The season started slow, but by the time playoffs rolled around we were clicking on all cylinders. While Ralph polished the players’ mechanics, I was tasked with maintaining the fine line between passion and emotional meltdown. We capped off a great season by making it to the league championship game.
The championship game started beautifully. We jumped out to an early lead and the team was all cheers and smiles. About the fifth inning, however, the wheels came off. The other team scored a couple of runs, and threatened with more. Our team was looking to the dugout for direction.
I suggested rock-paper-scissors to Ralph to see if he or I should go be Dr. Phil. He thought it would be best to keep them from falling apart if I went out. Chicken.
When I arrived at the pitcher’s mound, the situation was critical. The whole infield was crying.
I attempted a diversionary tactic. “Boys, your play right now is a little shaky. But it will in no way impact your standing at the concession stand. Each of you is still eligible for a small snack and a drink after the game, but unless we get an out here, I can’t promise the drink offer is still on the table.”
My son Britton wasn’t fooled. “Dad,” he said sobbing, “we need an out.”
I looked at each one of them. Tears spilled out of their eyes and left clean streaks down their clay covered cheeks. They were pitiful, and in desperate need of assurance.
I knelt down and shifted tactics. I made them take their little hands out of their gloves and put them on top of mine. I told them what fun I had coaching them this year, and how awesome it was going to be for the team to hold the championship trophy. I reminded them that we only needed two more outs to make it happen. And I trotted off.
These kids grow up to:
(1) Arm wrestle to see who will say grace over dinner.
(2) Elbow Mother Teresa out of the way at a Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart.
(3) Mope around for an entire vacation if they don’t achieve a personal best while driving to the beach.
These hypercompetitive kids usually grow up to be hypercompetitive, assertive adults. The funny thing is, they tend to marry the more relaxed, laid back partner.
WHO’S GOT SNACKS?
Contrast my son Britton’s Peanut League team with my son Jack’s team. That team went 0-15 during the season, and my first indication that it was going to be a long year came after losing that first game by ten runs.
Nobody cared that were the benefit of “the mercy rule.” (Three worst words in sports.)
In fact, as I positioned the team for the rest of the season with an inspirational post-game speech, my right fielder interrupted me and shouted, “Hey! They finally got Tiger’s Blood snow cones. Come on!” With that, she ran off—and the entire team followed … except Jack. As a competitor, he gritted his teeth and wept.
The season results stunk, but I have more funny memories from that season than any other team that I coached. And the kids couldn’t care less (except Jack).
WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT?
Many of you just completed a survey for me. (Found here.) The results of the survey confirmed that as parents, you not only have a handle on recognizing the behavioral differences among your children, but also adjusting your management of them accordingly.
And here is the simple reason.
You are aware.
Because you invest in their lives, you recognize the unique differences in each child and that allows you to adjust your parenting.
The same thing applies at work. Does your boss know you well enough to manage you this way? Do you know your employees well enough to manage like this?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you prefer to keep score or keep the peace. What matters is how to get the most out of each group—and that means understanding the strengths that each brings to the table.
Take time, get to know them. You will win.
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