By Courtney Clay, AOAP Board Member (and Joey LaNeve)
At the AOAP conference in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2019, I gave a presentation on motivating the unmotivated. It was my first time presenting and I was pretty nervous, especially when it became a Standing Room Only situation and my laptop didn’t have the right hookup for the projector (shout out to Mark Foote for coming to my rescue with his Apple “dongle” and iPad to save my day!) Anyways, after that presentation, I remember meeting Joey for the first time. He introduced himself and said he worked at Arizona State University (my alma mater). Joey remembers this differently, he says he was at my presentation but that we met beforehand, on the hotel elevator. I commented on his ASU polo. Well, whatever way it was, neither of us thought too much of it.
Fast forward to 2021 and Joey now works for me as the Recreation Programmer for the City of Mesa. He literally started working at Mesa the same week the pools opened this summer. I gave him a bunch of assignments and threw him out into the municipal world. One of his assignments was our weekly employee newsletter, Lane Lines. When you have a staff of 300+, across the city, they like to know what’s going on at the other sites and the newsletter is sometimes the best/most fun way to do that. Usually on the first page of the newsletter we feature an article of importance or provide some pertinent information. This year, instead of featuring articles written by others, Joey wrote his own. Most of them were on different aspects of leadership. I am going to share some of those articles with you now. These are from the desk of Joey.
Becoming a Leader
Anyone can be a leader, it doesn’t matter if you are a Lifeguard, an instructor, or a manager. Leadership in action can take many forms; it can be as obvious as leading an in-service or as simple as taking the initiative to complete a cleaning task without being asked to because it helps your team out. Leadership is such an important skill that can be developed over time with lots of practice. Even the biggest leaders in the world are experiencing new challenges and developing new skills every day. Think about ways that you have taken small steps to become a leader on your team so far this summer, then think about ways you can continue to develop your leadership skills during the rest of the season. If you are interested in taking on more of a leadership role, talk to your pool management team and ask where you can help. If you’re nervous about taking on additional responsibility, just remember that good leadership requires the support of a team so do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it!
Have you ever been in a situation where you have found yourself feeling extremely vulnerable? Maybe you made a mistake at work and got in trouble for it, a project didn’t go as planned, you had to hold a coworker accountable, or maybe you were presenting in class and found yourself worried about what other people thought of your presentation. These are extremely common feelings we experience every day. Being a leader in your team requires facing a lot of these uncomfortable, vulnerable feelings. To be an effective leader you cannot approach this vulnerability by putting up “armor”. Armor prevents us from connecting with our team and helping each other grow together. Armor can take many forms such as:
- lack of recognition (of the work your team does)
- concentrating on knowing all the answers and insisting on being right
- enforcing “power over” a team instead of giving “power to” a team
- protecting yourself with criticism
- rewarding over-working and exhaustion
- promoting “fitting in” instead of being welcoming
- blaming others or making excuses for mistakes you made
If you notice yourself putting up armor when faced with a difficult situation, take a step back and try to embrace those tough feelings, take accountability and work towards a solution that helps you and your team be successful.
When you make a mistake, it can be easy to make excuses like: “my coworkers didn’t pull their weight”, “Mercury is in retrograde this week”, or “I just didn’t have time, I’ll get to it tomorrow” but these excuses are just ways of avoiding accountability or owning up to the underlying conditions that led to the mistake. It is important to understand that mistakes will happen, “perfect” isn’t real and the sooner you can recognize that a mistake was made and own up to it, the sooner progress can be made to prevent the same thing from happening again. For example, let’s say that I am part of a guard team that responds to a drill during public swim and the drill goes poorly so the Manager on Duty asks the team “what happened?” My response to this situation could easily be “I got the victim to the wall quickly; it was the other staff who couldn’t get the backboard in place fast enough”. Blaming the rest of the team in this way creates shame and doesn’t motivate the rest of my team to do better in the future. It also attempts to make me look perfect when that was not the case. A response like “The rescue could have gone smoother if I had communicated better with my coworkers about where I wanted the backboard and we had worked together more to pull the victim out.” acknowledges my mistakes and highlights an area of improvement for the team. As leaders, it is not always easy to acknowledge our own mistakes and take accountability for our own actions but when we do it helps to create a more positive culture within our teams because there isn’t blame being passed around. If you find yourself placing blame, it is important to take a mental step back and look at the situation more objectively. It takes practice and a lot of self-awareness, but this is such an important leadership quality that really sets a great leader apart.
I hope these mini articles resonated with you in some way or provide you with some tools to take back to your staff. If you would like to reach out to me or Joey for more information about leadership, our employee newsletter, or even just to talk about ASU, feel free to contact us at Courtney.firstname.lastname@example.org and Joey.email@example.com. We will both be at AOAP in February too. Hope to see you there!