In Episode 15, Michelle Lenard, Head Coach of Dallas Baptist University Women’s Soccer, talks with Phil about how to “steal like an artist,” DBU’s Leadership Council, how her team has used the Enneagram, what the game “Cutthroat” can teach...
In Episode 15, Michelle Lenard, Head Coach of Dallas Baptist University Women’s Soccer, talks with Phil about how to “steal like an artist,” DBU’s Leadership Council, how her team has used the Enneagram, what the game “Cutthroat” can teach us about leadership, setting and communicating clear expectations, the four H’s, implementing boundaries in our relationships, and servant leadership. Specifically, Michelle discusses:
Resources and Links from this Episode
[00:00:00] Phil:[00:00:00] Welcome to How Soccer Explains Leadership. Again, thank you so much for your download and being part of this show. I'm Phil Darke, your host. If you haven't listened to our previous episodes, I invite you to go ahead and go do that. Go after this episode, this is going to be a fantastic one. We have Michelle Lenard, who is the Head Coach at Dallas Baptist University.
She's a great leader herself. She's got some great wisdom. She's going to share with us a bit later in this episode. Before we get there, I do want to remind you also to go ahead and subscribe to the show. If you haven't done so already, you can do so by just clicking that subscribe button, wherever you're listening to this podcast. You can also rate and review the show.
If you haven't done that for us, it helps others to find the show. It also just helps others to learn more about it from someone other than me telling them how much they really need to listen. So that always helps out. And if you want to get deeper into the conversation with us, we'd love for you to join us at the Facebook group that we have, How Soccer Explains Leadership Facebook group.
You'll answer a few questions, unless you're [00:01:00] some weirdo, we'll let you in. So without more from me, we're going to introduce you to Michelle Lenard, Michelle, how are you doing?
Michelle:[00:01:08] I'm doing great, Phil. I really appreciate being on. Thanks for having me. Yeah,
Phil:[00:01:11] definitely. I'm glad that Paul Jobson, my co-host was able to introduce us a little bit ago and enjoyed the conversation we had just to get to know each other a little bit.
And I'm definitely excited to talk about some of the things that we just scratched the surface on before one of the things I always like starting with and just because partly cause I. Love hearing stories and just, how you got to be where you are today, but I also would love for our audience to get to know you a little bit better, particularly how you became passionate about soccer and leadership and how your life has involved both at really deep levels.
Michelle:[00:01:42] Yeah, sure. I grew up in Lubbock, Texas actually, and I grew up as the oldest of two kids to a single mom. And so I think that was my first introduction to leadership was watching my mom raised two kids by herself. All the hard work and sacrifices that she made so that my sister and I could have a [00:02:00] better life than she had and opportunities that we might not have otherwise had.
I loved to compete from a young age in any sport, but I especially loved soccer. And my mom saw that and supported that and gave me a lot of opportunities to use the gifts that I had, and literally drove me from Lubbock, all over the state of Texas to play soccer and to play on teams out here in the Dallas area.
That had to give me opportunities to grow and get exposure. So I could potentially go and play in college. And I did end up doing that. I played at the university of North Texas up in Denton, Texas after college, I knew I really never wanted to do anything else. Other than coach. I don't know where that came from.
No one in my family did it, but I loved soccer and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. And I love the relationship aspect of sports in general. So after college, I went straight into coaching. I was a graduate assistant at Texas women's university in Denton initially, before going back to the university of North Texas as an assistant coach, that was there for a few years before I was given the opportunity to become the head coach [00:03:00] at DBU.
I've been here for 13 years. And when I started here, I was 26 years old. So I was really, really young head coach. I have to say I learned a lot by trial and error, a lot of mistakes early on. But that's a big part of leadership is just learning from those mistakes and getting better.
Phil:[00:03:16] Definitely. And I know one of the things we talked about before is just really, as you talked about learning, that learning posture coming in early, a lot of people go through the ranks. They are coming in like going, they've gone assistant high school going through all these different things.
And then they come up and they work through the associate, whatever you came in at 26. Right. So there's the good side of that. Is, you're not thinking you know everything, presumably I'm guessing I'm, I'm projecting that on you, but I'm guessing that when you kind of come in with that learning humble posture and that's so important, but one of the things we talked about in our conversation before this interview was there's this great book and I recommended it to you.
I don't know if you've read it yet. It's a nice, it's almost like a comic book. It's like a picture book more than anything it's called, Steal Like an Artist. [00:04:00] And really what that talks about is this idea of learning from others. And to take the best things from others. So how have you been able to do that?
You've talked about learning, but what are some ideas and other leadership principles that I know, you know, going back 15 years, I'm not saying to everyone that you've ever learned, but what are some things that you learned, whether it's early on or throughout that really have stuck in your leadership that others can learn from, and you can now give back to them.
Michelle:[00:04:25] Yeah, I think early on though, I certainly had no predisposed ideas that I knew everything. I think I felt pressured to know everything. And I think I felt like I needed to act like I knew everything because I was in charge and I would felt like I was supposed to know. And I think it took me a while to realize that it was okay, that I didn't know everything.
And that what was important was that I was looking for solutions and learning and growing and being honest about that as I've gotten older, I think how, what's the quote, like the older I get the less I know, and that's kind of how I view life. the more you think, you know, the more you realize that you don't know.
And so I've always tried to take that [00:05:00] approach. And honestly, I could list tons of resources of things I've learned from over the years. I did say to you that I feel like I'm an expert at stealing other people's ideas and modifying them to fit our program. And it would be hard to zero in on too many just because there's been so many.
I read everything I can get my hands on, but I've tried to find experts, so to speak in the field. and all the various parts of coaching and learn from them. So for example, obvious things like, Anson Dorrance is frequent. I'm sure response. You might get, I've read any book I can get my hands on watched every webinar of his, that I can. Been to every seminar that I can attend.
He's a coach that a lot of people look up to and I've learned a lot from in the college game, the women's game in particular. But also love Jurgen Klopp. And I love the passion that he coaches with. And so a few years ago when I wanted to teach the pressing game to my team. I looked at Jurgen and I learned his system and I studied him.
And the way that he leads his team and the way he loves his players and the way they clearly love him back and how personable he is. [00:06:00] But I also try to learn from, experts in sports psychology, like Dan Abrahams and Donna Fishter, or even if it's analytics, Oliver Gage, is somebody who I've picked up a lot from, in this past couple of years in terms of analytics.
But I'm also at a university surrounded by other great coaches. And we have a really great baseball team here. And our baseball coach, Dan Heefner has been someone who's. suggested a book to me , Deep Work, I don't know if you've heard of Deep Work, It may not seem like it relates to leadership initially, but for me it did because it really helped me to organize my thoughts.
Because as a leader, my minds kind of always go on a a hundred miles an hour. I've got a lot of thoughts, a lot of ideas, but sometimes that could be too much. And the idea of deep work is how to get rid of the distractions in our lives and really spend times working on really important things and trying to eliminate the less important things rather than not important things.
I spent a lot of time during the quarantine period, reading that book and trying to reorganize my approach to just managing my team and managing my own life [00:07:00] as well. And so, you know, other coaches that I coach with here at DBU, friends of mine that are coaches, Twitter, Facebook. Anything I can get my hands on.
I'll take little bits and pieces. I did learn early on that. I couldn't take somebody else's model and transplant it directly into my environment that wasn't going to work. we needed to figure out what pieces of it we could use, how we could change it, how we could be creative. And so I've taken all those different experts and many others and just taken bits and pieces and try to piece together.
What works. And then, each year we, make adjustments too, because every team I coach is a little bit different and might need a little bit of different things from me.
Phil:[00:07:38] that's so important to hear. If you didn't hear that folks that did. So that idea of you're not going to read a book and just take it and just plug and play into your program, into your organization, into your family, whatever, there's so many parenting books out there and I look at them and I go, well, you've never parented my kids in my house, in my city in 2000 and whatever year.
[00:08:00] Right? Like you can't just say this works. Because there's so many different variables. And the reality is just because it works this year, doesn't mean it's going to work next year on your team because you're going to have different players. You're gonna have different captains. You're going to have different leaders.
You're going to, you might have a different coach. I mean a assistant coach, you might have whatever, right? Different athletic directors, all these different things are components and variables that come into it. And I remember something that Michael Hyatt, those, if you guys don't know who he is, he's a productivity leadership guru guy.
And he talked about the fact that, when he reads. Books. He reads a bunch of books. He reads tons of books and I read a lot of books too. And something he said really stuck with me, which was, I'm not going to remember everything in a book. So I don't try to, I just remember the consistent things throughout all these different books that I've read that actually applied to me.
And how can I apply them into my life? What are the things that work for me? And I've learned that a lot of these books, they're written by people with different personalities than me and they're wired differently than me. So I think that's so important what you said there just about taking those different people, but you don't take what Liverpool does and say, Oh, sweet.
We're just [00:09:00] going to do that because you don't have the same personnel. I assume you don't or else I probably would have heard, more about your team going a little deeper into tournaments, but that and no one does. Liverpool has Liverpool players. That's the only team in the world that has that group.
Right. and the same goes for everything. So with that, we'll get into more of, the difference ins and outs of these things. As we talk about some of these other questions, but one of the things I've liked asking a few different people is, really who. Well, you know, you've coached for a long time.
You played for awhile, who really in your coaching and playing career, who's the best leader that you either coached or played with and What set her apart from the rest? No,
Michelle:[00:09:33] I've thought about this question a lot and I really tried to zero in, on one person. And in the end, I just couldn't decide on one person.
And that's exactly why we've decided on a leadership council here at DBU. I can think of a lot of people who are good leaders in their own, right. With a lot of different styles of leadership that I either played with, or that I've coached. And some of them are here on my staff now. I mean, I have an assistant coach here that played here.
Who's an unbelievable leader. She did a great job here as a player [00:10:00] was a great player, was an all American, but also a fantastic leader. She's a young assistant coach now, but she's doing such a great job in her role with our team now. And. I think it's just a tremendous young coach. I've got graduate assistants on our staff that also went through our program that were also great leaders as players, but they were different personalities than her.
She was a little bit more vocal. They were maybe a little bit more lead by example. And so we looked to create a leadership council that has a lot of different personalities. I don't know that I could pinpoint one person I've ever known that possessed all of those characteristics. But together we've been able to put together some good leadership groups that have helped us to have a lot of success.
Phil:[00:10:40] Yeah, I love that. I want to dig deeper into that leadership council. You just talked about, you actually have put together at your program, this training, and you're building up leaders and your captains on your team. and you do that, like you said, through this leadership council, can you just describe a bit more what that is and how it plays into the bigger picture of your leadership development [00:11:00] at DBU?
Michelle:[00:11:01] Yeah. So we usually have a council of that. It's the number's arbitrary. We can kind of change it as we see fit. sometimes there's more, sometimes there's less right now we have four. Right now they happen to all be seniors. We typically try to have at least one to two juniors in the group as well, so that we are training and preparing younger players as well. And this has been such a crazy year with COVID and everything that we kind of made our whole senior class, our leadership council for a period of time, because it was so much going on and so much was affecting them. But ultimately we've narrowed it down to four of them for now.
They all have very different personalities. we must have someone in the group who is a vocal leader and someone who's unafraid to say the hard things and be confrontational if that's necessary. And that's something that we usually that's the hardest role that we have to fill. But we can usually find at least one person on our team who's capable of doing that and willing to do that. And sometimes it can be taught, but a lot of times, a lot of that is connected to personality. Then we're always looking to make sure that our [00:12:00] leaders and our leadership council are setting the right example. So these kids have got to pass fitness.
They've got to be on time. They've got to be respectful. They need to be setting the right example all the time where they can't be qualified to be in that position. And then sometimes you just have a unique personality. One of my seniors right now is a great leader and she's like having another coach on the field.
She's not loud. She's not screaming at anybody, but she knows our game model better than anyone else. She knows all the answers. If I ask a question at practice if I go down with COVID and my assistant coach goes down too, I know we're going to be okay, because this kid's going to know what to do. If we end up in a situation and I can't shout and control the game from the sideline, which of course I can't do anyways.
And so we look for a combination of personalities for that group. Ideally it's got some seniors and juniors. We just happen to only have seniors at the moment.
Phil:[00:12:47] So, how does that team, how does that lead leadership council, as you talked about those different components, which I absolutely love. Anybody who listens to this show knows that I absolutely love I train on the DISC, love personalities, [00:13:00] and I know the importance of really understanding and being able to use the different personalities in the team for different purposes and having people in their sweet spot and all of that, which I absolutely love.
And I, definitely am excited that you're doing that, that speaks my love language But the question I really want to dive into a bit more is what does that look like in practice with developing the players, the student athletes that aren't on that leadership council and how do you use that leadership council to help you in your leadership?
How do you delegate to them different things that might normally be seen as the coach's role?
Michelle:[00:13:34] Sure. Yeah. That's a great question because. Ultimately as much as I would like to be spending the same amount of time with all of my players, it's just not possible. There's just not enough hours in the day. And so the leadership council gives us an opportunity to kind of divide the team up into smaller groups so that we can make, you know, we have a decent sized staff here.
I have a full-time assistant two graduate assistants and they're very involved with our players as well. But with the leadership council, I can sit down with the four of [00:14:00] them. And then we can talk about whatever we're going to talk about and we can give them information. They can go out and they can check in on their small groups. And so like during COVID, this was a great thing that we had already in place. It was really smooth, I was calling and checking on the players weekly, but if we wanted to do it more often, they could check on their group of, you know, five or six players.
That way we've got somebody constantly reaching out to our, especially our younger players, especially our freshmen, making sure that no one falls through the cracks and these leaders know, a lot of times they can just handle it. You know, they can talk to the players, they can provide support, they can advise if somebody's needing something, but if it's more than what they can handle, then they know to come to me.
And at that point I can get involved. Because as much as, again, I'd really love to be able to spend an hour a day with every one of my players. nobody can do that. And having the leadership council allows us to delegate some of those responsibilities. I think it's really, really important to give them real meaningful ownership over the program.
So a lot of things that I do, I run [00:15:00] through them first. You know, I ask them what they think, ask for their ideas. I think maybe early on in my career, I wouldn't have done that as much. Maybe again, out of a fear of feeling like I was supposed to have all the answers. And a lot of times I have my own thoughts on what needs to happen, but I think if it can come from them it's really beneficial for the team and it helps them to feel ownership over the team, which is going to help them to give more of themselves to help the team be successful.
And so they're pretty involved. Whether it be, little things like, you guys like the recovery drinks that we're using right now, all the way down to like, if something happens with the team and we have to deal with maybe some broken rules, there's some consequences. Like they might be involved in how we handle that and how we go about dealing with some of the more uncomfortable situations that arise in a group setting. So we want them to feel like this is their team and it's not just my team and they're not just an employee, but that they're an owner and that they have meaningful roles to play and, and they have a say and that I'll listen.
Phil:[00:15:58] And you talked about [00:16:00] earlier we talked about the personalities. Do you guys use an assessment? Do you do something? Do you train on it at all?
Do you talk to the players? Do they understand each other, all that? what's that look like in your team,
Michelle:[00:16:09] we've done a few different things over the years, and it's funny that you say this because I listened to you and Paul speaking about personality tests the other day. We actually have spent quite a bit of time on the Enneagram, which I know that you thought wasn't probably best for a team environment.
But that was really enlightening for our team and we haven't done it this year, but we did it when the group of seniors I have now were freshmen and they loved it. And it really changed their perspective on each other and it helped them to understand one another better. And I think brought a lot of compassion for one another and especially for different personalities and different ways that people receive information.
It also. Brought a lot Enneagram in particular, a lot of reflection, personal reflection on yourself. Why am I the way that I am and why do I respond this way? Why am I quick to be defensive? For example, when someone gives me feedback. And so the Enneagram was [00:17:00] really interesting. I mean, I certainly don't think it's the end all be all to anything, but it was a helpful way to get, 18 to 22 year olds who I don't think typically have a lot of.
Self-reflection time in their lives to look internally and kind of recognize some things about themselves. And then also to look at their teammates and say, okay, maybe there's a reason that this person is like this, and maybe she responds differently than I do for a reason. So that's what we've used more recently.
And I really do think it made a tremendous difference. They still talk about it. They come in my freshmen now we haven't done it with them, but they all know because all the upperclassmen, as soon as they got here, Or like making them take Enneagram tests and talking to them about it. Yeah. we've done this in the years back and we've done a few others.
The university does it for all the employees, not DISC, but Myers-Briggs so we've used some different ones, but that one has been really fun for the team.
Phil:[00:17:50] Enneagram is fantastic. Like you said, the best use of it is the introspection part of it to really self-reflect and be able to dig deep into the motives and the why [00:18:00] behind the, what.
Type stuff. they're all for different purposes that I talked about on that other episode, if you want to go back to listen to that, that was the post-match episode that Paul and I did a few episodes ago, depending on when this comes out. again, like you said, none of them.
Take care of everything that you need to do, like Paul said, the biggest thing is, is to really be able to do what they'll use and what they'll be able to really dive into. again, the, Enneagram's a bit more complex, which is why it's somewhat difficult, more difficult in a team setting to remember what everyone is, And you're not supposed to type other people.
That's the other part of it. that is, it's frustrating. That's frustrating for me too, because I like to figure other people out. so that's, fantastic. I loved it to hear that because the intentionality is something that I think is really, to, to hear is to not just go into it and assume about people.
I think that's just a great life lesson you know, you don't want people doing that with you, you don't want just people assuming that you did something therefore XYZ. I've seen, as I do training with the DISC, with the soccer team that I have.
We've got a lot of tears because girls especially go, wow, [00:19:00] now I'm actually understood. This is amazing. And I think when people feel understood, there's not a lot that a lot of people that don't like that. the other thing that I wanted to Talk about there is you talked to, you know, as far as going back to the leadership in the, different things that you've done in the leadership council and all that is.
So I just love the, again, the intentionality with that, to be able to give them the responsibility and do some other things, but there's an actual. Game that you guys played, which, going back to steal like an artist. I don't think you made this up if you did correct me if I'm wrong, but this game throat and, folks out there, it sounds like, some thing that you do at, some other place other than a soccer, good healthy soccer area, but what is this game and what is it teaching and how are you using it in your programs that was so that I was just gonna hopefully learn from it.
Michelle:[00:19:45] Yeah. I wish I could claim it as my original idea, but I couldn't even tell you who I got it from. It was at the convention years ago. And again, we've modified it. And my team lovingly named it cutthroat. I don't think that's what the original coach who I heard it from called it. I don't know what [00:20:00] they called it, but essentially what we do is we look for opportunities to give our leaders The actual opportunity to lead.
So they need to practice it. If we want them to be good at shooting, we ask them to practice shooting. if we want it to be good at their first touch, we asked them to practice that. So why should leadership be any different? So we've tried to find ways to put them in these situations before a game, and before they find themselves in the situation.
So. Cutthroat is a game where we split the team into small teams. Essentially they play like a round Robin tournament and each team has a leader or a captain at the end of each game, based off of the outcome of the game, whether you win, lose, or tie. You have to potentially cut a player from your team and you have to do it publicly in front of the whole team.
There's some variations of how we've done this over the years, but the idea is that you have to eliminate cut a player from your team because they didn't help your team be successful. You have to do it publicly and you have to tell them why. And then that player goes into a pool of players with the other players that were also cut, and then they get re [00:21:00] selected to play by the other teams again.
And what this does is it puts the leaders in a position to be brave and bold and say the uncomfortable things that are often very hard for them. We find that it's very hard for the girls that we coach to be honest and say these things and be direct and also be vulnerable to stand out in front of their teammates and receive that feedback.
And honestly, it's way harder on the captain. Who's required to cut a player. we have found than it is on the players that are being cut. They don't like it, of course, but most of the time they kind of know, you know, I didn't play well in that round. Yeah. I'd cut me too. But it's so hard for some of our players.
They get put in that position to have to do that, and they don't, you know, They don't want to be the one to tell their team that they weren't good enough in that particular game. But it's uncomfortable, but we try to create situations where they can be uncomfortable. We try to give each other permission to be honest because we just want what's best for each other and what's best for the team.
And it develops, some mental toughness as well. Like just being able to handle feedback and receiving it as [00:22:00] such, not as criticism, but it is helpful information. That's going to help us grow. So we've played a lot of different variations of it. We usually use our leaders and our upperclassmen, but I have done it with some younger players just to experiment and put them in some uncomfortable situations early.
So that's cutthroat and we, we have a lot of fun with it, but it can be hard and it can be risky if your team is not prepared to as well. So we don't just go out on day one and do this. There's gotta be a foundation built first. Some relationships cultivated, some trust builds and understanding that we're all for each other and that we support and love each other.
And that we just want to help each other be our best. I think if you don't have that, you've definitely could not do this. And I think there's a level of maturity required as well. Like I don't think I would do this with youth players but these are adults and we treat them as such and. We think putting them in uncomfortable situations is, crucial for their development.
Phil:[00:22:52] A lot of stuff there that I definitely want to dig into a little bit more. The one that I want to start with is something you said towards the end is the idea [00:23:00] that you wouldn't do this. If there wasn't trust built up. I think what you said that you didn't say these words, but what you basically said is if it's not a healthy culture, if it's not a healthy organization, I wouldn't do this.
again, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but that's what I heard. And there's that trust Patrick Lencioni has a great quote. That is where there's trust. Conflict is the search for truth. And where there's no trust, conflict becomes politics and someone's gotta be right and wrong.
Someone's got to win and lose. And I think that hits it on the head. And in this, it sounds like that's what you're seeing too. So, you know, put that into that game. You have these players that they're put in these situations and there's conflict. There's an issue. Okay. So it's a search for truth. Who was the worst player who was, whatever those standards are.
And I think that's a great leadership lesson too, even beforehand to say, okay, here's gonna be the standards. Here's how I'm going to choose. Who's going to be cut and you go out there and you do it. And it's clear. Right. And then if they don't stick to that and they're doing it based [00:24:00] on their, who they like or who they don't like or whatever, then their leadership is going to be questioned.
And those are all great leadership lessons to be consistent with what. So, I mean, I could just see so many, like you said, so many variations to not do the standards and see what happens and go, well, that wasn't fair, but if they do the standards and to see it right. So they learn these different things.
I think that goes to jobs. And to say, if you didn't have a, if you didn't have a job description and you tell them they didn't perform well, they go, wait, you never told me what I was supposed to do. Right. if you're a parent, you never give here's what we expect. And the kids do something that you didn't like, and they say, what mom and dad, you didn't tell me that he wasn't saying, you know?
Right. And so I think that there are so many different applications. is that kind of what you're talking about with different variations that you're putting different things in like that.
Michelle:[00:24:43] Yeah. I mean, we, in terms of just teaching the game in general, try to be really clear about our expectations for our players.
We have a very clear game model. We go through all of that before we would do something like this first and foremost. So they know exactly what the standards of our program are, but also we would spend time prior to [00:25:00] that, off the field, just in some personal development with our team. For example here at DBU.
I mean, we're fortunate, we're faith based institution. We get to share some really personal things. And so our players might share their personal testimony or they might, we usually create some sort of a couple of years ago. We did it get to know your, it was called, get to know your teammates questionnaire.
And it was like four questions that they would stand up in front of the team and answer about their past, about their life, just to get to know them better. And those questions encouraged some vulnerability right now we're doing something and something else I stole from someone else. We called the four H's.
I heard this watching football with my husband a couple of weeks ago. NFL commentator was talking about one of the teams. Can't remember who it was. But they had done the four H's with their team and all their players and all their coaching staff had to stand up and share their history their hopes, their there's two more H's.
I'm going to draw a blank right now on that, but we're going through this currently with our group. And so Oh, their heartaches history hopes [00:26:00] heartaches, and there's one more, but that way they stand up in front of the team, they share some of. their heartbreaks in life and they share what their hopes are for the future.
They talk about where they came from and how they ended up at DBU. And by the time you get out on the field, you've already done all that. And so now you've had a senior stand in front of the team and share about how her sophomore season was heartbreaking because she wasn't fit and she didn't play. And it was so hard and she learned not to put her identity in her, who she was in her soccer, but that her identity came from her creator. And by the time they hear all that from a senior, who's now a captain and a senior, and they never saw that side of her. There's a lot more trust that they can be vulnerable as well. And they tend to receive that criticism a lot more positively.
Phil:[00:26:43] When you have a healthy culture, you can do so many things.
And when you don't, when it's toxic, you can hardly do anything without having people be hurt. And, so that's something that if there's one thing you hear have a healthy culture, you can do a lot of really cool things. but that does take intentionality to get there.
It doesn't just happen [00:27:00] overnight. And We have some really successful quote unquote winning coaches who you need to talk to their players and They're not going out of that program going, I absolutely loved it. They won a lot, but then you have some other places that were very intentional develop leaders and people and human beings, and maybe they win, maybe they don't, but it's an amazing experience and they're going out and producing amazing human beings.
I know which I'd rather be. I have a feeling you're on that latter one too. And hopefully you're winning along the way too. So that's encouraging. with that we, we talked about before the fact that coaching and leadership and soccer, I think you said when we talked about it first and foremost, it's about relationships and simultaneously we need to have boundaries.
I mean, you've talked about some of the things you've done with the leadership council and the relationships with them and the relationships that they'll have with the others and the small groups and so on and so forth. But what do you mean by that? When you talk about relationships, but also the boundaries.
What does that look like in practice as you're coaching?
Michelle:[00:27:56] obviously the most coaches understand that, we're not their [00:28:00] friends, we're not their parents, we're not their peers, but sometimes we serve those roles. But knowing where the, where to draw the line is critical. I think for most of us, it's obvious where to draw that line.
It's just, you have to be intentional not to slip. Into it. And so, mentorship, as we think of our role here is unique to be an advisor for a player at confidant, but also be able to push them to grow as a person, as athletes. It's a really fine balance, I think, to be able to do both of those things.
I think, when I was younger, it was maybe harder when I was closer to their age. I think now that I've gotten older, And now I'm like closer to their parents' age and that's how they see me. That it's a little bit less likely that that would be a potential issue. So maybe in my twenties, that was something that I needed to be a little bit more intentional about.
But I think also we don't want them to think of us, even though they might look at us as like a parent figure. Ultimately, we want them to be adults. And so we want them to come to us if they need help, but we don't want them to rely on that [00:29:00] as they might a parent. We want them to be independent and to, to grow up and to come to us for guidance, but not for solutions.
it is a balance that is maybe different with every player. It dependent on what their needs are. we have players who. Maybe are lacking a specific relationship in their life. Maybe they've got a damaged relationship with one of their parents or one of their parents has gone.
And so maybe we do fill that role a little bit differently than we do with a player with a healthy family life with two parents at home. So I think it takes some discretion and discernment, which takes, time to develop as a coach wisdom just comes with time and experience. But I think that in the end we all know what's appropriate and what's not, and we just have to hold ourselves to those standards.
Phil:[00:29:44] Yeah, absolutely. that goes across the board to all kinds of relationships. whatever the relationship there's boundaries that are appropriate in any given thing and to know what those are, to be able to set them up to be clear about them too, I think in the relationship and when something [00:30:00] happens where it, rather than just saying, Hey, that's out of bounds, but to explain why.
We talk about that in parenting. We talk about that all the time and we've talked about it ourselves, just as far as the, parallels. And we'll talk about that a little later, too, but when you tell your kids, if I have to choose dad or friend.
I'm gonna choose dad every day of the week. Now, hopefully, it can be a, both and most of the time, but there will be times where I have to choose and I'm going to choose dad. because you only have one of me. A lot of that we talked about really leads into this question That I'd love, to hear what you have to say. from a leadership perspective, as you have coached over the last 15 years or so what is one thing that if your players at the end of their time with you, if they left your team and didn't have this one thing. You'd feel like you didn't do your job. Well, you feel like you failed with that kid.
What would that be?
Michelle:[00:30:43] I think first and foremost, I'd say compassion. leading is about being able to recognize everybody's coming from a different place and everybody's got different things going on in their life.
And compassion is really important. And. we want to have high standards and we want to hold our players to those standards now. [00:31:00] No, when I was an athlete, I was driven and motivated and ambitious, and I wanted everybody to be like that. But when I became a coach, I realized not everybody is the same as me, but that's okay.
And I think compassion allows us to recognize that our teammates might not have the exact same motives or live their life exactly the same way, but that recognizing that there's maybe reasons for that and seeing their value, despite that even if they are different than us and being able to recognize, especially when someone's struggling.
And not give them a free pass because there are certain expectations and standards you have to meet if you're part of a team, no matter what, but recognizing that sometimes the things that are going wrong in someone's lives because of other things that are outside of their control and that they're just learning how to manage.
I think the second thing I would say is willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. That one seems a little bit more obvious. But I think for all the leaders I've had here, they start out young, 18 freshmen in college. They wanna play, they want to win. They want to be successful, but [00:32:00] maybe they're not thinking about the bigger picture and the team.
And by the time they're seniors, most of the time we feel like they have a pretty good sense of Being able to say, Hey, I will, of course I want to play. And if absolutely we're trying to win, but they are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team be successful. Even if that may mean they aren't the one on the field all the time.
And I've seen that from great players on my team and great leaders on a team that recognize in the moment that maybe they're not the right choice. And I don't have to deal with the potential negatives of, that because they want the team to be successful and they put the team first.
Phil:[00:32:32] So if I had to put those both together, it basically be servant leadership.
Michelle:[00:32:37] Absolutely. Yeah,
Phil:[00:32:39] That shines through in how you're doing it. So I think that's the good thing, that I can say, just hearing you, it sounds like you're doing a good job with that.
And I'd imagine if I talked to your players, they'd probably agree with that as well. the last couple of questions we ask everybody. The first one is how, how have you used the lessons you've learned directly from soccer, from the beautiful game, in your leadership, in your marriage, and your parenting and your own home. [00:33:00]
And this goes to something else we talked about as well. We always ask that question, but something else we talked about, as you said to me, the way I coach is the way I parent and I talk about that all the time as my leadership, as well is the parallels are uncanny, I don't care which way you start, but those two questions you might have the same answer for both.
So I didn't want to force you to have different answers for all of them, if you didn't, but I'd love to hear you just answer that. And we can have a conversation about that concept of the way I coach is the way I parent and how you're using the principles directly from the game in your marriage and your parenting and other areas of your life.
Michelle:[00:33:32] Yeah. I think there's a tremendous amount of crossover for me. I don't have the ability to just kind of shut it off and go home and be a different type of person. I'm the same all the time. My, I have two boys they're 10 and 11 and they know that my husband, God bless him, understands and knows that as well.
But one, book that I don't know if I mentioned this earlier, but Mindset, which I'm sure you're familiar with that has really influenced both my coaching and my parenting. Really my parent, I read it. To help me in coaching, but as I [00:34:00] was reading it, it helped me a tremendous amount with my boys because both of my boys are dyslexic both very bright, intelligent kids, but early on, really struggled to learn to read.
My oldest son is very much a perfectionist to the point of he'd rather not do something than fail at it. And it's really, it was really problematic early on when, and he's only 11, almost 12 now. But we try to apply that concept of a growth mindset, not just with my team, but with my kids, we taught them what growth mindset was a fixed mindset.
We tried to make sure we emphasize praising their efforts and their heart and not just the outcome of whatever it was they were trying to do, not their natural talent or their natural ability but what they were putting into it and their character. And so, I started off reading that book, thinking about my team here, but really it's influenced my parenting.
Just about as much or potentially more so than anything else. in addition, we had two sayings at my house that I could easily take and say them out on the soccer field or [00:35:00] here or at home with my family. And one of them is not gonna sound super profound, but it really has guided my kids. It's a tough situations and that's just, Lenard's never quit.
And we almost brainwashed them early on with this idea that Lenard's never quit. we don't care if you win. We don't care if you score, no matter what happens, you never quit. You get back up, you keep trying. And my kids now that they're older, say it all the time. they hold themselves accountable to that.
If I try to get them to quit something, they'll be like, well, what do you mean? s never quit. We can't quit. And so it's built a lot of resilience and grit into them that I think will pay off for them. whether they end up being great athletes or not, doesn't matter to me.
But what I do want is that they grew up to be good men who could lead their families. And I think that that idea of, continuing to fight through adversity tough times is really important and has to be taught and trained. Rather than just expected some people I think come by it more naturally.
But I do think my older son has shown now he's in middle school, [00:36:00] he's gifted and talented and gifted and talented classes. So he's doing exceptionally well, but it took a while at first we were like, because never going to learn to read because he just didn't want to do it cause he hates to fail.
So that's one saying Lenard's never quit. And then the other one that my father-in-law used to say to my husband growing up all the time. Was when it's too hard for everyone else is just right for you. And that really has defined my husband. And I love that. I love that saying and so we use it with my kids and that's really how I try to teach my team.
there are some things that other programs may not be doing. But Hey, just because it's too hard for someone else doesn't mean it's not the right thing for us. an example of that with my team is. hopefully if you watch us, if you were to watch this play or follow us at all, I mean, my team is never out of the game.
2019, we actually had an undefeated season up until we lost in the sweet 16. I think we were behind in five games. Not that we want to be behind, but we came back, we were behind late and we were scoring late goals to come back and that's something we've had to work toward. I've had to develop.
We weren't like [00:37:00] that three years before that. And we realized that. And so we've specifically trained that we worked on that mentality on that never quit mentality. We trained those situations well, and then it led us to an incredible season in 2019. And so those two things go back and forth between my parenting and my coaching, as well as I think players would tell you that anything I ask of them or I try to teach them, I really emphasize trying to teach them why we're doing what we do.
I want them to learn, to learn and to learn why we're doing what we do. So it's nutrition, or if it's running or conditioning or, we're asking them to use recovery boots or whatever. We educate them on that, because I think it's important to know why a lot of coaches, might just rattle off, this is what we're going to do, this how it's done and that's it.
But that's not how I did it. And that's not how I do it with my kids either. We try to teach them at home while we're doing what we do, and this is why this is expected of you. And so it kind of plays in that same concept of learning to learn. Like that's what we taught my oldest son when he was struggling with dyslexia.
It doesn't matter if you get all A's, none of that [00:38:00] dictates your future. There's plenty of evidence to prove that early childhood success really doesn't have any sort of correlation to adult success. But if you can learn to learn. Then you can do anything. And so both of those concepts we use here and at home,
Phil: that absolutely reminds me of a couple of things that a good friend of mine actually, down in Austin, Texas, he started the Acton School of Business down there in Austin. And he said something to me. I interviewed him for a different podcast. I do. And he said, we've got to stop learning to know because you can learn anything on Google.
you can just Google whatever, just to know something, but we need to learn to be, and learn to do. And it's just this, I love that. And it's that same idea of learning to learn. One of my law school professors once said my job is not to teach you the law to teach you how to learn the law which is that same concept, right?
so that wherever you are, you'll be able to learn yourself. And so to be able to teach that to your players, to your kids, to whoever is so critical, because you're going to be out in the real world after this, you're going to be out, maybe playing somewhere else, you, but you got [00:39:00] to figure it out.
And that understanding why helps you to reverse engineer some things sometimes too. I, 100% agree with that when I coach any drill I'm doing with anybody I'm telling them why we're doing it because. Otherwise, it's just, it's going to be disconnected if they don't have that.
If they're not students of the game already, and particularly in high school a lot of times they aren't student of the game, they need to understand some of it. And so that's, our job is to teach them and teach them how to learn as well. So love that.
Love that. Last question we have here is, you talked about a couple of books already, but what have you read, watched or listened to recently that has impacted your thinking on how soccer explains life and leadership?
Michelle:One book I've kind of partially through right now that I think is helping a lot, is Coaching Athletes to Be Their Best about motivational interviewing.
My personality is one that wants to always, solve problems and have the answers. And I've had to learn over the years that if I really want to help my players, I can't do that for them all the time. Even if I think I know the answer that they [00:40:00] need to figure some things out for themselves and motivational interviewing, has helped me to learn, to ask better questions and listen, and not always try to.
Be the solution, but help them to come to a solution on their own and help them to find their own way. There's just lots of research as well, to indicate that they'll be more successful if it's in some ways, their own idea. If they can come to the conclusion that they need to do this in order to accomplish this, rather than me saying, Hey, you need to do this.
If you want to be good at this, if they can say, okay, I want to be better at this. So I've got to get up early and I've got to spend extra time on it. They're more likely to do it and they're more likely to succeed at it. So I haven't read that I finished the book, but I like it. And feel like there's a lot of benefits to that.
And I'm going through a Bible study right now. Tim Keller Bible study, God's Wisdom for Navigating Life. It's all about Proverbs and about wisdom. And I just think that is tremendous. I've been burning through it. I'm listening to each chapter over and over, and they're really short, but just about wisdom and discernment.
And just the importance of knowledge in that as well. And [00:41:00] I think as I've gotten older again, that I've learned that sometimes it's okay. We don't know everything to step back and take some time and analyze the situation. And every situation is different and we have to be able to see the gray in order to make a wise decision.
And so again, I just started that at the beginning of the year, but so far it's been fantastic. And then I'm also listening on Audible to, to grit because I loved Mindset so much. And now Grit is a very similar book. I, everything I've heard in it so far is pretty similar to what we already believe. But I'm only a few chapters.
Did I have a habit of reading my three books at once? So I'm kind of a third the way through like three different books right now. So those are the top three, as far as my coaching. His concern that I'm kind of focused on course, the Bible study is going to influence my entire life. All three books probably will.
But I'm reading some other books about dyslexia because of my boys, but those are the ones that I'm reading right now for my coaching growth.
Phil:[00:41:57] Yeah, anything by Keller's fantastic. [00:42:00] Anything on Proverbs is, well, not anything but Proverbs itself. You can't go wrong, obviously. With love grit. And yeah, I haven't, haven't read that other one yet.
So I'll look forward to checking that out. Mindset's and other one, I swear, everyone's talking about mindset and I have not read it yet. Although when I say read, I, I to listen to my books typically, or else, I don't think I'd get through any with five kids. I get through the kids' books, usually with them, but that's about it.
Well, thank you so much, Michelle. Thanks for just being an example to us as the other coaches and from having that humble learning posture. I love, hearing about just how you're learning, how you're using these different things in your coaching in your life in different ways and just being a model for others.
So thank you very much. Keep it up. Keep running the race.
Michelle:[00:42:43] I appreciate it, Phil, thank you so much for having me
Phil:[00:42:45] on definitely. Well folks, thanks again for being a part of this show. Thanks again for the download. As we talked about at the beginning, there's different ways to find us. The one I did not mention is you can drop me an email.
If you have anything you want to ask any questions that you [00:43:00] want, Paul and I, to cover on our Post-match or halftime shows that we do go ahead and drop those. Drop an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any other guests that you think should be on the show. You can put it in an email to me as well.
So with that, I thank you so much for being a part of this. Thank you for your engagement. And I just hope that you take everything that you're learning on this show, everything that you learned in these different resources that we're able to talk about on this show, and you're using it to help you grow as a leader, help you grow just in every area of your life and help you to really understand how soccer at the beautiful game explains life and leadership.
Thanks a lot. Have a great week.
In Episode 62, we are capping off 2021 and ringing in 2022 with 20 great leadership lessons (plus a couple bonus nuggets) from our interviews over the past year. There is so much more wisdom in the full interviews, which …