Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Retreat? Hell, we just got here!

“There is a destiny
That makes us brothers
 None goes his way alone
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.”

The NXL’s World Cup is just a week and a half away and I, for one, am rather pumped up.  There are a lot of things to be excited about; the venue, the competition… I can tell you the atmosphere here at Prime is pretty intense and with good cause.  The camaraderie of the Prime family never ceases to amaze me. 

But I want to take a moment and reach out to those of you who may not be as excited, who may be dealing with issues that don’t often get addressed in paintball, who may not feel so “blessed”.  I want to talk about internal issues, those aspects of being on a competitive national team that are often overlooked but have a significant impact on a team as a whole.  Not the physical and mental aspects of playing the game, per say, but those issues that have a negative effect and lie off the field.  They can manifest themselves in several different forms creeping in slowly and infesting an otherwise solid crew of friends and teammates until one day, BAM!  It’s all gone leaving some angry and/or disappointed, others confused and everyone with memories of "remember when" or worse "what if?"
No one wants to experience that … some reading this may have already.  But how do you avoid it for the first or in some cases another time?  Here's how:

Surrender.  Yep, I can see many of your faces now. “What is up with Bianca on this one?  You mean give in?  You flipped on us and found religion?”  Nope, I have always been religious and most will tell you I have always been crazy.  Once again, I am going to ask you to bear with me.

To too many people in today's society (the era of social media/narcissism and instant gratification), this post is going to be a very foreign concept.  But it wasn't so foreign in the eras of the Great Depression, WWI and WWII.  Yeah, yeah, I digress but you get the point…I hope… shut up and listen.

If you are still reading (thank you), it has a lot to do with being selfless versus being selfish.  Many of you who know me personally have heard me say, “Don’t be a bad guy, be a good guy.”  Let me share with you what influenced this latest blog and why I felt the need to address this topic:

Recently a good friend and mentor of mine shared a Forbes article with me on leadership.  I felt the article really personified the “Prime way”.  I love reading and learning about leadership styles and accomplishments from historical figures.  The article itself emphasized broad leadership and management style traits BUT it translates well into a broader spectrum that we can all benefit from if we apply it appropriately.  

In it, the author said, “A leader operates at their best when they understand their ability to INFLUENCE is far more fruitful than their ability to CONTROL – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on you, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. CONTROL, in contrast, is about power – not leadership."  Here's where giving in and being selfless enters in...  "SURRENDER allows a leader to get out of the way and focus on increasing the value to those whom they serve... Controlling leaders operate in a world of ADDITION and SUBTRACTION, while the return on investment (ROI) of a leader who understands SURRENDER is built on exponential multiplication!"  

Whoa! Deep stuff, right?  That surrender comment from earlier makes more sense now, doesn't it!?  Mikey and I like to use the term “Force multiplier” when referring to aspects of the game but I think it applies here too.

At Prime, from the outside looking in, there are leaders like Mikey McGowan and myself each with traits that benefit the program. Mikey drives and leads the team and provides assets most programs would kill for.  I am more of an NCO…lol…. Shut it.  Prime, the team however, is full of leaders.  Not something every team is fortunate to have.  Every member brings something to the table. It's the sum total that makes the team successful:

·         Leadership isn't about position or stature

·         Leaders grow/have a wish bone and a funny bone.  In other words, they develop a vision (wish bone) and have a sense of humor (funny bone).  They don't take themselves too seriously or it will tear them apart.  Trust me on this one

·         Leaders build confidence; they have a positive attitude

·         Leaders control their emotions and don’t let them cloud their judgment

·         Leaders recognize and appreciate the benefit of diversity and different perspectives; everything isn't black or white, all or nothing, there can be a compromise usually that benefits all.

·         Leaders are able to accept unjust criticism 

·         Leaders are passionate 

·         Leaders have excellent communication skills, verbal (looking someone in the eye and talk with them), listening, body language. Text, Email and phone are not effective tools since there is no inflection

·         Lead with questions not answers. Leaders don't have to have all the answers 

The Prime team has been selfless and this has led to our longevity and cohesiveness.   Let me put it this way: if my Primates and I had to “clear a room” in a house where we knew the first guy through the door was going to take the hit, we would all be fighting for the spot.

So, back to “surrender”.  I assume what the author of the Forbes article meant is not the contemporary meaning of the word.  Unless, of course, you mean to serve those you lead.  You surrender to the needs of the team or greater whole and focus on improving the team and the team’s environment, putting self- ambitions to the side.  

When everyone on a team has this attitude, it's a truly remarkable thing to behold.  Things become smooth and fluid.  Groovy if you will… they become a Prime environment for improvement and success (see what I did there? Clever… I know).  And those self ambitions?  They will be met.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is not to say there are not moments of conflict, disagreement or tension.  We are, after all, only human.  We will make mistakes, we will address internal issues inappropriately at times.  This is not to say there are not moments when CONTROL is certainly required. Those moments and scenarios certainly exist.  It’s how we address them later, how we respond or grow from them, that shows a cohesiveness and understanding of what is required for success.  Once you recognize the mistake, you address it and you address it the second you recognize it.  You don’t wait.  I saw this recently in a young man I know.  And the young people he led and humbled himself before gave him what he had sought after in the first place.  It was AWESOME!

I’m going to switch gears on you for a second and look at it from another perspective.

Bruce Lee didn’t believe in “styles”.  He felt once you bought into the concept or idea that you are of this style or that style, you had already limited yourself.  If they do this, I will react this way.  But as with all things, especially say… a street fight, things don’t always happen the way you think they will and you had best be prepared.  

A teammate or leader who does not serve or surrender and is controlling (his way or the highway) would be a single style martial artist.  He is limited in his approach and therefore will be limited in what he gets out of his players/team members.  He does great in his weight class and against people without his experience but usually ends up bloody, maimed or dead when he finds himself in a knife-fight or up against someone with more varied experience. Make sense? 

The author of that Forbes article said, “CONTROL restricts potential, limits initiative, and inhibits talent. SURRENDER fosters collaboration, encourages innovation and enables possibility”.  Man, sounds like this guy read Bruce Lee’s “Tao of Jeet Kune Do”.  And I can dig it.

Finally, and I think it is worth mentioning, a controlling leader or teammate usually lacks TRUST in his team members and therefore will not be trusted in return. How many times have you heard that if you don’t trust the guy in front of you, next to you or behind you, you can’t win in paintball?  The guy who doesn’t trust the guys he has been in the trenches with will more than likely be arrogant and insensitive and probably not even realize it.  In essence, he’s a bully.  I hate bullies. Bullies have hurt many of my friends.  (Unless the Bully is America.  And then I am all for it… but I digress.)

If you find yourself on a weak team, I bet there's a lot of stress on the leader.  He more than likely feels there is a tremendous amount of pressure on him.  And, more than likely, there is a fear among the team members.  Yes, I said fear.  Chances are they are scared to address the issue.  This is what a controlling leadership brings to the table. This is the environment it breeds, one of discomfort, inefficiency and distrust.  You know what it doesn’t foster?  Winning…

Contrary to that, the good leaders learn to serve.  Good teammates will look past themselves and give everything they can.  They want to help, they want to bring the best out of everyone, they want to build on a foundation and improve it, making it stronger.  No, this doesn’t mean everyone gets a trophy for participating, that’s all bullstuff and doesn’t fit into this discussion.  But it does mean the quickest way to improve something is not to destroy it.  Remember, a good leader or team member who serves his teammates, will not only add value but will certainly gain value in return.

Here’s the thing… there is a saying that true leadership can’t be taught, it has to be learned.  And it’s a tough class.

“When what you seek is to build into others more than glorifying self you have developed a level of leadership maturity that values surrender over control. SURRENDER is the mindset which creates the desire for leaders to give credit rather than take it, to prefer hearing over being heard, to dialogue instead of monologue, to have an open mind over a closed mind, to value unlearning as much as learning. CONTROL messages selfishness, while SURRENDER conveys selflessness – which is more important to you?”

I want to buy that Forbes guy a beer.

So, take stock in what you have.  If you have a control freak for a teammate or leader, talk to them.  Find out what is motivating them.  There is a chance they are facing things you aren’t aware of.   You will be glad you did because one of two things will happen.  Either you will work things out or you will discover you need to make a change.  And that’s okay.   If you find yourself already a part of something that resembles the “service” environment of good leadership like Prime, count yourself lucky my friend… chances are you have podiumed or will podium real soon.  Congratulations.  Revel in it.  In the meantime, I will continue to appreciate what I have on Prime.  McGowan and I have been friends a long time and thanks to the Prime Program, we are surrounded by friends and family who will be friends and family long after this Prime thing is gone.

Be water my friends,
Mike Bianca – Team Prime