Want to hear bad advice? Hang around the batting cages at a youth baseball tournament. You will find an abundance there! “Elbow up, swing harder, swing level.” All bad, extremely bad advice.
I have coached youth baseball at various competitive levels since my son Grant was five years old. He plays on the team I help coach, the 14U Acworth Warriors. We played a Sunday only tournament this past weekend in Woodstock, Georgia. Our team was scheduled to play the first game of the day.
Grant and I were the first to the ballpark. We got set up in the cages and started our team’s batting practice routine. All you could hear was the ping of the metal bats hitting the balls in the cool, crisp, 45 degree air.
Slowly, the other teams started to arrive. The arrival of the teams brought parents and Coaches hovering over the players. One bad piece of advice after the other rang in my ears like fingernails scraping across a chalkboard.
The coach next to me was throwing batting practice to seven-year-olds. One of the kids hit a ball and it hurt his hands. The coach said, “That is instant feedback that you are not swinging right.” All I could think was, “Dude…its 45 degrees out and there is nothing good about hitting a baseball in cold weather.” His advice…bad advice.
Until that moment, I didn’t have a topic for this week’s post. Here are three ways to avoid bad advice:
I love to learn from coaches who have been around the game a while. I recognize it in the structure of how they warm up in the cages, the systems they have in place, and the care in which they take to develop kids. It just radiates from them.
Until you get to the age of twelve or so, it’s not real baseball. There are certain strategies that are unconventional to the game of baseball, but most be adopted to simply win now. As I coached those younger ages, I always sought the wisdom of the coaches who had already been through the process, they always had great advice. Their experiences helped me go further, faster as a coach.
Wisdom is experience. I often tell people that you gain wisdom one of two ways, your own experiences or someone else’s. Guess which one hurts more? Right…our own. Guess which one helps us win more? Right…someone else’s
Win more in leadership by seeking the wisdom of others.
Avoid the Noise
I tend to notice that the coaches that know the most, aren’t always the loudest. On the flipside, sometimes the ones that know the least, make the most noise. Have you ever been around those people that talk loud intentionally so even those outside their conversation hear them? Yeah…those people.
There was one guy that I heard from four cages over. Nothing he said was remotely productive to any child in that cage. I honestly believe he was just trying to put on a show for anyone who would listen.
In leadership, there is great value in avoiding the noise. Those name droppers, the know it all’s, the resident experts, and the one uppers. Most of the time, these are great sources for bad advice. Recognize them, avoid the noise.
Align Words and Actions
Baseball is a game of accessories now. Coaches rocking flat billed hats, sporty sunglasses, and some team swag helps them look the part. When I glanced around the cages, there were coaches that LOOKED like they could provide good advice to their players. The challenge is that their words and actions weren’t aligning. They were a first pitch away from getting exposed.
The best coaches in those cages had actions that aligned with their words. Behaviors that backed up their verbal instruction. You could hear it, you could see it. They were ready for the first pitch, their teams were too.
One of the greatest risks for failure in leadership is when our words and actions don’t align. We can offer all the advice to others we can, but it becomes bad advice at the moment that our words and actions do not intersect. Leaders who lead by example are leaders worth following. Avoid the misalignment of someone’s words and actions, it leads to bad advice.
Let me be clear. I am far from the best baseball coach, by far the most knowledgeable, and have provided my fair share of bad advice to players. In fact, I’m sure at some point, a coach in the cage next to me cringed at my guidance to players.
What I do know is that my advice to every kid I have ever coached is grounded in intentionality and belief. Every word, every action, is intentional for them to do more and be more. I believe in them and most of the time, more than they do in themselves.
As leaders, our people depend on our advice. Providing good advice is a critical function of our leadership. Any advice given should be grounded in our wisdom, silently delivered, and backed by our actions.
In the batting cages of leadership, stand out amongst the others for all the right reasons.