As the adage goes, "You are only as successful as the team around you."
When it comes to the art of leadership, the greatest challenge is always learning how to navigate people's emotions. It takes a long time to learn how to motivate people to not only do what it is they need to do, but to empower them to find their own sense of fulfillment.
Ordering people around is one thing. Having them be excited enough to take their own initiative is entirely another.
The perfect metaphor for leadership is sports. In athletics, it is imperative that every player masters their own position--with the understanding that if they play their part well, then the entire team will benefit.
To discover important leadership lessons that can be learned from sports, I met with one of Atlanta's most forward-thinking restaurateur's, Justin Anthony. A former professional soccer player, Justin used the knowledge he gained in sports to take the realm of entrepreneurship by storm--launching three new restaurants in less than six months this past year.
When asked about the lessons of leadership he would pass along to other aspiring entrepreneurs, he shared these three cornerstones:
1. Stay in your lane.
One of the most difficult things for people to learn how to do is "stay in their lane." Too often, employees and even leaders themselves feel the need to touch every part of the business. They want to be so hands-on, and in the end they become spread too thin.
In order for people to succeed, in any organization, they have to focus on their role and how it is supposed to integrate with the larger team--not try to play multiple positions at once.
Justin said, "There is a difference between understanding where you fit in, and trying to do someone else's job. It's about awareness, not overextending your skill set."
2. Hire personality, not credentials.
While there is certainly something to be said for hiring people who are qualified, Justin suggests that leaders look to hire based on personality--and how it will fit in with the team.
"You can teach anyone how to do a task. What you can't teach as easily are things like humility, passion, positive energy," said Justin.
If you've ever been part of any team, you know how important it is to be surrounded by people that gel well with each other. A negative person can be like poison. They have the potential to ruin the overall spirit, and can cause unnecessary stress and conflict regardless of their talent.
When you are building your team, look for people, and not just skill sets. If you have a supportive environment, then teaching skills will be easy. Restructuring a person's personality will prove much more difficult and costly to the team's morale.
3. Provide positive feedback.
Especially working in the restaurant business, Justin has had to learn how to manage younger employees by making them feel part of the process.
"There is a difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism," he said. "Young, old, nobody likes being told what to do. You have to frame it as a lesson, not a mistake."
Great leaders know how to do this very well. They present scenarios and let the lessons unfold, instead of attacking an employee or team member for something they did.
Great leaders personalize the message, saying things like, "If I was in this situation, here's what I would do," and give relevant examples so that the other person can learn. And conversely, great leaders know how to listen and take in what their employees and team members are saying, so they can get a better sense of how to help them perform better.
Whether you're building a business or a sports team, focus on facilitating a positive, supportive environment with defined roles and clear expectations, and then watch your performance skyrocket.