The Art of “Not Doing”

As my 12-14 year old rec league basketball team was getting ready for practice, they started playing 3v3 to warm up. As a few more players joined, I was suddenly intrigued by how they organized the teams and how they were getting along. Instead of stopping the pickup game to start layup lines, I decided to let them keep playing and just observe. What I saw that night was awesome.

I saw a group of random kids thrown on a team become a team. While that didn’t necessarily translate into a league championship (sorry, Hawks), I truly believe by my ‘not doing’, they grew, gelled, communicated, supported and developed on their own.

And that’s when I realized the benefits of: The Art of “Not Doing”.

  1. Allowing Your Team to Figure Things Out on Their Own

When we are constantly coaching, pointing out mistakes, and trying to teach; it does not allow people to figure things out on their own. They sort of become dependent on us to fix it or tell them when they made a good pass or to use the backboard next time. Sometimes, people just need the light bulb go off, connect the dots, and solve the problem on their own.  They won’t be able to do that with us chirping in their ear or interfering too much.

  1. Seeing Leaders Emerge

By taking a step back and watching my team practice on their own, I saw leaders emerge. They started organizing teams, encouraging others when needed, keeping score (fairly) and taking ownership. In sports or business, there must be leaders on the field and in the offices. The boss or coach is not always going to be in the huddle and if, as coaches, bosses or parents, we are always talking and overbearing, we don’t allow the natural leaders to rise up.  The next time there is a mess to be cleaned, a project to be tackled, or something needs to be done; resist the urge to control and watch the leaders emerge.

  1. Talking Less Allows for More Observation

It’s the old adage, we have two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen twice as much as we talk.  In this case, we have two eyes because we are supposed to be watching!  When I shut up, my other senses had a chance to be used – my ears, my eyes, and also my mind.  I was able to process what I saw in my own head without all the noise of me talking.  If we just sit back and observe our team, we will start to see, hear and feel things that we might normally miss. Talk less, say more.

  1. True Teams Cannot Be Forced

As someone that has facilitated hours of teambuilding exercises, I can say with a doubt – teamwork cannot be forced.  Now, you may be able to get a group of people to accomplish something by coercion, bribery or just sheer luck, but true teams are formed, not forced. When a group of people realize that individually they are weak and together they are strong, true teams are formed. When they realize the success of the group is more important than their personal success, true teams are formed. When they start playing and working for each other, true teams are formed.

If you are in a position of leadership, whatever field it may be in, I believe these lessons can be applied and make a difference. The next time you’re with your team and are inclined to over-talk, redirect, instruct or take over a meeting, please take time to do nothing and see what happens. Taking a step back just might be the leadership role your team needs in order to be just that – a team.

Written By: Seth Perdue, Youth and Sports Director

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