Increase Engagement By Taking Yourself Less Seriously


My biggest anxiety entering this past weekend was coach-pitch little league baseball. I am the head coach for my son’s team because no other parent volunteered. It’s not that I was reluctant to help out. I’m not terrible on the mound. I just know that pitching baseballs to nine year olds with dozens of parents watching is not my strength. It’s a blend of inexperience and performance anxiety.

And while I did recruit two assistant coaches, I’ve since discovered that one has a torn rotator cuff in his throwing arm and the other has a broken collar bone. So I’m carrying the coaching staff.

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Despite the circumstances, I set out to be a strong and reliable coach. But I was so jittery from anticipating the burden of pitching that it made me absentminded about the coaching aspects other than pitching. For example, I wasn’t paying close attention to the kids, and I wasn’t watching the time, which resulted in a late start to the game.

Then, in the first inning, I struck out a batter (not the goal of nine year old coach-pitch). And then…I hit a batter. It didn’t hurt the kid, but the surprised “Oh!?!” from the parents echoed across the field.

After that first inning, I pushed my ego aside and surveyed my options. The opposing team, I noticed, had a very competent coach-pitcher. Could I stoop so low as to ask the opposing team to do my job?

I did. And the opposing coach actually seemed to relish the opportunity. I walked around to the back stop behind home plate to shag past balls and then roll them back to the mound for our new pitcher. When my son came up to the plate, he looked at me and asked, “Dad, why aren’t you pitching?” And loud enough for the parents behind me to hear, I said, “Because the other coach is a better pitcher than me.”

Once I got past that moment, all of my strengths started to surface. I could now breathe with the weight off my shoulders. I cheered the kids, found opportunities for instruction and managed the game until the end.

That decision to delegate reminded me of how this applies not just to little league but to work. For instance, I remember being asked to speak to a large group on a topic that I didn’t have much experience with. I could have done the speech, and my pride told me that I should. The opportunity carried with it large potential follow-on business, and I wanted to build my credibility with this client. But I knew it would create a lot of anxiety for me and that I wouldn’t hit a home run. I surveyed my options and knew right away who should do it. Hiring someone else to do it for me allowed me to focus on the relationship with the client rather than worrying about my performance.

As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Drop the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders. The world would go on even without you. Don’t take yourself so seriously.”

In last week’s post, I wrote about the need for a leader to have self-awareness in order to build trust with a team. Let’s face it. Everyone can see our weaknesses and insecurities, as hard as we try to hide them. If we take ourselves less seriously, we don’t have to always project our ideal self to others. We can say, “I let go of the need to be good at everything and do it all.” We can delegate important work to other people. Because sometimes even our competitors are better pitchers than we are.

When we do this, we increase our engagement in the game and we build the engagement of everyone around us. What responsibilities are weighing you down that could be handed to someone else?

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