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I didn’t go to business school. I’ve never taken a leadership training course. Before founding TeamSnap, I’d never hired a single employee or led a team. And yet, as one of the leaders at TeamSnap, I’m called upon every day to inspire, manage and empower our people. The secret? A whole lot of trusting my gut.
My situation isn’t unique. Every season, thousands of brand new coaches and club administrators suddenly find themselves thrust into leadership roles because they volunteered out of love for the kids and their sport. These are heroes in my book—people who step out of their comfort zones to give back to their neighbors, families and communities.
This is even more relevant today, because sports are returning at an unprecedented pace with little time to prepare. New coaches may find themselves at a first practice mere days after they’re drafted to lead a team. With new rules in place about player safety, leadership is about more than just what happens during play.
The first few weeks or months as a new leader can be intimidating.
It can be daunting the first time a brand-new hockey coach faces her team of six-year-old mini-mites on the ice. Or the first time a new club president has to run the board meeting. I still remember my early days as a leader at TeamSnap, feeling unsure when running a staff meeting, nervous about presenting to investors, tongue-tied while conducting a job interview.
So I did what comes naturally: I trusted my gut.
I thought back to my favorite teachers, my most impactful bosses, the coaches who had motivated me to give my best on the field. I remembered the moments that I’d felt heard, where someone had exhibited servant leadership or given me candid feedback to help me grow. And ultimately I realized that I already had a model for how to lead, because I’d already experienced what it means to thrive under great leadership.
I also knew that some basic values I cherish in my own life—trust, compassion, teamwork, respect—could be my north star as I learned to lead. Those beliefs are so integral to who I am, my gut told me when I was straying from the right path. If a policy, a process or a conversation doesn’t feel right, my instincts are usually correct.
Let me be clear—I don’t think there’s a right way to lead. What works for me and for TeamSnap might not work for you, your team or organization. But I also believe that the world needs more leaders, especially today when we’re all adjusting to a new COVID-19 reality. Too many people are afraid to step forward and raise their hand for lack of experience, but hard times are where leadership is needed the most. I’m here to tell you that you already have many of the tools if you trust that others want to be treated the way you were treated by your best leaders.
Raising your hand when leadership is needed is a gift you can give right now. Seek out mentors, read leadership books, but also trust that you can do this. Your kids need you. Or your team or your organization or your community. Say yes to the challenge.
You will make mistakes. Just like perfecting the slap shot or mastering the curveball, don’t expect to be the world’s greatest leader on day one. I’ve made enough mistakes in 11 years at TeamSnap to fill a blooper reel. People are forgiving. You are more ready than you think you are. Your instincts are right. Trust your gut. Your team is waiting for you.
Andrew, Founder & Chief Creative Officer at TeamSnap, also actively directs and performs improv comedy to remind himself to say, “Yes!”