My first cricket coach was a great leader

The year was about 1980. The game was cricket. The town was Gladstone. And the youngster involved in this story was me. The cricket coach was Jack (Jacko to us). Who was an amazing human. Who was as dedicated to our little cricket club as he was to supporting the young players in it. 

Even when they were carrying on like spoilt brats. That is where I came in. I was lucky that I was coordinated, I could catch, and I could hold a bat. I had what you might call talent, but I had the most crap attitude. I was cheeky, I didn’t do what I was asked, and I didn’t get on well with most of the other players. Especially those that weren’t coordinated, or good catcher. I was not the best team player you might say.  

I was one of the better players, and I think I was happy to let people know about that. Not some of my finer moments, as an eight-year-old boy. I needed a good leader, who was willing to do some performance management, and not just kick me off the team. 

I think Jacko could see that, and he could see how much I loved the sport. I really did. I slept with my cricket bat, and I watched every ball of test match cricket that I could. We played cricket in the driveway or in the park and had test matches that were hard fought battles with neighbourhood kids. Those were the days, as they say… 

With a poor attitude, and not being very coachable, I was a challenge to coach. But Jacko, to his credit, and I am still grateful for this – he went out of his way to come over to our house one night after training. I can still remember sitting out on the front patio, with a very calm cricket coach.  

Who was explaining to me that there were a lot of kids who didn’t have the talent I had. And that if I kept up with my poor behaviour, I might not be playing any longer. He said this very calmly. And he shared that my behaviour was not helping the team, which stung a little. Again, all at the ripe old age of eight.  

Here are the three messages that I got from Jacko, and why I still remember them. And why they apply to leaders everywhere. 

1. Talent means nothing if your attitude stinks 

The old adage that you hire on attitude and train skill is so relevant. And relevant to this discussion. 

But in my case, it was opposite. I had the talent, not the attitude. 

If Jacko didn’t care as much about me as a child, and want the best for me, and to not only coach me in cricket, but also in life, he could have quite easily kicked me off that team. Jacko had the challenge of having a skilled team member, who had to develop a better attitude. 

Which I did after our little chat. It didn’t happen straight away, but I got better over time. Much to Jacko’s approval.  

The thing that Jacko did was to care enough to ask me what the issues were, and how I would change them to be a better team player. At the end of the day, there was nothing for me to be cranky about. I was just choosing to be entitled, because I could play the sport, and others couldn’t. In short, I just needed to pull my head in!  

I feel like leaders are very quick to give up on team members with bad attitudes, and to give up on people. When it might be a matter of having a conversation about the behaviour and why it is not working for the leader and for the team. 

2. There are always consequences for behaviour  

The consequences of behaviour is an interesting dichotomy of action and reaction. If your behaviour is not aligned with the team vision or values, there is a consequence of that on the team or on the business. That is the one side of consequence. 

The other side of consequence is the consequence of not changing.  

So, how do you get team members to understand that they are hurting (not helping) the team. And how do you get them to change, especially when they don’t want to? 

You have consequences for the behaviour. 

Back to the eight-year-old me… Jacko was patient in his explanation of both end of the consequence spectrum. From my poor behaviour and how it was affecting the team. To the other end, which was about what would happen if it didn’t change. And I love that he was able to do that. He did it without fanfare, without raising his voice, and without any big demands or directions. Jacko shared what my behaviour was doing to the team, and how he would respond if it didn’t change. Simple. Solid. Period. 

I feel like leaders are very quick to lose their emotional control when behaviour is not as expected or as accepted. The challenge is staying in control when you are having the consequence discussion. Remember that you might not have to get to the consequences of not changing. The team member might change. Winner. If they don’t, consequences work. 

3. Care factor wins every time 

You know, I talk to so many leaders, from so many industries, from so many walks of life. And a lot of them are from the 1900s. Both contextually, and metaphorically. Contextually, they struggled with the new age of leadership development, where communication is for connection, not direction. Where care factor gets you more than the screaming or shouting. 

Metaphorically speaking, think of your worst leader, and think about how they treated you. Chances are that is a leader who is old school. Who is stuck in their ways, and who thinks that people are resources not humans. Humans are just a transaction, who work for a wage, and do what they are told, when they are told.  

Jacko was new age, even back in 1980. Maybe because he was dealing with a young boy, who was very impressionable. Or maybe just because he cared for me, and for my wellbeing. Or because he was willing to do what it takes to coach and mentor someone who needed the support. Whatever it was, I am still eternally grateful for that intervention. 

I feel like there are leaders who still struggle with care factor. I have even been asked in coaching sessions how the leader can care for their team members. The answer is simple. If a team member says they don’t feel cared for, it means that you haven’t spent enough time with them. Quality time, that makes a difference. Like the quality time that Jacko spent with me. 

As the footnote to this post, Jacko became a great family friend through the 80s, and he even did the speech at my wedding in 1994. A little to my wife’s chagrin, because he talked about cricket so much during that speech. I enjoyed it ????. But Mrs G went easy on him, because his heart was always in the right place, and Mrs G and I both loved Jacko.  

We loved him because he knew you could train attitude, not just talent. He shared consequences, and he cared. 

Reach out if you would like to know more about how to be a 21st century leader, just like Jacko was in 1980. 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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