The bit between your teeth. 

The bit between your teeth. 

“There’s no point in me having the bit between my teeth for the other person, I need to be passed to them.”

This quote, from Derek Clark, a well-known swimming coach, got me thinking. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realised this statement carries an important lesson for leaders (me included!).

How many times have you found yourself trying to motivate your teams, rushing to their aid as soon as they struggle or providing limitless enthusiasm when others energy is dwindling? Clark’s comment emphasises the significance of nurturing self-motivation and ownership among those we lead, rather than attempting to carry their burdens or drive their efforts ourselves. It’s akin to trying to run a relay race yourself because you don’t think the rest of the team are fast enough, or you don’t want them to be upset if they lose. And yet, passing the baton is the only really to win.

It’s absolute gold, and if you take the time to understand it, it will probably change the course of your behaviour countless times a day.

Key Takeaways for Leaders:

  1. Empowerment Over Micromanagement:
    • Clark’s comment highlights the need for leaders to empower their team members instead of driving them forward personally, stressing the importance of developing independence among team members. When a leader tries to be the sole source of motivation and energy, it’s likely to lead to burnout and living in their emotional overdraft. As a leader, your role is NOT to have every answer, rather be able to identify and nurturing the intrinsic motivation within each individual. Leaders should aim to pass the metaphorical ‘bit’ to their team, allowing them to find their own drive and motivation
  2. Sustainable Leadership:
    • Leaders who try to sustain the drive and energy for their team members risk depleting their own emotional resources. By encouraging team members to take ownership of their roles and responsibilities, leaders can ensure a more sustainable and effective approach. This not only prevents emotional overdraft but also promotes a healthier work environment. This approach also helps build resilient and self-sufficient teams capable of handling challenges without constant oversight.
  3. Finding and Fanning the Flame:
    • A leader’s role is to identify the unique passions and motivations of their team members and to fan those flames. This means recognising what drives each individual and providing the support and resources they need to thrive. By doing so, leaders can create an environment where each person’s internal fire is the primary engine driving their efforts.
  4. Balanced Support:
    • While it is essential to support and guide team members, it is equally important not to overextend or apply empathy above all else. Leaders must find a balance between providing support and encouraging autonomy. This balanced approach ensures that leaders do not fall into the trap of emotional overdraft while still being effective in their roles.

Practical Applications for Leaders:

  • Active Listening and Observation:
    • Pay close attention to the aspirations and interests of team members. Engage in active listening to understand what drives them and how you can support their goals without taking over their responsibilities.
  • Delegation and Trust:
    • Delegate tasks and responsibilities effectively, showing trust in your team’s abilities. Provide the necessary guidance and resources but allow them the freedom to approach tasks in their own way.
  • Encouragement and Recognition:
    • Recognise and celebrate the achievements and progress of team members. Positive reinforcement can help maintain their motivation and commitment.
  • Development Opportunities:
    • Offer opportunities for professional and personal development. Providing training, mentorship, and growth opportunities can help team members build confidence and drive.
  • Self-Care for Leaders:
    • Leaders must also prioritise their own well-being. Regular self-reflection, setting boundaries, and seeking support when needed are essential practices to avoid emotional overdraft.

A brilliant little quote that I think about often. 



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