If you spend much time at softball or baseball games, you are likely to hear a coach or enthusiastic spectator encourage the players to “charge the ball” so they can (in theory) make the play/get the out as quickly as possible. It’s a great strategy . . . sometimes. Other times, because of an odd bounce or the angle or speed of the ball, the player who hangs back can make the adjustments necessary to make the best play. How does a player know when to charge the ball and when to hang back? Instincts, confidence, and practice . . . lots of practice.
The same holds true for a leader. Sometimes we have to “charge the play”, to make a quick instinctual assessment and move to where we thinkthe opportunity will be. This can result in a clear competitive advantage. It can also result in an error if the situation bounces in an unanticipated direction. Hanging back to see how things play out can besmart in some situations. In others, this strategy will allow competitors to get on base and score ahead of you. So what is a leader to do?
- Consider the conditions of the field.
Is it your “home field” that you know well or somewhere you have never played before? Can you gauge how things are likely to “bounce” on the infield (what trends can you identify)? Are there distractions like the sun in your eyes or wind blowing the dirt on the infield (other program challenges or low morale)?
- Consider the opportunity.
What is the score, the inning and the number of outs? Can you afford to hang back and make the safe decision, take the easy out? There is nothing wrong with that if the conditions allow it. In fact, this can be a good strategy to keep from wearing your staff out. In other situations, you need to speed up the game or make some critical plays if you are to win the game.
- Consider your capacity and that of your team.
Are you and your team energized and ready to go? Is everyone on their toes, prepared to make the quick play and back each other up? Or have you been going at full tilt for a long time and starting to wear out? Is it the bottom of the ninth with two outs and you have to dig deep to make it happen?
Once you have considered these variables, you have to commit to charging or hanging back. Not sort-of-make a decision (waffling doesn’t win games) . . . commit. And sometimes you will make the wrong decision. That is where the practice part comes in. Stay in the game. Try again. You only get better by working at it. That is where leadership instincts and confidence come from — practice, lots and lots of practice.
The opportunities are there. The decision is yours. Charge . . . or hang back?