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Leadership – Lesson 2 – Mr. Green Ball

So back in 2003 I spent over a year carrying around a green racket ball with me everywhere I went.  Amazing isn’t it?  You’re reading a book on how to become a better leader and the author is recommending carrying around a bouncy ball?  Tell your friends that you paid for this tip, and they’ll definitely think you’re crazy!  Or will they…

In 2003 I had a chance to attend a training program called “Making Great Leaders.” There’re lots of programs out there, but I feel that this one is solid and can really help you to improve.  Of course, at the time, I knew there was not a lot to improve in my leadership.  The way the course is set up you get feedback from your boss, your peers, and your subordinates in a number of different areas.  This feedback is aggregated, summarized, and categorized according to a leadership model.  You then meet with trained consultants that explain the results to you and help you to develop a leadership development plan.  My plan was rather large.

At the top of the list was my tendency to be a bit too directive and a desire to want to be involved in everything.  Mr. Micromanager.  No doubt you are shocked that a trained engineer would be in to micromanagement.  By this point in time I had come to accept that when shortcomings were identified, they were likely spot on; and, accordingly, I needed to take whatever steps were necessary to address them.

So here’s what I did.  First, I pulled together a summary of the training for my team.  I shared with them the leadership model and explained the various aspects of a good leader.  Next, I shared how I scored on the various dimensions of leadership and thanked them profusely for their feedback.  Remember, the feedback I’d gotten was much less than ideal, and it was quite a humbling experience to share the results with them openly.  The biggest shortcoming was my desire to always want to “carry the ball” and a failure to hand the ball off to any of them.  I let them know that this would stop immediately.  And to reinforce the point, I gave each one of them and me a racket ball.  They were given instructions to keep the racket ball on their desk.  Whenever I showed up in their work area and started to micromanage they were given full permission to throw the ball at me.  At the same time, I was required to carry “Mr. Green Ball” with me everywhere I went while at work.

Rule #2 – Let everyone know what your weaknesses are, and make sure they are aware that you are working on improving them.


By this one simple gesture, I made sure that my weaknesses were on full display.  Further, Mr. Green Ball served as a continual reminder of my shortcomings and my need to improve.  I’m happy to say that I never actually had one of my team throw their ball at me.  Although they did reach for it on occasion.  I’m also happy to report that when I took the survey several years later, my results were markedly different and markedly improved.

Remember that others want you to improve and are more than willing to help you do so if they know you are serious.  Let them know that you want and need their support.

ACTION ITEM 2 – Schedule a one hour meeting with your team to discuss your goal to be a better leader, and ask for their help and support in the process.  Repeat this process, at minimum, on a quarterly basis.

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Curt Stowers

Curt Stowers

Curtis Stowers helps individuals and families across the United States grow their financial assets, particularly in the Naperville, IL region. He is a Certified Financial Planner, holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois, and is the founder of F5 Financial.