Growth Series: Reflections on Checking in on Challenges

This is the third part in our Growth Series, where our AD partners share how they are focusing their energy inward, reflecting on the values they want to work on the most, and putting goals into action to become the best version of themselves.

As athletic administrators we often have the lens of working with others on continuous improvement. Whether we are working with coaches, student-athletes, event staff or fans, we are often responsible for helping others be reflective and grow. That can be in the simplest of forms such as a conversation after an event or more in depth such as leading coaches through a professional development session. No matter what the format, the bottom line is we are most often focused on helping others improve. But who do we get to learn from? Where do we get our own professional development to grow as leaders? This challenge is a constant reminder at every InSideOut training session when Principle #1 goes up on the screen: “In order to be a better AD, you have to be a better you.” That simple statement is often a great reminder of how important continuous professional growth really is in this position.

Setting Daily Intentions

For me that growth really comes in three different ways that have been the most effective. The first is setting a daily intention around the core values in my transformational purpose statement, the second is participation in collegial cohort opportunities and the third is through book studies with coaches and other AD’s. We have spent a great deal of time in the InSideOut Initiative focusing on how to write a clear, succinct transformational purpose statement. Like many, mine has been a “work in progress.” It also was something that I didn’t focus on as often as I should even when it was memorized and included on the bottom of my email signature. Joe Ehrmann and Jody Redman have helped me realize that the real key to implementation is setting a daily intention. This is extremely helpful in my own personal growth. I now start each day when I brush my teeth I spend the two minutes thinking about my three core values of empathy, service to others and being a great teammate. What does my day look like and I how can I intentionally focus on each of those values. I then end each day brushing my teeth again before bed reflecting on how I did. This daily ritual is not only good for cavity reduction…but also provides an opportunity for daily growth and reflection.

Challenging My Own Assumptions

Secondly, for me my best growth happens when I am challenged in my thinking by others and also when there is ample time for discussion, debate and verbal processing. The different “cohorts” I am a part of offer the best opportunity for that growth. With our InSideOut Initiative Minnesota Cohort, we get a chance to come together monthly for a half day of facilitated conversations. These conversations are always focused around topics that we all face in our jobs as athletic administrators, but each person may approach the topic with a little different lens. I so appreciate these conversations as I am challenged in my own thinking and also walk away with several very useful strategies that I can implement in my own building. Thanks to the ISOI cohort model we have also been able to expand those facilitated conversations into other groups that meet regularly as well. For me it has been about changing the focus of our building administrative meetings or our conference AD meetings to include this important professional dialogue. The question is always about time so with each of these groups we need to intentionally carve out the time on each agenda (my recommendation is to do it at the beginning and not the end) to help each other grow.

Participating in Group Book Studies

The third tool that has helped my professional growth significantly is through group book studies. For me, I seem to always learn more when there is a group discussion around the book rather than simply me reading it alone. Part of that is certainly in the subtle pressure to be sure I am holding up my end of the bargain with book reading follow through, but more importantly is to hear all of the different viewpoints and ideas around a shared reading. I have read Joe Ehrmann’s book InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives several times, but each time I am a part of a book study with a different group of people I learn something new. Each of these insights helps me learn and grow. Our Minnesota Cohort is reading The Four Agreements this year by Don Miguel Ruiz and the table conversations we have as a group of AD’s on a “non-sports” or coaching book are truly remarkable. Much like the daily intention around my Transformational Purpose Statement, the lessons I have learned from being a part of this book study have really influenced my leadership.

These are just three of many different ways that have helped me grow as a leader. Hopefully one of these ideas resonates with you, but if not be sure to identify how you will be intentional about your own professional growth. Most importantly, always remember that if we really want to serve others as athletic administrators, we really do need to become the best possible versions of our own selves professionally and personally.