Leaders Offer An Opportunity


The other day I heard an interview with Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh addressing the Quarterback situation for the 2018 season. Apparently there are four extremely talented young players that are going to battle it out this spring and summer to be the starter next fall. When asked about what he has or hasn’t told his young players about their chances of starting he quickly stated.

“The only thing we promise our players here at Michigan is an opportunity.”

I love the simplicity of this statement, especially when it comes to leadership. It’s a discussion I’ve had many times with my coaching clients as it pertains to their staff and team members.

You see many leaders are under the false assumption that it’s their job to motivate people, or to make people become successful. Others I’ve spoken with have told me that some on their teams feel slighted when their performance reviews are sub-standard, or they don’t feel they have been offered what they were promised when they signed on.


The situation exacerbates itself to the point where the leader has created a habit of bending over backwards to accommodate a certain individual, expending vast resources, and dollars to ensure this person can do their job. Many times the leader has become oblivious to just how much energy and effort of their own they have committed to managing around this one person and yet still they can’t seem to perform to the expectation.


I’ve seen this exact situation play out over and over again, sometimes for years and still no change in performance or behavior from the challenging individual. The guilt and frustration the leader now experiences impacts every part of their job now and ultimately the rest of the team.


Here’s the thing. The number one job of a leader isn’t to make others successful, that’s a by-product. The most important job of a leader is to create an environment that allows those people that want to be successful- the opportunity. That’s it.


You can’t motivate people, but you can create motivating environments. You can’t make someone learn something, but you can create a culture of learning. You can’t make someone be successful, but you can provide them the tools, training & support to be successful. That’s leadership.


Your teams and those you serve as a leader, have to want it more than you do, or at least want it as much as you. Your job is to create the environment and make that offer of opportunity- over and over and over again until the opportunity is actually taken.


Sadly there are those on your team and in your organization that will never accept your offer, and that’s ok. Sometimes we get to offer those individuals the opportunity to seek employment elsewhere. And that by the way doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad leader. There are times when the relationship is just a bad fit either for you and your needs, or the organization.


Here’s a question I’ve asked many times of my clients that find themselves in this exact situation:


“Can you look in the mirror and honestly say that you have done everything within reason that would allow this person to be successful?” If the answer is yes, than what more can you do? No sense in throwing good money after bad, start focusing your energy, effort and your limited amount of time and resources on those that will not only accept your offer of opportunity, but actually excel in the role and be extremely grateful to you in the process.


As a leader in your organization you are in a unique position to provide amazing opportunities to those around you. If you are creating an environment that allows those that want to be successful those opportunities- then you are certainly on the right track.


Thoughts for the week:


-Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.- Reed Markham


-Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. – Publilius Syrus


-The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly. – Jim Rohn


-A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. – Max Lucado


-I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody. – Herbert Swope


-Vision without action is daydream. Action without vision is nightmare. –Japanese Proverb



Looking forward to our next connection

One Comment On “Leaders Offer An Opportunity”

  1. Tim, how timely this article is for me! As I am about to be installed as our President of our Local Association, it is a good lesson for me about what I should and shouldn’t expect to be in the next year! Thank you!

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