Showing Leadership and Adapting to Change - Work In Sports Podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning at and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

Three straight days of sunny weather and I’m feeling good. We’ve been mid-70s and bright sun the last three days, which is perfect. And weather definitely affects my mood, so expect some positivity today!

If you haven’t listened to last week’s podcast with Ari Kaplan, you need to. Seriously, it’s a long episode, but it didn’t feel it.  Ari is one of the OG’s of baseball analytics and has some great, great stories. Plus, he shares how to break into the world of sports analytics, and much more. 

As I said, long episode but worth it -- there are some episodes, just being honest, that feel like they drag or take a long time to get to grandma’s house. Ari, man, loved this interview.

Coming up on Wednesday is Averee Dovsek -- Averee is on the women’s golf team at Hofstra, so we talk a good deal about being a student-athlete at this time. AND we discuss interning and gaining experience as a student-athlete- it’s unique being an athlete, your time is allocated to training traveling competing… so many struggle to gain career experience. 

Averee is the exception - she’s done internships at the Golf Channel and PGA Tour Radio - and we talk about what she's learned, how she’s focusing on her career, and managing her time. 

Really great stuff coming up later this week.  

As for today…

The sports career-focused question comes in from Josh in Indiana - 

“Hey Brian, I’ve heard a lot of people on your podcast say they look to hire people who are leaders or have leadership potential. Two-part question -- how do I develop leadership skills, and how do I show them off in the applicant process?”

Josh -- good stuff. 

It’s true, for a long time I’ve been saying the main attributes people need to be successful in any industry is to be coachable, curious and competitive. They are all pretty self-explanatory, but being coachable means you listen well, take to teaching, can be molded, being competitive means you will work hard work extra, want to be the best, learn new skills, look for an edge and being curious means you are a constant learrner, always curious and always strviing for more.

But we really need to add to that list. In these times, and in the development of the new normal, we need to stress adaptability and leadership. 

Let’s talk a minute about adaptability before we get into leadership. 

I have spoken to hundreds of people over this quarantine, and I’d say they can be broken into two groups. 

1: Those who freak out. The sky is falling, I will lose my job, I’m going to get the virus, the economy will crash, we’ll be in a depression, I’m in a depression. 

Everything is panic and overwhelming. 

2: Those who are seeing the problem, analyzing it, and figuring out how to adjust and adapt. They are looking for opportunities, taking some of this in stride, adjusting to virtual meetings, learning, and saying to themselves, I may get this thing… but I’ll beat it if I do. 

Now, I’m not being naive here -- there are people at massive risk for this virus and I am not advocating taking it on face first -- I’m just pointing out that there are some who adapt, and there are others who get overwhelmed. 

I know someone who is an at-risk case, she has every reason to fear coronavirus, but she’s not letting it overwhelm her. She’s quarantining, she’s adjusting to zoom life, she’s working remote and she’s hell-bent on proving her continued value to her company. She’s not wallowing, she’s adapting. 

That adaptability is important now, and forever moving forward. It always has been but will be even more so now. 

 Now let's get to leadership. 

Why do we want leaders in the workforce? Well, there are executors and there are leaders -- we need both. There are those that are really strong at a specific skill, and that has great value. A top of the line Avid editor, or graphic designer, or salesforce expert -- these are incredible skills that will always be in demand. But leaders, they have management and executive potential, they can manage a workforce, get people in line, motivate staff to achieve at greater levels than they knew they could, that is powerful.

So how do you learn it - and how do you share it?

1: Listen - I’ll start with the most boring one first. Leaders listen. I listened to a parenting lecture once, first kid kind of thing when you have no idea what you are doing, and they talked about full-body listening. Eye contact, posture turned toward the person, giving back positive body language -- not distracted by your phone, or some other shiny thing in the distance. 

Really listening. 

Now, how do you show this skill? Tell me a story on your cover letter - maybe there was a problem employee where you worked, they just never showed up on time, but you took the time to listen to them, found out they had a sick mother at home they are trying to care for and being on the schedule at certain times or certain days was really stressful for them. You were able to work out a new schedule for them, problem solved. 

Obviously you’re not going to have this exact example, but tell me a story about a time when listening helped you break through with someone. 

2: Welcome change -- As I mentioned earlier, adaptability is key, and that skill is linked directly to leadership as well. Change is a constant in the workforce, and you won’t always know why, but you have to be the person to lead through change and embrace it. 

One year when I was in the media, we changed our entire process for generating ideas and reporting. Some of the reporters looked at me side-eyed and kind of pissed because I was implementing a more intense vetting process for information sharing. Others looked at it and said this is the right thing to do, let’s jump into this. 

That told me a lot about my staff. 

How to show it: Bullet points on your resume exemplifying a time you lead the team through a specific change. So if your company re-platformed, or changed their process, or switched from HubSpot to salesforce, or final cut pro to avid. Make sure ot mention that you helped navigate and lead the group through any transition.

3: Show confidence. 

Leaders have a natural ability to project confidence. I had a mentor once who said “leaders change the temperature in the room when they enter, everyone knows they are there”

Not cocky, just confident. It doesn’t mean being loud, or being handsome - it means being highly effective and knowing it. 

Think of it in basketball -- you play a pick-up game, and first time down the court guy gets the ball, takes on the defender, draws the defense and dishes a sweet pass to a teammate for an easy bucket. 

You are immediately drawn to that dude. You know the ball is safe in his hands, and he’s not a selfish shoot it every time guy. It’s not showtime, it’s team time. 

That’s confidence, and we are all naturally drawn to that. 

How do you show it on your resume? Share times you’ve presented products or were speaking in public. If you can get up on stage, or present information in front of people, that starts to tell the story of confidence. 

4: Confidence mixed with competence - 

Let me geek out for a second here. You need competence coupled with confidence for it to lead a group. My favorite example of this comes from the first Avengers movie. 

Captain America isn’t the hero we know, yet. Aliens are invading. He approaches a bunch of New york City cops very confidently and says: 

Sergeant! I want you to station your men in all these buildings, and I need a perimeter all the way down to 39th.

Police Sergeant reponds: Why should I take orders from you?

Captain America: [kills a bunch of enemies]

Police Sergeant: [on radio] I want men posted in all these buildings! And I want a perimeter all the way down to 39th!

That is competence aligned with confidence, and that is leadership in a nutshell. You must have the ability, not just the talk. If I tried to give you all advice, but had never or barely worked in the sports industry myself… that wouldn’t have much impact would it?

5: Leaders delegate. 

Going back to that last example -- Captain America wasn’t trying to create a perimeter himself down to 39th street - he looked for help and instructed it and led the team.

Leaders don’t try to do it all themselves, they try to put the right people in the right position to do the right thing at the right time. 

That’s a lot of being right. 

Now, delegation, just to be clear, doesn’t mean giving away your work to others, like, hey I don’t want to clean the store do it. That’s not delegating, delegating is having a  large task or project with many items that need doing, and you correctly dole them out to your team. 

All of these examples of leadership can be told as a story in your cover letter. Or shared strategically in your resume format. 

If you are early in your career, you can be looking for these opportunities as well. Look for times to lead through change, to be adaptable, to delegate, to listen. And write down your stories as they happen.

I wish I kept a work journal when I was younger and interning, or in my first job. There are so many things I did, that I just forgot about and moved on. No one is going to remind you of what you have accomplished, that’s on you. 

Consider keeping a work journal, with data points, leadership moments, projects you me it’ll help when you are writing yoru resume or preparing for a job interview.

Now when someone says to you, tell me about a time you led a group through change… you’ll have already reviewed it in your work journal and can remember the event!

Alright, that’s it for today, Averee Dovsek on Wednesday!

By Brian Clapp | May 04, 2020
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