Why your office should operate like a successful collegiate track program
In track and field, individual goals lead to team success. My experiences as a track athlete provided me with countless leadership opportunities as well as the ability to observe servant leadership in action.
Track is the epitome of what I call an individual team sport. Every second, centimeter, or place matters as it contributes to the number of points scored towards a team total. As I shift my life into the workforce, my observations of leadership are the same.
To The Start…
Most collegiate track coaching staffs have three to five individuals who handle a variety of activities. The head coach oversees everything. He may still coach a specific group, but his/her job is to lead the assistant coaches in building a successful team.
Each assistant coach has a specialty (distance, sprints, jumps, throws, etc.). An assistant’s job is to oversee the development of a specific event group, ultimately supporting the goals of the head coach.
Leaders in a work environment must surround themselves with skilled, trusted individuals like a head coach does with assistants. Delegating responsibilities allows for individualized attention to employees which improves overall work quality.
On Your Mark…
Despite individual performances counting towards team scores, training for track events is completely individualized. For example, distance runners require a completely different type of training than jumpers.
I was a distance runner. My college coach tailored my training based on my training history. My coach’s ability to accommodate the needs of over 15 individuals demonstrated her servant leader characteristics. She listened, adapted to change, and valued our abilities, while steering us towards one common goal. She was also surrounded by a supportive staff who gave her the freedom to provide this level of attention.
The workplace is no different. Every employee brings varying levels of ability to the job. Each employee’s goals are different. An employer should recognize these aspects while supporting the growth of individuals in the organization.
At the start of each track season, we shared our individual goals among the team. While that might appear selfish, we knew that if we helped each other achieve our individual goals, we were contributing to the future success of the team.
Knowing what my teammates wanted to achieve gave me a sense of accountability. The ability to be vulnerable with teammates provided me with an opportunity to take a leadership role. By acknowledging our individual goals, we were all a part of each other’s successes.
In the workplace, supporting individual goals allows employees to grow. Employees who feel supported in their growth are more invested in organizational success. Therefore, they are likely to stay in the organization long-term.
Competitive athletics is fun. It teaches life skills while also providing important parallels to the workforce. My experience as a collegiate track athlete has forever shaped my outlook on the workforce.
If it were not for a coach who showed me servant leadership while valuing my individual goals, I would not desire the same attributes in my career. My future organization will be run like my successful track program. What about yours?
Eileen Vedder is the coordinator of academic affairs for athletics at Charleston Southern University. She is entering her second year working in higher education and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in organizational leadership.