I’ve found that this is the phrase most commonly said after walking a mile in your teammate’s shoes.
- When I was coaching and my players were too critical of one another I’d have them attempt to play the other person’s position in practice, to see just how tough it really is.
- When I noticed they questioned the official’s calls or complained about the officials, I had them officiate youth lacrosse and even officiate scrimmages in our own practices.
- When they complained about how I ran practice, the game plan or the plays I called, I’d have them plan practice, breakdown film to game plan, write up scouting reports and draw up plays they were comfortable running.
POOF… It was like waving a magic wand over their minds (and mouths). The first piece of feedback heard was almost always “Wow, I didn’t know it was that tough”. Whether it was a teammate, a referee, me or my assistant coaches, by simply walking a mile in the other person’s shoes my players developed more respect and empathy. And it happened FAST.
You don’t have to be a coach to do this, you just have to be willing to invest the time. We could all stand to spend a little more time walking a mile in other people’s shoes. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way with my own child.
For those of you who don’t already know, my oldest daughter is hard of hearing. When she first got her hearing aids I noticed that toward the end of the day she seemed exhausted, became increasingly irritable and didn’t want to wear her hearing aids. We would argue about her putting them back in, she said they were bothering her and I wasn’t convinced that was accurate. Until I walked a mile in her shoes…
After she went to bed one night, I put them on and tried to watch TV with them in my ears. I quickly learned that they don’t simply amplify the one thing you’re listening to, they amplify EVERYTHING equally. I was six feet away from the TV but I also heard the furnace downstairs in the basement, the refrigerator three rooms away, the wind against the windows outside, the baseboards and the sound of the cushions of the couch just as loud. I remember this like it was yesterday, I sat there by myself and cried. I felt horrible that I didn’t believe her and that we argued about her wearing them. The phenomenon is called “listening fatigue”. We argued about it for at least 30 days but then I walked a mile in her shoes and understood it inside of 30 minutes wearing them. We never questioned her desire to take them off after school ever again.
You may not have a hard of hearing child or an overly critical athlete but that same argument is taking place on your team or in your office, it just sounds a little different. Try walking a mile in their shoes and try having your teammates walk a mile in each other’s shoes.
How To Do It:
Last week one of my clients, Phil Bolduc CEO of Neokraft Sign Inc., held what he calls The Rodeo. The Neokraft Rodeo is essentially one day out of the calendar year devoted to everyone in the company rotating through each department and being taught how to do their colleagues jobs. It’s pure genius on multiple levels. Everyone gets out of their comfort zone a bit, gets cross-trained, gets to know each other better, and by walking a mile in their teammates shoes learns their colleague’s jobs are tougher than they appear. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. Try your own version of this and let me know how it goes.