You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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Share the Spotlight

Every week we pick an extra two or three captains so that they can go out to the middle of the field for the coin toss. A lot of guys never, throughout their career, are able to go out and be involved in the coin toss. It might not seem like a big deal, but to those guys it is. It's a moment in the spotlight that has proven to be very rewarding to our players.

It's important to make everyone feel like they are part of your success, because you didn't get to where you are by yourself. There has always been someone standing behind you or beside you when you've accomplished something great. It's most often your friends and family, but it could also be your coworkers or your competitors or even people you don't know-like fans, for example. When the spotlight shines on you, make sure it also shines on those who helped you along the way. You will reap much more personal reward if you deflect praise to someone else. If you are truly the one to credit, this will not go unnoticed by those who need to notice. Smart managers know that there is never one person to credit or to blame. They can peel back the layers to give credit where credit is due; it's not your responsibility to show it to them.

It is always disheartening to me to see someone who truly believes that his success came solely because of something he did. This is rarely true. I once saw a young man accept an Emmy award for a story he had done for a national television news show. Traditionally, the producers of the story accept the award on stage because, more often than not, they have done the bulk of the work. But this young man was so sure he was the reason they had won that he bounded up on stage before anyone could stop him and accepted the award himself. Worse yet, he failed to mention the producers, who rightfully deserved to be there. I learned later that the young man had done very little in the creation of the story and had angered a lot of people when he stole the spotlight. He had already become known as a lazy, selfish worker, and his actions that night only reemphasized that image. He was never thought of in a good light after that, and it affected him and his assignments long after that night, whether he knew it or not.

I think about him, and then I think about the young girl I heard about who had worked very hard to make the track team and then worked her way to becoming one of the best freshman runners in the city. She won league titles in the 800 and 1500 and went into the city championships as the favorite. The 1500 was first, and this girl found herself running against one other girl who went out unexpectedly fast and strong. It took the girl almost the entire four laps to pull even, and then she won the sprint at the end. Both girls were exhausted, and yet both were entered in the 800. The young woman I heard about thought hard about the race she had just won and how the girl she had just beaten had been such a great opponent that she really deserved to win a city title, too. So she dropped out of the 800, which the other girl won. Each girl came home with a city championship, and while some people might have thought the girl was being a bad competitor, a lot of people were moved by her heart-instead of maybe coming home with two trophies, she came home with one and let the other girl come home with one, too.

There are many ways to share the spotlight. If you think about it, the most gracious winners at the Academy Awards every year are those who remember the people they should thank, the people they should bring into their spotlight. The most gracious people at work are the ones who make sure everyone gets acknowledged for her part in a successful project or event. Great leaders know that their success is dependent on the efforts of others and never let those efforts go unrewarded or unmentioned.

As a coach, I'm in the spotlight on the sidelines before every game, and I make sure I bring each of my players into it, too, by shaking hands with every one of them before every game. Dick Vermeil did this when I was a player in Philadelphia. When he came up to me to shake my hand, I felt that I had a connection with him. So now I make sure I find every guy and let him know that I am with him. It's like a general going out to talk to his troops to let them know that every man is important.

I remember when I was in Tampa coaching John Lynch, I always used to hug him before he took the field, saying, 'I can't play anymore, but take a little bit of me out there.'

Shaking each guy's hand puts them in the spotlight with me, and I'm saying, 'We have 53 guys on this team, and I need all 53 of you.'

Very few people are successful unless a lot of people want them to be. Believe me, I didn't achieve my success by myself. I had great parents, but it goes beyond that. People in the community. People I met along the way. A lot of people share my spotlight because I will never forget them.

You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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