Hop, land, and go! That’s how Clint Myers, head coach of the Auburn women’s softball team, summarized an unconventional technique his players use that “puts your body in the most optimum position to react.” Many people think of baseball and softball as slow-paced, relaxed games. In reality, there are many critical moments that require highly coordinated, split-second reactions in both the mental and the physical game. Readiness and accuracy produces effectiveness. The “hop technique” is what makes this happen. (Watch this fascinating, short video to understand the “hop.”)
As you saw in the video, the hop is a quick physical reset of the mind and body immediately prior to a purposeful action. Myers said that the hop “eliminates any kind of false movement.” It prepares the player to react at the right time in the right way. Dr. Wendi Weimar, Director of the Sport Biomechanics Laboratory, who teaches this technique, said that the hop encourages “more purposeful motion” in the athlete.
Leading is a lot like being an athlete. All of the following are true of competitive athletes and effective leaders:
- They train hard
- They are careful about what goes in their mind and in their bodies
- There are very high expectations of them
- A lot of people are watching
- They have coaches
- They compete
- They strive to win
- They win and they fail
- They persevere
- They have running mates
- They suffer
- They celebrate
- … and so on
We could create a very long list of similarities between competitive athletes and effective leaders.
So how does the “hop” translate to leading? Remember, the hop is a quick physical reset of the mind and body immediately prior to a purposeful action. What does that mean in the context of leading?
Leaders don’t usually see a “pitch and a swing.” There isn’t usually a predictable sequence as there is in softball. (Although, occasionally there is: John always shows great impatience when Terry presents the monthly sales report. Or Suzette nearly always forgets to file her weekly activity log with operations.) Most leadership scenarios that require skilled responses come as a surprise. They are suddenly foist upon us.
So what does the hop technique look like for leaders?
In the moment, the “hop” for leaders is a split-second inventory of the now, looking backward, and looking forward:
- Now: What is my emotional state? Am I irritated, calm, joyful, relaxed, …
- Back: What is my typical reaction to the stimuli that I’m experiencing right now? Is that fair? Is it appropriate this time?
- Forward: Am I open to new possibilities? Am I ready to ask questions and receive healthy challenges?
Now, back, forward. Do you see the mental “hop” that occurs? With practice, you can make the hop in the moment of leading an automatic, split-second process.
In preparation, the “hop” for leaders is a daily discipline of rest and reset. As a follower of Christ, I use this as a daily habit of reading scripture, reflecting on it, journaling about the reading and thoughts, and praying before, during and after that process. This discipline is restful to my mind, body, and spirit. It also helps me to reset my perspective on priorities and to develop an attitude of gratefulness and grace.
If you’re not a Christ follower, you can still practice a daily, preparatory hop. There is tremendous benefit in taking a few minutes at the start of the day to journal about your concerns and hopes, and reflect on how you’ve been struggling through the amazing journey of leading.
Hop, land, and go!
Write that on a sticky note and post it prominently at your desk as a reminder. Evaluate your ability to positively react in leadership and consider whether the leadership “hop” will improve your purposefulness and effectiveness.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.