Soundwaves blog post

THREE GREAT TIPS FROM A 14-YEAR OLD BALL BOY

It’s no question we’ve entered into a new generation of inspiring youth leadership. If you’re still cycling through your “millennial’s are lazy” hot takes, you’re not paying attention. While a lot of digital ink is rightfully being spilled over the “kids” organizing the Youth Climate Strike, Sunrise Movement or March For Our Lives, lately I can’t get one kid in particular out of my head: Oakley Cannonier.


If you live outside the European Football bubble, you’ve probably never heard of Oakley. But this 14-year old ballboy will certainly go down in history for his role in one of the greatest comeback victories in the history of the beautiful game. The Telegraph provides all the color commentary you need here: https://bit.ly/2H9R8od


This isn’t just a football story. Here’s three actionable insights we can all take as we seek to win our most competitive matches.

Dig Deeper In Your Competitive Research. Every successful leader engages in some form of SWOT style analysis, looking for competitive differentiation that can catapult the business to glory. Often times, in my experience, this exercise tends to focus at a macro level and is frankly not very productive. This story proves the value of digging deep, looking for nuance cracks in your competitors armor and then putting in place an action plan to pry open that crack for the highest possible advantage.  


Empower Everyone. It’s one thing to look to your stellar players and mobilize them to action. But the truth is, they are your stellar players for a reason and they are only as good as the full organizational structure around them. Oakely is 14. He’s a ball boy. It would be easy to dismiss his role as meaningless ahead of the most important match of the season. But if he wasn’t inspired to be part of the solution on game day, Liverpool likely misses its window and Lionel Messi would today be running down La Rambla with yet another trophy. Look around your team, is every single person briefed and prepared to support your winning strategy? Do they know what to look for and are they equipped to contribute?


Be Prepared to Pounce. Agility is among the many entries into the leadership cliche hall of fame, right alongside authenticity and transparency. Though it is often preached, it is rarely practiced. Many organizations, from small teams to large organizations, are handcuffed by either their internal decision making hierarchy or rigidly focused on whatever their well crafted plan dictates. Being present to the moment and quickly acting to capitalize on an opportunity is the goal of many, but the reality of too few. Oakley teaches us the value of preparation, consistently monitoring the playing field for opportunities and the riches that come from quickly pouncing when the time is right. Ask yourself, how fast could your team act if a window to win suddenly opened? What barriers exist to seizing that moment and how quickly can you remove them?


Congratulations to the Liverpool faithful. Even though I played the beautiful game myself through college, I’m more of a Red Sox guy myself. But I’m thrilled our shared ownership has returned glory to your long hungry community. If it were up to me, I’d give Oakley his very own Duckboat parade. Once again, the youth among us are showing us the way.

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