Slowing Down the Game

I coached high school varsity athletics for 20 years.  One of the lessons I learned early on is the adjustment that first-time varsity athletes have to make to this level of play.  At each level of athletic play, the game gets “faster.” Athletes grow, get stronger, get faster, and gain experience.  One of the high-water marks is high school Varsity.  In most cases, the jump from junior high or middle school to high school is large.  The speed of the game weeds out many athletes.   The levels of college and pro narrow this number even further.  The success of the athlete moving up depends on the adjustment to the speed of the game.  For the successful athlete, the game seems to slow down.

An interesting example of this comes from the fictional movie The Matrix.  In the movie, Neo, the main character, goes through the adjustment of how the matrix works.  In the end, the bullets slow down and he is able to handle dangers at a quick pace.

Moving into new leadership roles — much like on our weekends — requires a very similar adjustment.  When first “promoted,” many times a leader is overwhelmed by the speed of the position.  This happens at every level as one moves up.  The “speed of the game” is too fast at first.  This is a true pivotal point in a person’s development.  Unfortunately, many leaders fail for lack of guidance or remain in their positions until they are left behind or they burn out.  However, many become quite successful.  Below are five essential strategies to help slow down the game:

  • Do not give up! Perseverance is key.  You may be closer to your goal than you think.  A line from Edgar A. Guest’s poem You Musn’t Quit gives us a powerful reminder.  “…you never can tell how close you are, it may be near when it seems afar…”
  • Get help. Find a mentor who is or has been in your position.  Hire a coach to guide you.  Many companies have a training budget to help you grow in your position (check with your company for such a possibility).
  • Increase your level of competence. Admit to yourself that you are not where you want to be.  Know your strengths.  Know your weaknesses.  Do what you need to strengthen your weaknesses.  Below is a helpful assessment (Four Stages of Competence) on knowing your competence level.
  • Gain experience by learning from experiences. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, he had some great words of wisdom.  In Matthew 7:24-27, he describes the difference between the wise and the foolish.  The wise hear his words and put them into practice.  To slow the game down, one must learn from experiences and apply the learning.
  • Work extra. This is tricky.  This can create a “workaholic” pattern.  However, early on in the position, extra time is essential.  Much like a player staying after practice for extra work on a shot, catches, groundballs, swings, etc.

Putting these five strategies into practice will help you begin to find some comfort in your role.  There is no magic pill or perfect formula to reach the point of when the game actually slows down.  However, with practice, you will look up and notice the feeling of “I’ve got this!”

A great place to start is to know your level of competence.  Below are the Four Stages of Competence (Those who have been involved in the Crucible work should see this a familiar).  This a commonly used measurement and applies well to a promoted person’s self-assessment.  Look over each stage and determine where you fall as far as your personal supervisory and management skills are concerned.  Where do you need to improve?  What will it take to get there?

  • Unconscious incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t realize you don’t know it. What you are experiencing is foreign and you just have no experience in this area.
  • Conscious incompetence – You now realize that you do not know. Now you can begin to learn what you need to become competent.  Learning from mistakes is key.
  • Conscious competence – You are now beginning to get the hang of your tasks. You are successful but it still takes effort and concentration.
  • Unconscious competence – Now the game has slowed down. Accomplishing tasks is natural.  You have integrated yourself into your role.  You are now able to think and apply outside the parameters set by the position.

Having an awareness of where you are in your learning can help you set goals and understand that this is a process.  I encourage you to persevere when the game seems “too fast”.  Give yourself grace and keep trying.

By Byron Myers

Byron is a weekend leader and completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2009. His deepest desire is to help people believe in their God-given goodness and live lives of integrity, authenticity and feel loved and accepted. Byron is the author of the ebook, Weekly Devotional Thoughts: Weekly Applications of God’s Word. Byron is the High School Principal at Midland Christian School in Midland, TX and a successful Business and Personal Life Coach. Follow Byron at Weekly Devotional Thoughts.