Most Overlooked Leadership Skill

Even before I released the disc, I knew it was a long shot. Unfortunately, it was a clumsy one too. We were playing Ultimate Frisbee and we were tied 14-14. The next point would win the game. I watched the disc fly over the heads of both teams. Everyone but me ran down the field. I cringed, helplessly, as the disc wobbled, still, I had hoped it could go our way. However, my friend Jeff was on our team and he was an Ultimate Frisbee superstar. Jeff broke free from the other runners and bolted to the end zone. But the disc was too far ahead of him, he would never make it. At the very last moment, he made the leap of all leaps and snagged it in the air. Jeff was completely horizontal with the ground and his arms outstretched. The field was silent as he slid across the end zone, shrouded in a cloud of dust. A second later he rose, Frisbee in hand. Our team erupted in cheer. Jeff’s catch won us the game. His great receiving ability got the win for us and made me look good – very good.

The game also taught me a great lesson: Never underestimate the value of a talented receiver. This is a very important and practical lesson a great receiver can be a huge asset to a team. Being a great receiver is important it’s vital to be a great listener in a team environment for the groups success.

Typically, we choose our leaders for their skill at conveying messages clearly and powerfully. But, in my experience, it’s their ability to receive messages – to listen to your team, that distinguishes the best leaders from the rest. That’s because the better you are at receiving, the more likely people will talk to you. And that’s precisely what every one of us needs: to be surrounded by people who are willing to speak the unspoken. This is why receiving is the:

Most Overlooked Leadership Skill

So how do you become a great receiver?

Be Courageous

We often attribute courage to the speaker, but what about the receiver? As a speaker, you have the advantage of time and preparation. You can control what is said and how it is said. The receiver has no such advantage. Similar to my friend Jeff, he has to receive my throw, however, whenever, and wherever it lands. A receive has to be willing to listen to something that might make them feel afraid or insecure or defensive. And if the individual is a great receiver, they will take in the information or message thoughtfully, even if the delivery is awkward or the message jarring. That takes tremendous courage.

Don’t Judge

Receiving is as much about what you don’t do as it is about what you do. Resist the temptation — blatantly or subtly — to be critical of the speaker or what the speaker is saying. Don’t argue with them mock, shame, or turn on them.

Be Open

In order to receive a pass in any sport — and at work and in life — you need to be free, open, and unguarded. Yet we often guard ourselves. Powerful feelings like fear, anger, or some sort of insecurity do their best to block our ability to receive a pass. If you want to be a talented receiver, your task is to feel your feelings without letting them block or control you or your response. Acknowledge what you’re feeling to yourself — maybe even to the other person — without dwelling on it. Reiterate what you’re hearing, ask questions, be curious. Not curious in an “I will find out enough information so I can prove you wrong” way. Be curious so you can understand what the person is saying and so you can understand what’s underneath what they’re saying.

Final Thought

If you can be courageous, avoid judging, and stay open — even if the toss is awkward and the message unsettling — then, you’ll be able to catch receive pretty much anything. And when you’re skilled at that, you’ll be a most valuable player of any team you’re on.


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