As I sit here today entering my 16th season in professional sports, I take more time for self-reflection and to review what has gone right, wrong, and everything in the middle. When it comes to the successes I have experienced in my career, the one thing I keep coming back to revolves around a single word. Relationships.
Why relationships? Because a relationship is how I ended up in this industry. It was never a desire of mine to work in sports and I knew nothing about the business side of the sports universe. Because relationships are the foundation of everything that makes us human. Whom we are, whom we become, and how far we can go in life are dependent on the relationships we develop over time. Both good and bad. We learn as much from failed relationships as we do from successful ones. One of the top reasons for failed leadership and growth in individuals stems from lack of self-awareness. How does one gain self-awareness? Through relationships. Relationships tend to be a mirror into who you are as a person. I have heard many times over the years that every individual is a sum total of their five closest friends. I believe that more and more every day.
I listened to a podcast recently that discussed a segment of pro athletes who were trending toward being the most depressed they have been in history. How can that be? They achieved the top level of their profession. They make incredible money to play a game. They have power, notoriety, and influence. They have a platform to help others. Sounds like a recipe for a life of joy. What has been discovered is... this generation of athletes have lived their lives plugged in to their headphones. On the bus, in the locker room, on the plane, and quite virtually everywhere. They are not communicating. They are not growing with one another. They are not learning to understand others in a way that helps create the community and common goals that lead to championship performance. The foundation of a relationship is communication. Without communication, we cannot understand. Without understanding, we cannot live in community. Without living in community, we cannot succeed at the highest level possible because success at the highest level requires quality relationships.
Now turn this mode of thinking to today’s students, employees, and leaders. The best organizations have high clarity. High clarity comes from elevated communication. Where does elevated/quality communication come from? Relationships. Whether you are getting started in college, seeking your first job opportunity, finally landed the job that will become a career, climbing the career ladder, or you have reached the top, you must seek quality relationships. Ones that will drive you for greater things. Those that challenge you to grow daily, live virtuously, and create value. One of my favorite quotes comes from MMA legend, Frank Shamrock. “Every fighter, to become great, needs to have someone better to learn from, someone lesser to teach and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.”
We often find leaders have a tendency to silo themselves. They do not want to be too real with their employees because they feel it could jeopardize their position. There is a fine line between too much and not enough. Employees need to know you are just like them and went through some of the same struggles in your climb.
No matter what stage of life you are in, be a relationship-driven person. Be a connector that focuses on building value in every relationship. Help connect others to one another in ways that help grow their careers and add value to their lives. As a student, start creating contacts and relationships now. Then never stop. Take off your headphones and start having meaningful conversations. We need community. Learn about each other’s differences and how to work together to become a championship force.
Every player on a team must trust the player next to them to do their jobs. If you do not know who is next to you, how can you trust they will be successful when their time comes? When the ball is hit to them. When their play is called. When they pick up the phone to call and make the sale. When decisions are being made that affect the team. Whom can you trust? Whom can you rely on? Be the relationship driver for your team or organization and create the most valuable asset you will ever have…relationships.
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people” - Steve Jobs
Nick Richardson is the Director of New Business Development at the Texas Rangers Baseball Club. He started his sports career with the Rangers in 2004, and has been with the team his entire 15 year sports career. His passion and purpose surround the development of people in life and career.