games teach us some of the best leadership skills

I just love playing silly games…

That sounds rather strange coming from me, a high performance coach, but I suppose it has to do with me being a big kid.

At Casa de Shepherd (our house) I’ve lost count how many games I’ve come up with to entertain my son.

But what most people don’t realize is just how much insight games give us into people and their psychology.

Sit down and play a few games with friends and soon you’ll learn more about their character than you might realize.

There’s something about games which brings out the best, and worst, in people.

I remember playing Monopoly with two friends a few years back. It started out with one friend boasting that he hadn’t lost a game since he was ten. Since he was 28 at the time, I had my doubts, but settled in to two very enjoyable gamesfor me.

I proceeded to slaughter them in the first game. All the while the friend who was so confident before we sat down proceeded to get angrier and angrier. It was just so funny, I had trouble containing my laughter.

He was pissed off at the dice, pissed off at the cards, pissed off at me, pretty much pissed off at everything.

Eager to get revenge, he asked for a rematch, which was fine by me.

The second game went pretty much the same as the first. Except this time he was even angrier, if that was possible. Finally, when he knew he had lost to me again, rather than simply hand over his cards he declared he was giving them to our friend so long “as Adrian doesn’t win again.”

So what did I learn about my friend.

Well, he’s a sore loser for one. Second, he blames everyone and everything despite it being a game of luck. Third, he’s impatient (and that’s saying something coming from me). Fourth, he cheats.

Now I get it, it’s just a game. But there’s something about games that brings out our true character.

People let their guard down and show their true colors.

For me, they appeal to my competitive nature and I hate to lose. For some, they reveal their lack of interest.

Some reveal their easy going nature, while others are sticklers for rules.

Sometimes people boast, sometimes they cheat.

There are those who love to chat as the game goes on, others are razor focused on the game.

All from a game.

My son is very competitive (wonder where he gets it from), especially when it comes to playing with me. Sometimes I let him win, sometimes I play him fairly. Regardless, I see his never-give-up attitude and he’ll fight all the way to the end, even if it means he has to beg and grovel to adjust the rules. He’ll keep fighting even with tears in his eyes and it’s something I love him for.

But why am I writing about this here? And why is this so valuable to know for a leader?

If you’ve ever read the One-Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard, you’ll know that a great leader doesn’t treat people equally, because we aren’t equal.

This is a simple concept, but one many managers forget.

Each of us is unique and therefore how we like to be treated varies greatly. Some people love to be given authority and challenged, others are afraid of responsibility and shy away from the spot light. We need to learn just who we are dealing with, and how to approach each person. This is just as true in life as it is in business.

Games are an easy, fun way to learn a whole lot about your team.

Adrian Shepherd

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