My Work is Like a Tennis Ball

leadership, team exercise, executive coaching, team facilitation, Yan maschke, cleveland ohio

I was recently participating in a group exercise with some of my colleagues.

Everyone was instructed to pick up an item from a brown paper bag, without looking into the bag. 

Then each one of us went around the circle to describe how the item represents how we do our work. 

These are random items we see often in life. A ruler, a stapler, a highlighter, a lollipop, etc. 

I picked a tennis ball

It’s my turn to describe my work as it relates to the tennis ball. I followed my intuition and shared my thoughts with the group.

I see relevance between my work and this tennis ball in two ways.” I started. 

First, it’s the form. It’s round. To me, roundness represents integration and completeness.” I rolled the tennis ball in the palms of my hands as I spoke. 

“When I work with my executive clients, I see each of them as a whole person. He/She is a corporate executive, a parent, a spouse, a child, a civic member, etc. He/She has strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures, peace and insecurities, dreams and fears. I support him/her as a whole person.” I held up the tennis ball and gestures to its round form. 

“Also, I serve them in a holistic and integrated fashion. I help them gain awareness and drive change by exploring their thoughts and mindset (“head” and IQ), their emotions (“heart” and EQ), their language and their actions (”body” and body intelligence - every action originates from the body and the body has memory). The result is often embodied learning and sustained commitment and change.” I could feel my own heart and body getting into it as I described this.

“Secondly, I see my business practice in this tennis ball in it’s texture. It’s not too soft and it’s not too hard. It’s firm yet has some ‘give’.” I squeezed the tennis ball to demonstrate. 

“When I work with executive teams or individual executives, I highly customize our work to the client’s unique needs. I think of my facilitation and coaching effort as “dancing in the moment” due to its highly facilitation nature. Yet, I am never shy to push back and challenge my clients when needed. They hear me say that ‘My job is not to please you, but to serve you.’  I am firm in guiding my clients to hold themselves accountable for the actions they commit to.”

In summary, my work is like this tennis ball both in its form and it’s texture.” I tossed the ball up in the hair and caught it again, with a smile on my face. 

Everyone around the table did a beautiful job and I learned something about each.

My hypothesis is that no matter what item we pick up, we can resonate with something in that item - as we let our imagination and creativity flow.

Are you in for a little low-risk challenge and potentially a lot of fun? Here is a leadership exercise you can lead with a team.

Grab several random items from your office (or home) into a bag . Don’t over-think or judge the items, just put them in the bag. Lead an exercise with your direct reports or your peers in the next staff meeting or team meeting. You can ask them to describe their individual leadership style as they see in the item they selected.

Just listen to the creative descriptions and watch how much each will learn about themselves and others. Have fun!