Being a captain of any team requires a lot of people skills. That’s something a lot of 17-22 year olds do not have and are often the most stubborn about changing. We’ve all had the asshole captain who doesn’t know how to speak to anyone, doesn’t know how to help anyone, and everyone kinda despises. I would know because I used to be that captain.
When I first became captain of First Class Bhangra, I was short tempered, snapping at everyone, yelling all the time. It’s not fun, but more importantly, it’s not effective. These are 3 books that I recommend every single captain should read. The One Thing, The Coaching Habit, and How To Make Friends And Influence People.
I’m probably going to write a more in depth summary for all these books later (I’ll link to them in this article once I write them), but since the new year is starting and there are a bunch of new captains way over their skis right now, I wanted to get this out a bit sooner.
The One Thing
This book has the content of about 100 self help productivity books summarized into one. The main point of this book is to emphasize the importance of habits and make doing your ‘ONE thing’ first everyday.
Many people have heard of the 80/20 principle. It states that 80% of your results will come from the important 20% of your tasks. For instance, responding to emails doesn’t get you closer to the next promotion, but chipping away at that big project that has the potential to increase revenue for your company will. If you narrow that down further 80% of that 20% will be an even better use of your time. Take that to the extreme, if you can narrow down to ONE thing then you can achieve your results as effectively as possible.
Each new dancer has a million things they can do to improve, but there’s ONE thing they can do that’ll make them better the fastest.
The book then provides a number of strategies to help you identify and achieve your ONE thing. It teaches you about the importance of blocking out time to work on your one thing, actively working to establish habits that achieve those results, and many other things.
In a dance team context, every team, every dancer has a ONE thing. Each new dancer has a million things they can do to improve, but there’s ONE thing they can do that’ll get them better the fastest. It could be staying on beat, controlling their arms so they’re not so flaily, getting their legs higher, maintaining proper posture with all movements. The main point is to focus on ONE of those things at a time. It’s tempting to chase after multiple ONE things at a time, but if you chase multiple things you’ll accomplish nothing.
Every try to lose weight and dive headlong into it? Working out 5 times a week, drinking a gallon of water, getting 15000 steps per day, eating super duper clean, all at once, then crash and burn about a month later. Making that many drastic changes at once is unsustainable, but if you focus on changing one thing at a time you’re more likely to have those habits stick with you for a long time. Going back to the dancing example, telling a new dancer to learn the choreography, the formations, shoulders, nakhra, all while learning the fundamentals (posture, extremity strength, etc) is just a recipe for an unfocused and hyper stressed experience.
As a team captain, one thing we always procrastinated on was making the set. If we set aside even just 30 minutes everyday to work on the set we’ll slowly chip away at making the set. But if I work on the set, that means the dancers can learn the choreo, if they learn the choreo earlier, they’ll be better at performing the choreo and make fewer mistakes, if they do that they’ll be better on stage, if they do better on stage, we’ll win. By doing your ONE thing, you get your results faster. Read the book and you’ll learn how to apply this to all aspects of your life including dancing.
The Coaching Habit
The title honestly says it all. This book teaches you how to be an effective coach. Don’t just give answers but help the trainee find it. Let your dancer struggle a bit.
When you start captaining, you’ll soon realize that one of the biggest aspects of being a successful captain is managing personalities. Dancer A likes to get pushed hard, Dancer B needs to be coaxed a bit, Dancer C needs a bit more guidance to get to where they need to be, Dancer C likes to struggle on their own for a while and just need to be left alone while they do. Therefore, approaching everyone the same way such as giving the same advice to everyone, talking to everyone the same way, etc is an easy way to wreck a team with infighting, miscommunication, toxic nonsense, and a ton of hurt feelings. Sound familiar? Read this book then.
The book is a quick read that I’ve turned to over and over again. It’s an easy read and also easy to reference later when you’re stuck in real life. The main point of the book is to encourage you to ask more questions and guide the person you’re talking to the answer; rather than just constantly giving them advice that doesn’t sink in. It’s divided into “The 7 Essential Questions” each of which help you guide coaching conversations with others.
Using these questions, you’re going to be a much more effective captain and coach. And more importantly, help maintain a positive culture where everyone likes each other rather than a ton of bitching and complaining.
How To Win Friends And Influence People
This is an oldy but a goodie. Pretty much everyone has read this book. Yes it was written in the 1930s but everything said in this book still applies. There are dozens and dozens of rules and takeaways from this book and some of them are obvious. But something about reading someone else tell you to do them just hits different. It’s the OG self help book.
Each chapter is structured around a certain principle and a bunch of anecdotes from the author’s life or famous successful people of his era to support those principles. Those principles include
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
- Give honest and sincere appreciation
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
- Encourage others to talk about themselves
- Get the other person saying, “yes, yes” immediately
- Let the other person feel that the idea is theirs
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person
- Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement
I know most of these sound like, and are, platitudes that we’ve all heard at some point in our life. The reason we’ve all heard of them is because Carnegie sold this book to a bagillion people and made this advice commonplace in our lives. Rather than reading or hearing them haphazardly throughout your life, sip from the source.
Let’s Go Over What We Read
Have any other book recommendations? I’m always fiending for another read. Let me know in the comments below.