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Reflections on leadership on the softball field, in the office

On March 13, 2019, TS Bank hosted the first LeadingWELL: women empowering local leaders event in Council Bluffs. TS Prosperity Group Chief Operating Officer and Director of Client Impact Kristi Krayneski served on the event’s planning committee and reflects here on a mentor and experiences that helped her become a leader herself.

The opening question at LeadingWELL was “When did you know you were a leader?”

This question sparked me to think about my own leadership journey and reflect on when I first thought of myself as leader. As with any journey, my path to leadership has many points that are worthwhile to reflect on.

My first memory of stepping into a leadership role was my high school softball team. I will be honest, in middle school I did not look like a high performing athlete. I was awkward and a little pudgy, as most middle school kids are. I had good hand-eye coordination, but was not exactly agile or fast. What I did have was a love of pitching and an outstanding work ethic. I loved practicing the skill of pitching and would spend hours working to get better.

I found many places to hone my skills: against the garage door, enlisting my mother to suit up as my catcher and throwing into my own glove when bored in my room. I had to be resourceful if I was going to get better. My dad replaced three garage doors in three years, but he never discouraged me from working hard to get better at something I loved. By the time I was 14, I had grown, was faster and was a very hard working softball pitcher.

At that time, I met my first leadership coach, Coach Ralph Peterson at Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs. He was my high softball coach and did an amazing job of instilling confidence in me. He cultivated the physical and mental abilities I needed to be a high-level softball player. Not only did he install confidence in me, but he also taught me how to play the game and prepare for each team. I stepped into my leadership role on that softball field my sophomore year and commanded the pitcher’s circle for the next three years. I thought it would be fun to share what that experience taught me and how even today I apply many of those same principles to my leadership role within TS Banking Group.

First, I learned that the only thing I could control was my preparation and my performance each game or day. As a leader – and we are all leaders in some aspect of our life – you carry a great responsibility to prepare and perform your best for your company, your team or your family each day.

Preparation allows you to have a general understanding of what you want to accomplish, where you want to go and how you want to influence the people on your team. I truly believe you have to do your homework and be ready to grow each day if want to be an impactful leader. You control how you show up to work every day.

If we lead a team, our team members are looking to us for that example of how to work hard and give all we have to accomplish great things. This does not mean leaders are not allowed a bad day, but as leaders we must understand how to lead even when a bad day arises.

Softball also taught me that there is not one team member who is more important than another is. Imagine if I did not have a centerfielder on my team. I would never had been as successful as pitcher, without a great centerfielder. Yet, we get to a work environment and we forget that it takes a great team to make things happen and have each other’s backs.

Work is not a competition – we are all on the same team and want to accomplish the same goals. Leadership at work should focus on the strengths within your team and putting them in a position that elevates the team and creates high performance. Everyone on your team should fill a role that is valued and creates growth within your business. Feeling negative competition among your team or company is not healthy and can be detrimental to the success of your business.

Finally, those early years taught me to be a good team player. Through my high school career, I did not always get the starting role I envisioned. My first two years, I filled the role of a utility player. Whatever Coach Peterson or the team needed from me, I was willing to take on.

Although I loved being the starting pitcher, it was not an immediate position I filled for my team, as I shared time with an upperclassman. I did not pout, I did not switch teams. I wanted to play and it did not matter where on the softball field. I got the chance to learn how to be an outfielder, a second baseman and a pitcher. I worked to become a teammate others could rely on and look to but I am not sure I considered myself a leader. There were others on my team that were more talented. I followed them as leaders on and off the field.

I also learned that when you make a mistake or let your team down, you must be honest with them and try harder the next time. I did not always play to my full potential each night and I let my teammates down on occasion. When those times occurred, I had to face my teammates and my coach and learn to be better the next time.

Leadership is not about perfection but is about getting better each day. During my career, I have applied that same principle. I am always willing and eager to assist with whatever I can bring to the table to help the organization. I also own my mistakes and learn from them each day. The experience I have gained and the people my roles have introduced me to within the company enhanced my love of my career, my coworkers and the company I work for.

There are times as leaders we have to step up because someone sees something in us that we may not see in ourselves. Are you giving your team this experience? Are you challenging them to expand their skills and knowledge? Do you hope one day they will fill your position? I try to expose my team to various duties, levels of responsibilities and areas of the business. I encourage them to get involved with company events and meetings. Encouraging your team to try something is a huge asset to you. Lift your team up and encourage them each day to grow, expand their roles and fail at a few things.

It is amazing what an early life experience has brought to my career. I learned so much during my time on the high school field. Coach Peterson taught me many things and it took me years to realize how much he influenced my leadership skills. We are blessed as leaders to coach our team members. What lessons are you leaving your team members with? Are you leaving them better than you found them?

I can tell you Coach Peterson did exactly that, so thank you Coach! 

About TS Prosperity Group: TS Prosperity Group is a combination of fiduciary services and institutional investment management. The Trust Division - which includes fiduciary services - has been in place for 90 years. The institutional investment management team, developed internally over the last ten years, is now under TS Prosperity Group, headquartered in Council Bluffs, Iowa. TS Prosperity Group has $227 million assets under management and is earning national recognition in performance. Joshua M. Guttau is CEO. For more information visit tsprosperitygroup.com.

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