Could Boxing Make Me a Better Leader?

Its been a hot minute.  Like six months since I've written about boxing.  Catch  you up later, but in summary, still a hobby boxer. A few months ago I added adult technique classes to the fitness boxing but they don't spar at my gym. Still super fat and old, but I'm kinda sporty now.  

Anyhow, today was a rough day at work. It was one of those days when your best isn't good enough. And there is some conflict which is part of the human experience but I don't prefer it.  Was in a little bit of the feels before class.          

So I asked coach (who is an amateur fighter and general bad ass) to talk about losing.  Or what he says to losers.  He was probably the wrong person to ask because I don't think he cares about losing.  Only winning.  Because winning fighters mostly focus on themselves and what they do and what they can bring. He's commented before that he's less concerned about others because at his level - everyone hits hard. And everyone's good.  

Could boxing make me a better leader? Image of women's boxing gloves.

So of course, when I asked about failure, he gave us something else.  "Its the holidays. And I see too many people give up a chunk of their progress as they relax into the holidays. Don't give it up.  Get it in. Do the reps.  Come to class. Practice." he said.  

And in that moment that I was too annoyed to appreciate the wise words. But as I sit on my bed a few hours later, I'm reminded that I've learned a lot in the past few months and I can show up to work just like I show up to boxing class.  We train techniques, combos and we plan for people to hit us back when we're done. Do the combo, imagine the jab-cross coming in and parry, or slip, or pull.  But mix it up and practice all the exits. If that's not like a hot email exchange, I don't know what is!  

People don't always do what we want them to. Fighters aren't required to jab, cross, hook because that's what you prepared for. And as a leader, people don't simply agree with everything you say because it makes sense to you or because you're a boss.  Fighters can have different patterns just like stakeholders have different tells for when they are annoyed and getting to their limit. Board members might act the same way when certain phrases are said or go into defensive postures.  As a growing leader, I need to mix it up and if a certain response isn't working - I need to find a new opening, a new strategy and go hard after it. 

This past Sunday, I learned a new combo and my beginner body didn't understand how to drop for a jab to the body and lift back up for a hook to the face, but coach was like "we can go slow." Its easy to get overly excited when there are mitts involved so I appreciated the space to not rush. Felt the movement coming up from my feet, into my hips, shifting and digging in just before the strike. 

I'm not used to conflict.  I'm not used to a confrontational email. Having to pivot from focusing on my self and the next task to logically assessing the situation, motivations (to the best of my abilities) and identifying next best steps.  But just like that new boxing combo, I can go slow.  Start in my heart and feel the feels.  Let the feelings come and go.  Drop and pivot into planning, solution finding. Come back and up and ask my trusted sources.  And then go after those next steps. 

And I need to remember that I'm not having a championship fight with my staff or my board.  We are training and sparring.  And we need to do it in a way that makes each one of us better than when we started.  Coach shared another story during class, about being 15 and fighting grown men. About a kid that was too soft.  About crying and the mental switch when you realize that you have to hit back. And hard. 

So maybe not everything is a direct cross over.  But instead of obsessing about work tonight, I'm going to lay my head down trusting that a little battering at work is making me tougher. Maybe even a smarter, better leader if I let it. 


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