Last night during our volleyball playoffs, I had a pretty good game. My serves were strong, and my sets led to powerful spikes (and smartly placed dinks).
But it was my work as a back row defender that really stood out.
Though our undefeated opponents had ringers as hitters, when I was in the back row, nothing got passed me. Nada. I was quite literally in the right place at the right time, every time.
In volleyball, we refer to this as "court sense."
It's the ability to know — instinctively — where to be and to anticipate where to be next to make a play.
This concept of court sense applies to your career as well.
Think about it, we all know those people whom clients adore, colleagues line up to work with, and supervisors trust as their go-to's. No matter the situation or circumstance, those folks seem to know exactly the approach needed. They navigate political waters with ease and manage to leave all involved feeling good about their projects and themselves.
They have good career court sense.
So, how do they do it? And more importantly, how can you develop it?
Be willing to put others first.
There's a certain selfless mindset required for court sense. In volleyball, you must consider what's best for your team above your own ambition.
The same is true in business. When you make it all about you, you forget to ask what people want and need. Big mistake. Put yourself in your shoes of you clients, colleagues, or bosses and consider their needs ahead of your own.
Pay attention (and make small adjustments when necessary).
Developing your sense of awareness will dramatically improve your court sense. If I observe that my opponent consistently serves down the line, I'll slide over to put myself in a better position to field the ball.
Likewise, if during your presentation you notice your client has started fidgeting and looking at her watch, it's time to make a course correction. Regardless of how many slides you have left, wrap things up quickly.
Anticipate your next move.
In a volleyball game, you must predict where your teammates will go — and where the opposing team will place the ball — so you can fill in the gaps in coverage.
Perhaps you're conducting a new business pitch, competing against several other firms. Your capacity to think beyond the pitch — and to demonstrate how you'll work with and provide value to the clients — might give you the edge to ultimately win the business.
Above all, focus and trust your instincts.
When I'm fully absorbed in my game, I enter a flow-like state where all other distractions fall away. In those moments, my senses are heightened, and I'm able to feel one with the court.
In business, there is a point where your instincts will kick in. Rather than questioning those feelings, learn to trust them. And by applying this same focus, you'll allow your intuitive intelligence to take over, guiding you to success.
Remember, developing career court sense isn't easy, but it is worth it.
And like volleyball, the more you practice, the better you'll get.