Growing up with my father was not easy. Don't get me wrong, he was a great dad, for he loved us and we loved him. He was funny, wise, went to all us kid's activities, supported us, spent time with us, and maybe most important of all, he BELIEVED in us.

But he was hard.

He demanded great effort in everything we did. Or maybe I should say, PERFECT effort. And if we weren't giving that perfect effort, or willing to give that perfect effort, Dad was NEVER afraid to "invite" us to take a walk and talk about that less than perfect attitude and effort.

I certainly did dread those invitations.

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Dad and I, summer before my freshmen year at MSU. He was NEVER afraid of AWKWARD talk!

Dad would start the talk, probing me about something I did or didn't do. He'd ask, what was I thinking? It would be so AWKWARD! Heck, I didn't know what I was thinking. (What teenager actually thinks about what they are thinking?!)

He'd probe further. He'd want the whole story, endlessly investigating each possibility, every detail. I would think, How could a person be so thorough?!

Inevitably,without exception, at some point of my dad's investigation, however, it would dawn on me that Dad was just trying to help me understand things. With every frustrating minute of our Father-Son Awkward Talk, it became more and more evident that it WASN'T him vs. me, but instead that we WERE on the same team. We were figuring things out FOR ME( through this endless questioning that I didn't think would ever end!), and I had to admit I was getting something out of it. In fact, it seemed like at the end of each and every "talk", I actually felt good, happy that it happened. Who could figure?


Teammates are MEANT to make each other BETTER!

I KNEW these types of conversations were rare at the time. My friends never had these kind of conversations with their dads. And I realize so much more now, that these types of conversations are still rare, sadly to the detriment of too many people. Whether it be between father and son/daughter, boss and employee, coach and player, husband and wife, teammate and teammate,….building up, empowering, strengthening, honest DIALOGUE just does NOT regularly happen. Instead, we choose not to go anywhere significant, discussing such trivial things as the weather, the lives of the rich and famous, or what crisis is happening thousands of miles away. Many times, we don't talk to anybody at all, immersing ourselves instead in our daily dose of fantasy world: full of virtual friends, so-called "real life" TV, and fantasy games.


In the meantime, we are missing out. We are MISSING OUT not only on accomplishing GREAT THINGS; we are MISSING OUT by not getting awkward empowering others to accomplish GREAT THINGS; we are MISSING OUT by not getting awkward building up teammates/teams capable of doing GREAT THINGS….all just because we don't want to go there, to that AWKWARD place where real progress, where real LIFE lives.

And as a result, MILLIONS of us are living lives of silent desperation.


1996 Olympic gold medalist women's gymnastics team-celebrating TEAM!

Things can change for the better! But it takes a belief that things CAN CHANGE for the better. And it takes a lot of action, a lot of awkward action to start changing our habits. But we have to, we have to start changing our thinking and conversation with ourselves and our teammates. We have to for those millions that have GIVEN UP HOPE for this better life, grown tired of waiting for somebody to be AWKWARD with them.

Make a decision to start having more meaningful thoughts and conversations TODAY, and start engaging yourself and your teammates TODAY! Below are some potential awkward questions Gallup used with employees to find out how important they felt about themselves and their team. I would encourage you to consider using some of these and start getting AWKWARD, today.


1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? 
2. Do I know the resources and materials I need to succeed in life? Do I have access to those materials? 
3. Do I, at work, have the opportunity to do what I do best, every day? 
4. Do I, even know, what I do best? 
5. In the past 7 days, have I received recognition for doing good work? 
6. Does my boss, my coach, my teammates seem to care about me as a person? 
7. Do I have somebody on my "team" who encourages my development? 
8. Do my opinions seem to count at work or at home? 
9. Do we have a mission at our workplace? What it is it? Does it make me feel my job is actually important? 
10. Do my teammates commit themselves to our team? 
11. In the past 6 months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress as a person, and a valuable part of the team? 
12. Have I learned and grown because of my job and the people I associate with?


I am a blessed man for many reasons. Biggest, probably, is the courage and love of my father who NEVER was AFRAID to be awkward with me. Our world will never be what we want it to be, until we too become courageous and loving enough to be that same awkward with the people in our lives.

Chris Willertz: More Than A Coach: SportsLeader!

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Trophy for the NBA's inaugural Twyman-Stokes Teammate Award, created during the 2013 season: CLICK ON IMAGE for the history behind the award.