March Madness – Talent Leadership in Action

don an jay bballWell, Jay, are you getting into March Madness?

You bet, Don. I spent Sunday at my local college basketball tournament championship game. And we won!  It was quite amazing.

What was amazing about it?

Besides capping off an amazing season, it was a dramatic lesson in bubble up talent development.

Now I’m interested. Tell me more.

This is the current head coach’s fifth season.  He replaced a real top-down “stick and carrot” kind of coach. You could see the old coach stomping up and down the sidelines screaming in the faces of the young players when they made mistakes. The result was an underperforming team with one or two “star” players who took most of the shots.

How is the new coach different?

The new coach emphasizes certain key inner qualities like humility, passion, unity, and service.  Everybody is asked to play defense. Everyone is asked to contribute what they have to contribute. I would be hard pressed to single out any one star player on the team.

How did that impact the talent on the team?

I can give you two specific examples. Joe was the team’s leading scorer last year.  There was lots of talk about him being a great NBA prospect.  Now this was his senior year; the year for him to shine, to impress all the pro scouts. But instead of focusing on being “the man,” he chose humility, passion, unity and service.  He scored fewer points per game, but his team finished as one of the #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.  He was also named the MVP of his conference tournament.

Sounds like an impressive young man.

He is.  Perhaps the most impressive story I heard about him this year happened early in the season right after they lost a game by 25 points.  He and another senior on the team went to the coach and asked what they could do help turn things around and play up their potential. The coach didn’t tell them to shoot better or play harder.  He reminded them of the key inner qualities that would make them a solid team, and the young men, to their credit, modeled those qualities for their teammates.  After that, they won every game but two for the rest of the season.

So this really speaks to the Inner Quality tools that we urge people to consider in Key#2 of Take Charge of Your Talent.

It does.  I’d love to tell you about one more young man on the team.  His name is Tevan. Last season he was often a starter and played 405 minutes; the equivalent of 20 full games.  This year he was replaced by a freshman and got to play only 121 minutes, many of those at the end of the games, when the result was already determined.  [D1] Imagine how devastating that could be. Can you imagine what would happen in a business setting where a person was moved from the executive team to be someone in the office bullpen?  The loss of status alone would drive a typical person either out of the organization or into a very dark space.

What did this young man do? 

He became the team’s chief cheerleader.  Whenever they got into a huddle before the game or in a key time out, there was Tevan expressing himself fully: grinning, dancing, chanting…giving it all he could.

I can see why you had such an amazing experience.

It really confirmed our message leadership is critical in talent fulfillment.  But that leadership doesn’t have to come from the top.  It can come from anywhere and everywhere: from the coach, manager, CEO, a star player, and even from the guy on the bench.

 Photo by: Haml

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Posted in Overcoming Obstacles

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