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Nov
29

The NBA Secrets of Bounce-Back Ability

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The current financial crisis and economic uncertainty in our country have affected every member of society. We have become consumed with talk of recession as job losses increase and consumer confidence dwindles. The headlines focus on the plunging Dow and CNN provides a daily barrage of doom and gloom stories about 401K’s, the crumbling housing market and the banking bailout. 2008 has been a frustrating year of adversity and change with four dollar gas prices, plant closings and the mortgage crisis. Unfortunately, there appears to be no end in sight.

I spent ten seasons as a player in the NBA and I am currently a college basketball analyst for the Big Ten Network and Versus Television. I also work as a consultant who encourages businesses and organizations to improve resilience and to reach peak performance during difficult times. I don’t claim to be a financial expert with a game plan to move our economy towards prosperity. However, I do have a positive message of personal growth to help manage the stress and pressure that comes with economic concerns. I believe bounce-back ability is the single most important factor for success in managing expectations and turning adversity into success in the business world. Bounce-back ability is a combination of resilience, focus and extreme confidence that nothing will deter you from reaching your objectives.

In June of 1984, I entered the NBA as a naïve rookie with high expectations and the passion to compete against boyhood idols such as Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Julius Erving and Magic Johnson. Throughout my NBA basketball journey, I was a member of eight teams, was traded seven times, played for 14 coaches and had nearly 150 different teammates. There were trade rumors, negative articles and the internal pressure to perform caused a great deal of stress. I faced constant fatigue during the grueling eight month long season from cross country travel and sleep deprivation. My body sustained a physical beating from daily practices and games. I suffered a broken nose, surgery for a detached and torn retina, three concussions, a broken nose, cracked ribs, broken thumb, torn rotator cuff, a dislocated shoulder, fractured foot, broken toe and eight knee surgeries. As an NBA player, I became an expert in the area of adversity management and I would like to share the four secrets of bounce-back ability.

1. Training Camp Effort
Training camp in the NBA is a month of long practices and a massive work load that is the foundation of a successful NBA season. Practices are three hours long and they’re held twice a day. Weight lifting sessions and film study fill the remainder of free time. Training Camp is a time to focus on the fundamentals that lead to tremendous individual and team accomplishment. One of the most critical lessons that I learned early in my NBA career focuses on the realization that you must produce or you will be quickly replaced. The NBA is a cold hearted business that is based on productivity. You are encouraged to push yourself hard, improve your skills and add value, all within a team concept. The same principle applies in this challenging economy. If you are a key component of the company’s success, you will most likely continue in a productive capacity. Winston Churchill said, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential. The key to success today is a strong work ethic and focused effort that relies heavily on the old school approach of grabbing the lunch bucket in the morning, rolling up the sleeves, putting on the hard hat and going to work.

2. Stamina and Endurance
The length of an NBA season creates a tremendous challenge to most NBA players. Training camp begins in October and the NBA finals will continue until the end of June. The marathon nature of the NBA season takes a great deal of patience and the ability to focus on the future.
The same forward thinking mindset is needed to manage the difficulties of our nation’s current financial situation. We cannot control all of the outside influences and problems with the economy, but we can dictate the way that we respond to the negative news and distractions. A recent survey by the American Psychological Society indicated that over 80% of those questioned were feeling stressed by concerns related to the economy. It is important to be aware of the possible ramifications of the economic crisis, but it is non-productive and potentially harmful to our health to become consumed with issues that we cannot control.

When challenges arise, many people immediately focus on the problem and not the opportunities that exist. I believe a key ingredient for high achievers is the ability to find new and innovative ways to elevate their game and improve during the toughest times. If we focus on the insurmountable odds, we fail to see all of the positive directions that we can potentially explore. Throughout our economic history, the most successful investment philosophies focus on patience and long term growth strategies as the safest way to build a portfolio. Business plans target small incremental steps of growth and improvement. Our ability to maintain tunnel vision on our future goals and to not be distracted by current road blocks is a key component of bounce-back ability.

3. The Optimistic Outlook
During my NBA career, I quickly learned that losses, disappointment and frustration are all part of the game. The routine was to analyze a win or loss and move onto the next game with an optimistic outlook. Even on my worst days, I could justify that I was incredibly blessed to be an NBA player and it was imperative to focus on the positives. We are among the most fortunate civilizations that have ever walked on this planet. The standard of living that we possess and the freedom to pursue individual goals is unprecedented throughout history. Life is good, regardless of the economy, and we should wake up each morning and be excited about the possibilities that exist. I believe strongly in the power of positive reinforcement and the value of affirmations. Our mind is a powerful resource and if we must constantly focus on encouraging messages, good things will happen. I have learned that a positive attitude is a choice that we make.

The significant challenge that we face on a daily basis is the internal battle of positive and negative input. The pressure and intensity of life breaks us down and it is a constant struggle to ignore the negative messages that are being circulated. We watch the news and read the paper and we begin to worry. There is a home foreclosed in the neighborhood and the doubt begins to surface. A friend loses their job and we wonder if we are next. 72% of self talk is negative and that means that we spend the entire day filling our brain with limiting thoughts. The power of bounce-back ability lies in the attitude of knowing that you may be down, but it won’t be for very long. It is an understanding that adversity creates the opportunity for growth, both personally and professionally. Difficult times are a perfect chance for reassessing goals and evaluating future options. You will bounce-back from defeat because you have done it so many times in the past.

4. Enjoy the Journey
The average length of an NBA career is approximately four seasons. It is a very fragile existence that can end as quickly as it begins. I was a starting center for the majority of my first five seasons in the league. It wasn’t until a major knee injury started a quick descent to my playing days that I started to appreciate how fortunate I was to be living my dream. These hard times can actually serve as a reminder of the things in life that are most important. The health and well being of our family members needs to be emphasized over the falling value of our 401K plan. The materialism and greed that becomes pervasive during prosperity is usually replaced by more quality time with family and friends. Lavish trips and nights on the town are spent at home with the kids watching a movie. The possibility exists that as we sit on the porch during our elderly years and look back on our life, we may in fact be experiencing our most rewarding days right now.

The foundation of my bounce-back ability philosophy is centered on a belief that we will be constantly challenged with obstacles and adversity throughout our lives and careers. The champions in sports and business are the high achievers who understand that challenges are what make life interesting. We will experience many financial highs and lows and we may have several jobs and professions along the way. If we focus on the core principles of bounce-back ability, we will overcome any challenges that we may face. The lesson that I learned from my basketball career is that you cannot change the environment in which you live, but you can control the enjoyment of your journey.

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Nov
29

Corporate Training Camp

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The foundation of a successful season for all professional sports teams begins with a grueling, labor intensive month of hard work called training camp. The preparation for the opening night of the NBA season is no different. The long and strenuous hours of practice, conditioning and film study form the bedrock for a successful and winning season. Extra weightlifting sessions and exhibition games are tools to sharpen skills and eliminate weaknesses for the start of the regular season. Rookies and free agents compete against veterans to impress the coaches and make their pro sports dreams a reality. The pressure is awesome and the work-load is heavy. The reward is one of the 15 spots on an NBA roster.

The secret for success in professional sports is buried deep in the human DNA and it deals with the obsession to get bigger, stronger and faster to achieve goals and win the game. There are several important keys to developing a championship corporate culture that can be learned from the challenges of a pro sports training camp.

Body Power – The key to success for professional athletes is a powerful, well-tuned body, built through running, weight-lifting and proper nutrition. Peak performance is a by-product of effort and training. So often, we are consumed with work-related assignments and deadlines that we ignore our own physical conditioning. The commitment to train for 45 – 60 minutes per day will increase productivity in the work place and lead to improved over-all health.

Coaching Fundamentals – The primary goal of NBA training camp is to improve the basics of dribbling, passing and shooting. The coaches emphasize the execution of the team’s offensive playbook and defensive game plan. In basketball and business, star performers continually search for winning ideas and strategies to improve. Develop a training camp approach of your own through motivational books and articles to increase productivity. High achievers listen to audio programs in their car. Seek career advice and guidance from your boss or a mentor that can elevate your performance with some good old-fashioned coaching.

Compete for Success – From my experiences as a professional athlete in the NBA for ten seasons, I learned there are only two things I could control – my attitude and work ethic. Hard work and passion do not guarantee success, but without them, you have no chance. High achievers possess an internal flame that burns hot and will not accept any effort below their best. If you want to win, continually update, review and revise a specific set of goals. Goal-setting is fuel for accomplishment. Set them high and do not relax until they become reality.

Success in sports and business is not random. Just as athletes sharpen their focus and skill-set during training camp prior to each season, high-level professionals in the business world can benefit from the same approach. Proper planning, preparation and hard work with a training camp mind-set can lead to elevated performance. Create a training camp game plan for yourself and you will have a championship caliber season.

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Nov
29

The Greatest Leader in Sports History

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Many elite leaders are born with the ability to command respect from their peers and direct their teams to victory. Others develop their leadership skills through life’s daily challenges. They face tremendous odds and over-come trials and tribulations that build mental toughness. Both are effective and are worth following. However, I have gained the most respect for self-made leaders that succeed through perseverance and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

Bill Russell is acknowledged as the greatest winner in the history of team sports. He won two high school state championships, two NCAA titles at the University of San Francisco, an Olympic gold medal and eleven NBA rings as a member of the Boston Celtics. Not bad for a guy that was cut from his junior varsity basketball team in high school. His remarkable story serves as a reminder that anyone can develop leadership skills through the power of persistence and an unselfish, team-oriented approach.

Last month, I was privileged to share breakfast with Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell and I was awed by his journey from a mediocre high school basketball player to a man that led his team to sixteen championships as a prep, collegiate, Olympian and professional player over a nineteen year span. Bill is the expert at collecting championship rings, hoisting trophies and cutting down nets and I asked for his three most important keys to successful leadership.

Mr. Russell answered my question by saying, “From day one, I was thrilled to be part of the team. My junior year in high school, we won the California State Championship and I did not play a single minute during the entire tournament. I was so excited that I did not sleep for three straight nights prior to our final game. As long as we won, I was completely happy. Great leaders sincerely care about the team and winning.”

“Another key is that leaders search for ways to make their teammates better. There are ten players on the court and there is only one basketball. That means that you only touch the ball 10% of the game. The best way I could help my team was to block shots, rebound, set screens on offense and pass the ball. I learned that my job was to dominate my role as a support player and make my teammates look good.”

“Last,” he said, “I always tried to set an example for my teammates as a role model. My leadership standard was to never do anything that would embarrass my mother and father. I wanted to be a leader worth following.”

Bill Russell started his career at the end of the bench. He did not care about scoring points or personal accolades. He wanted to be part of a winning team and it helped forge an obsession with pursuing championships and making his teammates better. His winning leadership game plan was focused on his love for the team, building his teammates and displaying high character standards at all times. Bill Russell is the greatest leader in the history of team sports.

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Nov
29

Jump In

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Age, wisdom and experience provide many valuable leadership lessons in the business world. We learn to manage the downside and protect our assets. A conservative approach reduces the risks and ensures that a safety net is available to protect us from a dangerous fall. There are definitely times to be cautious and tentative. There are others when it pays to aggressively jump in with two feet.

As a young boy, my family enjoyed long weekends at my grandparent’s cottage on the St. Clair River near Port Huron, Michigan. My brother and sister and I stood on the dock each spring and I would encourage them to follow me into the freezing water. I never hesitated to take that first plunge of the season into the swift current and arctic like tempratures. My siblings were not far behind. I loved the thrill of jumping into the frigid river and swimming like a young Mark Spitz to make it safely to the shore. My teeth were chattering and goose bumps covered my body. I couldn’t wait to repeat the circuit as soon as my feet hit dry land.

Ten years later, I had lost my enthusiasm for my spring swimming adventures and I preferred to stay dry and warm on the dock. The water was freezing and I had no desire to feel like an iceberg in the North Sea. Age and maturity made me cautious and maybe a bit smarter too. I was more concerned with the water temperature than the incredibly refreshing experience I felt as a child. The water had not changed—I had!

There a several important lessons that we can learn from the enthusiasm of a ten year old child.

1. Make a Splash – Remember the tentative moments before you entered a cold lake or jumped off the high dive at the local pool as a kid. A bold and aggressive move was never regretted. Make a strong statement with decisive action in your life.

2. Go For It – Kids have fun and they welcome their next adventure with excitement and a smile on their face. Embrace your next project with a youthful exuberance. Life can become boring and mundane if we never change our approach.

3. Build Team Spirit – Playmakers add fun and spontaneity to their teams. If the leader takes a confident dive, the rest will follow. Go-getters do not sit on the dock. They are catalysts that inspire the others to take a leap.

My spring time plunges into the chilly waters of the St. Clair River could have qualified me as a member of the Polar Bear Club and serve as a reminder that we should not hesitate to get off the dock and jump-in.

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Nov
29

Wide World of Sports

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My favorite television program as a boy was ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The show provided a glimpse of unique and often under-publicized sports and athletes. They spanned the globe to show a Russian weight lifter, the Harlem Globetrotters and cliff divers in Mexico. We learned about curling, badminton and professional logging. The most powerful image during the show’s opening video was an Olympic ski jumper named Vinko Bogataj from Yugoslavia who missed his take-off and fell head-over-heels off the side of the ramp. Jim McKay told us that for the next hour we would experience “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. He was right.

The beauty of sports is that the personal triumphs and the painful disappointments are played out in full view for the world to see. Athletic competition reveals perseverance, resilience and the ability to manage adversity. High achievers that reach a level of championship performance in sports share many of the same challenges as individuals in the business world. They must over-come tremendous obstacles and rely heavily on strong leadership from coaches, managers and bosses that provide “Wide World of Sports” caliber leadership to deal with frustrating set-backs. There are three valuable leadership lessons necessary to help your team rebound from the “agony of defeat”.

Enjoy the journey – Pro-caliber leaders are forward thinkers that emphasize the importance of long-term growth and do not be-laboring a short-term failure. Winning teams that experience a temporary road block will bounce-back quickly with a healthy dose of encouragement and positive affirmation. We are blessed with one life and our responsibility is to maximize our gifts, climb to the top of our potential ladder and most important; enjoy the journey along the way.

Learn from set-backs – We will get knocked down and frustrated as we try to accomplish personal, professional and team goals. Failure is part of the game. In basketball, there are constant turnovers, defensive lapses, missed shots and fouls. The best coaches understand that everyone makes mistakes and top performers learn from their miscues and are less likely to repeat them in the future.

Emerge Stronger – Big-time leaders realize a teams greatest growth potential comes after disappointing losses. Painful set-backs can serve as a valuable catalyst to reassess performance and improve on goals, tactics and strategies. Success is good, but failure can provide powerful training tools, lessons and motivation for future growth.

Vinko Bogataj crashed in this third attempt at the international ski-jumping championships in Oberstdorf, Germany in 1970. At the time, his head-over-heels failure on national television was an embarrassing and life-threatening catastrophe. However, he emerged with only a mild concussion and successfully competed in the World Championship the very next year. For 37 years on the Wide World of Sports, Vinko represented the human drama of athletic competition on national television and is remembered by an entire generation of sports enthusiasts as the “agony of defeat ski-jumper”. He overcame his personal defeat and is regarded as an expert in the area of overcoming adversity.

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Nov
29

Wizard Leadership

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The greatest coach in the history of sports died on June 5th in a small apartment in Encino California at the age of 99. John Wooden, known as the Wizard of Westwood, led the UCLA Bruins to an amazing 10 National Championships in the 1960’s and 70’s. No other coach in college basketball history has more than four titles. He prided himself on being a teacher, coach and mentor. Wooden’s time-less leadership lessons will be shared for generations to come.

I first met Coach Wooden in 1980 as a participant in the McDonald’s All-American basketball game and we have shared many conversations over the years. The most impactful message was delivered prior to a game that I was broadcasting for ESPN in Louisville in 2007.

I asked Coach Wooden, “What is the single most important ingredient for building a successful team?” He smiled and responded, “The key to quality teamwork relates to the second most important word in the English language and that is balance. In basketball, it is critical for players to have their knees bent and to equally distribute their weight on the balls of their feet, which should be shoulder width apart. If an athlete is off-balance, they will never be an effective performer at either end of the court.”

Wooden said, “Championship teams have balance on offense with unselfish passers ready to complement diversified scorers. Strong defenders force missed shots and rebounders secure the ball to start the fast break. Good teams have quality reserves to push the starters in practice and remain ready to perform if given the opportunity. The support staff for winning teams is loaded with high-quality coaches, managers, trainers and fans. Great teams have tremendous balance.”

Wooden continued, “The hidden element of balance within successful teams comes from all of the unique personality traits and special interests that each individual brings to the group. The team concept is strengthened from team members that are involved in church, art, literature, music and other outside activities.” Wooden believed team members perform best when they are happy, content and not completely consumed with a project, game or opponent. His philosophy was based upon a unselfishness and a balanced approach.

John Wooden was a leadership expert and master at team building. His legacy was built upon superstar players who set aside their tremendous egos and individualistic goals for the betterment of the team. In Wooden’s words, “The man ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” In sports, business and life, when the team wins, everyone shares in the credit.

Based upon the teachings of the Wizard of Westwood, I have identified the five most important qualities and characteristics that I believe balanced leaders utilize to elevate the performance of their teams.

1. Deliver an inspirational message of growth
2. Provide a positive vision and direction
3. Create innovative strategies to motivate the team
4. Lead by example with excellent performance
5. Build trust with character and integrity

I asked Coach Wooden, “You have stated that balance is the second most important word in the English language, please share which word is number one.”

He smiled and said, “The most important word is love.” Perfect.

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Nov
29

Lebron James and CEO Leadership

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Lebron James is the best player in the NBA and possesses all of the necessary talent and skills to one day surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest ever. At 6-8 and 270 pounds, he is built like a linebacker with sprinter speed and is the most accomplished 26 year old player in league history. James is a high-level CEO on the basketball court. CEO stands for Champions Elevate Others and if he wants to be recognized in the same conversation with Air Jordan, he must make his teammates better and win NBA Titles.

CEO is not just a job title; it’s a mindset and winning approach to sports, life and business. There are three valuable CEO leadership lessons that can be learned from watching the journey of Lebron James.

Build Team Trust – I spoke with Lebron in January and asked for the most important leadership skill necessary for him to drive the Cavaliers to a title. He said, “Michael Jordan did not win an NBA championship for the first seven years of his career. Then he increased the trust in his Bulls teammates and won six. I need to trust my team for us to win.” Great leaders share responsibility and empower their team by building trust.

Display Self-Leadership – Lebron James has completely dominated the NBA on both ends of the court during his back- to-back MVP seasons. He is the youngest player to reach the 15,000 point plateau and has already become a fixture on the league’s all-defense team. James is a work ethic role model for his teammates. He is regularly the first player on the court prior to Cavalier games perfecting his game. Big producers lead by example and set an incredibly high standard for their teammates. When the best player is the hardest worker, the team thrives.

Share Unstoppable Confidence – Team productivity soars when the leader in charge displays confidence and star power. During my basketball career, I played with 24 NBA all-stars and they possessed a swagger that gave everyone the belief that victory was imminent. Lebron is powered by a positive trait called interior arrogance. He knows he’s the best and so does everyone else. He expects to win and his contagious confidence boosts the performance of everyone on his team.

The Cavs’ shocking playoff collapse against Boston caused many to blame the Chosen One’s ability to lead his people to the Promised Land. The Cavaliers On-the-Court CEO will eventually win an NBA title because of his immense talent and tremendous leadership potential. The 20 million-dollar question for Cavalier fans is “How long will it take and will it be in Cleveland?” Good luck Cavs’ fans.

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Nov
29

Fishing with Dad

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My family moved from the city to the county when I was in 6th grade and I was in for a culture shock. The pack of neighbor kids that roamed the country-side near my new home called me a “city slicker” because I didn’t know how to fish. Those were fighting words, but these guys were pretty tough so I decided to get a rod and reel and figure out how to be an angler. I located an old tackle box and fishing pole in the barn and night crawlers were easy to find. I rowed the boat into the middle of Bridge Lake and I was ready to catch a few “lunkers”, as my new fishing buddies liked to call big fish.

I was hooked when the bobber disappeared on my first cast and I landed a hefty 14” small mouth bass. I was a natural and couldn’t wait to show my dad that his first born son was a “fish-catching machine”. Father’s Day was the perfect time to take my dad to the “hot-spot” near a fallen tree along the North shore of the lake. “I don’t want to catch any of those tiny, blue gill “nibblers”, he said, “I’m looking for a trophy fish.”

I casted my jumbo crawler into perfect position and waited impatiently for 20 seconds for the first hit of the day. No luck. I feverishly reeled my bait back into the boat and tried again. After ten minutes and twenty-five casts, my hands smelled like worms instead of fish. I was frustrated.

It was time for some of that old-fashioned dad advice that teenagers dread. “Great fishermen keep searching for the big one, maybe we should move.” he preached. I responded with passion, “Dad, this is the hot spot.” I’ve been catching big ones here all summer. We have to stay!”

“Maybe we should try a plastic worm or other lure to change our luck.” he suggested. “Sometimes fish like the bait reeled-in slow and other times they prefer a fast retrieve. I am sure that if we make a few minor adjustments our fishing bucket will be full in no time.”

I was a seasoned fisherman of one month and didn’t believe I needed any advice. However, I humored my father and moved to the mouth of a stream one hundred and fifty yards away. An amazing thing happened. I immediately caught two jumbo perch and my dad landed a large bass and crappie. I was shocked. We found a new hot spot and I learned three valuable business and fishing lessons.

  • Don’t be a Nibbler – It is easy to relax and coast because of past success. Are you a complacent nibbler content to stay in the same old comfortable fishing hole or an aggressive angler that constantly searches for new hot spots? Keep moving and improving.
  • Open your Tackle Box – You cannot do the same things you’ve always done and expect improved results. High achievers in business, and on the lake, diversify their approach and constantly explore the possibility of new ideas, concepts and strategies.
  • Seek “Old-School” Advice – There is no substitute for the sage wisdom and the fresh perspectives of a seasoned veteran or outsider. The winning edge in any competitive endeavor can start from the strategic vision of an independent mentor or guide.
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Nov
29

The Pro Approach

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I am not quite sure why my wife wanted me to clean the attic, but with 20 years of marital experience, I have learned that certain battles just aren’t worth fighting.

The attic was cramped and dusty, and when I opened the closest box I was immediately transported back into the 1970s. The treasure chest contained thousands of baseball and basketball cards, haphazardly thrown into the large container. Cleaning the attic could wait. I found a comfortable spot, and for the next two hours I was a twelve-year-old boy again.

I was particularly interested in the basketball cards. I spent 10 seasons as a player in the NBA and had the opportunity to meet and compete against many of the legends from my card collection. I admired the pictures of Willis Reed and Bob Lanier. I reminisced about Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s sky-hook, the speed of Tiny Archibald and the trickery of Pete Maravich. Each card was essentially a 2-by-3-inch cardboard autobiography that told the story of big dreams and tremendous accomplishments.

The winning secrets of these basketball legends are focused on a unique quality that I call the Pro-Approach. Millions of children world-wide grow up with the goal of playing professional basketball and an incredibly small fraction of those NBA dreams become a reality. The key to the Pro-Approach is an aggressive and persistent mind-set that allows only a select few to separate from the competition and take their games to the highest level. The winning approach necessary to compete and succeed in professional sports are the same skills needed to dominate in the business world. There are three Pro-Approach principles to help achieve a consistent level of excellence.

1. Big Producers Keep Growing – During my journey down memory lane, I found a Michael Jordan rookie card. In his first season in the NBA, he was regarded as a premier scorer that needed to diversify and balance his game. Each season the competition would adjust to Jordan’s dominance and he would sharpen his skills, eliminate flaws and add new elements. This drive for constant improvement powered Jordan to elite status and the recognition of being the greatest basketball player of all-time.

Hard work is the most basic building block of championship performance, and serves as the primary catalyst for growth in professional sports and business. The key to improvement is a combination of increased efficiency and the continual development of new techniques and strategies. You cannot do the same things you’ve always done and expect better results.

2. ‘Bounce-back’ Ability – I was excited to locate a vintage Bill Russell card during my sorting-session. I was reminded of an airport conversation with Mr. Russell in which he shared the extreme challenges he faced early in his basketball career. He was cut from the team in junior high and was devastated when he barely played as a 6-foot-5 sophomore on the JV. Prior to his junior season in high school, Russell’s career was at a crossroads and he was in jeopardy of not making the varsity. His resilient behavior and a summer of hard work at the YMCA transformed him from an underachiever into a champion. Bill Russell led his teams to a California High School State Championship, two NCAA titles, an Olympic Gold Medal and eleven NBA titles in thirteen years with the Boston Celtics. He bounced-back to become the greatest winner in the history of team sports.

Bounce-back ability is centered on a next-play attitude to briefly analyze, adjust and move forward without dwelling on past failures. You may fall, face disappointment and deal with frustration. It’s all part of the game. Bounce-back experts are resilient and they use crisis and adversity as motivation to improve in the future.

3. Playmaker Mindset – The highlight of the happily diverted attic cleaning experience was finding one of the prized possessions from my youth, a Julius Erving card from his days in the ABA. I was blessed to play with Dr. J during his last season with the 76ers and I caught a glimpse into how he developed into one of the greatest legends in sports history. He benefitted from hitting the genetic lottery with tremendous size, skill and athletic ability. However, the trait that separated him from his peers was his play-making ability, both on and off the court. His dunking exploits and creative flair were the catalyst for the NBA’s merger with the ABA. He was a basketball ambassador that powered television ratings and made the NBA popular to mainstream sports fans. He was tenacious on the court, a role model off the court and the greatest playmaker of his era.

Playmakers possess an aggressive attitude focused on the constant pursuit of excellence. They play the game to win and possess a belief that they cannot be stopped. Too many people fail to capitalize on the golden opportunities that life presents because they are not assertive, confident or willing to take a chance. You can achieve anything that you want, but no one will hand it to you. Go out take what is rightfully yours and that is success.

After two hours, my wife wanted to know if I was almost done with my job in the attic. I held the final stack of 50 cards in my hand and I replied, “Perfect timing, I am just about finished.” The place was still a mess, but at least the basketball cards were separated, organized and stacked neatly. She said, “That’s great because I want your help cleaning the garage.”

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Nov
22

Pro-Style Leadership

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Pat Riley was my coach with the New York Knicks and he was an elite, high-level leader. He demanded the constant pursuit of excellence from each of his players and losing was never an option. In his first season as the head coach in New York, he increased our win total by 11 games and built the Knicks into one of the NBA’s premier teams.

Riley’s leadership was on full display after a particularly disturbing home loss to an excellent Indiana team. The Knicks controlled the game until a fourth quarter collapse and we handed the Pacers a gift-wrapped victory. It was easy to justify the loss against a talented opponent in the middle of a grueling 82-game schedule, until we saw how devastated our coach was in the locker room. He sat in front of the television to break-down the game film. His suit coat was slung over the chair next to him and he held the remote control in his right hand and the box score in his left. No words were spoken.

The next morning, the players filtered into the locker room to begin preparations for that evening’s game. We were shocked to see our coach had not moved from his position in front of the television and he was wearing the exact same outfit as the previous night. This was not the GQ version of Pat Riley. His face was unshaven, he had puffy, blood-shot eyes and his well coiffed hair looked messy and unkempt. Had he really spent the entire night in the locker room watching the game film?

Riley stood before the team and delivered the following powerful words, “I have studied the game film from last night and I am 100 percent convinced of three things; we will improve, we will win and it will start right now.” He ejected the VHS tape and promptly threw it into the trash can. He had a renewed energy in his voice as he told the team that we were starting fresh and he listed several teaching points on the board. He asked each player to provide one area they could help the team. Not surprisingly, the Knicks started a winning streak behind the guidance of their master motivator.

Riley was a Pro-Style Leader who searched for new strategies to inspire and build his team. I learned three valuable leadership lessons from Coach Riley.

Communicate the Vision – Riley’s motivational message was confident, decisive and made each of the players feel we were part of something special. He commanded our respect with his dedication and provided a game plan to guide the team in the direction of elite status. He was a committed role model with both his words and actions.

Innovate to Motivate – The antiquated leadership model from our youth embraced the old-school coaching philosophy to berate the players and conduct grueling practices as punishment for a poor performance. Riley was a creative leader who utilized motivational tactics to impact the team and leave a lasting impression. Most coaches would have yelled at their players, Pat Riley chose to provide inspiration instead.

Lead with Passion – Riley’s all-nighter set an incredible standard of passion and determination for his players to follow. He left no doubt that he was desperate to win and his hunger for improvement would not allow him to rest until our team reached its potential. If Riley spent the entire night studying game film, we needed to elevate our efforts and take immediate action.

Riley is among the greatest leaders and motivators in professional sports history, highlighted by five NBA championships and a place in the basketball Hall-of-Fame. He was a pro style leader with an unmatched ability to communicate, innovate and lead his teams with incredible desire and leadership.

Tim McCormick is a guest blogger for Smart Business. After a 10-year NBA career he now works with businesses and leaders under his ‘Game Plan’ for success, which focuses on the secrets that premier athletes use to reach their highest goals.

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