I coached youth basketball when my kids were young. I loved the game and I love kids so it was a great match for me. Basketball is a perfect mix of skill and strategy. This was also evident in the kids. Some where great athletes and some made it through being smart and working hard. I was a student of the game. I studied and observed different defenses and offenses and also what made up good mechanics and personal skills. While I was the teacher when it came to basketball, I learned some valuable lessons that have been ingrained into the way I manage people and the way I look at the world. Yes, these are big statements, but they are true. I still go back to these truths and use them for teaching moments when I am mentoring or problem solving.
Here are these truths:
Talent Blindness: Some coaches are great at judging talent but most are not. The reason is not because they are not skilled or unintelligent- they are human. We have a very tough time being completely objective. Coaches will tend to provide preference to the kids they like. The kids that make them feel good. The kids of the parents they like. The same can be true in the business world. We provide preference to the folks that are like us. The ones that make us feel comfortable. The ones that make us feel good about ourselves. We can be so talent blind! We judge talent based on how we see the world and how we feel. We can easily miss a diamond because they are different, peculiar and not like us.
Another Set Of Eyes: When I was coaching, I would sometimes get caught up in concentrating on the nuances of the offense and defense and miss big things that were going on. Sometimes I would leave kids in the game too long. Sometimes I would miss that a particular player had a hot hand and was scoring and I would inadvertently pull them out of the game. Its hard to watch everything. No really its impossible. I valued my assistant coaches to speak up and set me straight. In business, we can miss the big picture while we are drilling down on particular issues. I must have a group that I empower to tell me whats really going on and have the guts to confront me when I am doing something stupid. A support group. A few trusted advisors to help us avoid getting caught up in the game.
Emotion Cloud: I struggled with the referees. Kind of a lot. They were often times volunteers and high school kids and their skill level varied. Some were pretty good and some were just horrible. I remember throwing my clipboard on the gym floor of an auxiliary gym once in the middle of a game and then- the gym went completely silent! Not a shining moment for me but a great lesson. You just can’t let emotion take over. People will let you down and do things that are wrong and out of line. You can count on it. It’s how you react that matters. Once I let emotion rule, my head goes to mush and all I got is to fire back. A poor example of leadership no matter where you are. Keep your cool and keep your head!
These are a few of the valuable lessons that I learned while coaching. It’s funny how I consistently learn while teaching others! Learning just never ends. I am always seeking the lesson in things that happen to me. How about you? Are you learning as you go? Do you see the world as a giant classroom? Stay alert to things going on around you. You will be better for it. I promise!