I was in New Jersey this past week for a couple of speaking events when the Rutgers University Men’s Basketball debacle hit the national headlines. For those of you who
missed it, Head Coach Mike Rice was shown in videos of practice verbally and physically abusing players. He was throwing basketballs at them; punching and shoving them; using gay slurs; and literally acting like a maniac. The video was made available to Athletic Director Tim Pernetti back in November, 2012. At that time, rather than fire Rice, he tried to rehabilitate him through a $50,000 fine, suspension for 3 games, and mandatory anger management treatment. Next thing you know, ESPN’s Outside the Lines program is showing the world the actions of a coach gone mad. The reaction from the sports world was harsh to say the least, and also drew the ire of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Rutgers is New Jersey’s most prominent state school, and this was a crisis that was spreading like a wildfire.
In the following days, Rice was fired; his assistant coach resigned; AD Pernetti resigned; and the President is under fire. As I write this, I am listening to the press conference by the president. According to Pernetti in his letter of resignation, they followed advice from the University’s Human Resources Department, Legal team, and outside counsel. He regrets now the decision of rehabilitation over dismissal. He wishes he had it to do over again because he would change his decision. Hindsight tells us that he should have known these tapes would be leaked. In today’s world, things like this never stay silent. But, that’s hindsight. Let’s use a little foresight for you.
Crisis doesn’t have to come in the form of a windstorm, fire, or data breach. Your reputation as a business or organization is priceless, and may be more impactful to
your bottom line than those other examples. For Rutgers University and its President, board, and leadership, this is a train wreck. Now, all eyes are on them on how they diffuse and react to the situation. It gives us a chance to learn from them.
Here are a few tips and suggestions on lessons learned…
- Understand plainly that electronic and written communications and information rarely will stay private. What is written in emails even securely (see David Petraeus) can and will come to light, and is usually damning to you and your organization.
- Poor behavior of employees and leadership will be held to account by your clients, prospects, investors, key stakeholders, community, and the media. You need to be prepared to respond to it publicly.
- You should have behavior clauses in your employment agreements regarding poor behavior, including what might be done or written on social media.
- Silence after a crisis like this is bad. You need to be proactive early. In the Twitter and Facebook world we live in, public opinion can be swayed and determined very quickly.
- Practice for events like this. Role play mock interviews and press conferences and hope you never have to perform them live. At least with practice, you can work on your game.
- Respect and have empathy for those who have been injured in the debacle – whether physically or mentally. The wost thing you can show is arrogance or indifference. Contrary to what you might have heard, apologies are not only acceptable, but necessary if they are warranted.
- Do the right thing. Legal and HR have value, but if the right thing to do is fire someone because their actions were intolerable, then you fire them.
- You better be good at public speaking. When issues related to bad behavior in your business pop up, you can bet you will have to address them to the media. You’d better have some skill in this area. If you don’t feel like you’ve “got game” in that area, now is a good time to change that…or delegate it!
I’m not hear to throw Rutgers under the bus. The leadership has acted pretty swiftly for an organization like this. The post event decisions seem to be good. This
article is more about what you can learn as a business owner, executive, or organizational leader. Now, some of you might be thinking, “This stuff doesn’t happen to me. I’m just a small business owner.” That’s where you may be tragically wrong. You may not end up on ESPN or CNN, but a bad report in your local paper or television station can be just as devastating. Don’t think it happens? Spend some time reading your paper.
Bottom line – Bad behavior happens all the time in many organizations. You need to be prepared as the leader to prevent it through education and consequences; mitigate damage if it does happen; and bring your team together to move forward after it’s calmed down.
© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
“Great players have short memories.”
The words of CBS college basketball analyst (and former Supersonic), Greg Anthony as he was talking about Ohio State star, Aaron Craft. Craft made a game winning shot against Iowa State with less than a second left in the March Madness tournament. Anthony is absolutely right. Great players always put the failures of the past behind them and move towards success on the next play. That’s exactly why I’ve never become a great golfer!
In watching the Gonzaga game Saturday night, many folks around here are calling Gonzaga “chokers.” In reality, in a game where there were three distinct momentum shifts, Wichita State had theirs at the right time…at the end of the game. The Shockers made 3-pt baskets like they were layups for the last 3 minutes of the game, as momentum swung furiously in their favor.
To be successful in business and life, you need both a short memory and momentum. On the latter, you can successfully keep momentum going with activities and behaviors that you know work, but sometimes are tough to keep doing. Keeping your head down and doing the right things consistently and intentionally will keep those momentum bursts on your side of the court. On the former, the best way to keep ding all those right things is to have a short memory. Forget the rejections; forget the naysayers; forgot when people say you can’t; forget unsolicited advise; and forget the speed bumps that are there to slow you down.
I love basketball for so many reasons, but one of them is clearly the lessons it teaches off the court. If you want to be successful in your life – professional and personal – keep momentum on your side and have a little selective amnesia.
© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
This week’s quote -
“We an have no progress without change, whether it be basketball or anything else.”
- John Wooden
I never met Don Meyer.
But as a high school basketball coach, I certainly knew who he was. Coach Meyer from Northern State University in South Dakota, was a legend among coaches. He ran impressive camps and clinics for kids and coaches during the summer. During over 40 winters, he eventually amassed more victories than even Bob Knight. He was well respected, admired, and loved by college basketball luminaries like Knight, Pat Summitt, Tom Izzo, and John Wooden.
In 2008, Coach Meyer was involved in a horrific car accident. During surgery to save his life, the surgeon discovered he had inoperable cancer. He eventually lost his leg below the knee. And, he was coaching at Northern State a few short months later. Coach Meyer’s story is told brilliantly by ESPN baseball journalist, Buster Olney. Olney covered Meyer when he was coaching at Lipscomb in Nashville where Olney was a young beat writer.
The name of the book is “How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer.” You don’t have to be a basketball fan like me to appreciate the depth of faith, family, and friends that Coach Meyer reflects. It’s well worth the read.
I once spoke to Coach Meyer somewhere in 2004 or 2005. I was signing up to attend his coaching clinic. Unfortunately, something derailed that and I never made it later. I regret that because I would have loved to meet and know Don Meyer.
In 2009, Coach Meyer was awarded the Jimmy V award at the ESPYs. Below is the footage from that night, including his speech. I recommend highly both the book and this video. You won’t be disappointed.
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
My alma mater, the University of Washington Huskies, got left out of the Big Dance. Even though they won the Pac-12 regular season title, a couple of bad end-of-the-season losses, kept them out of the March Madness NCAA tournament. They ended up being a #1 seed in the national Invitational Tournament (NIT).
These are 20 year olds. They were discouraged and upset about not being selected to the NCAA tournament after winning their conference. The NIT, though prestigious in history, was of little consolation. It would have been very easy to walk out on the court in the first game with a bad attitude and leftover baggage. That would almost certainly lead to an even more embarrassing loss and a terrible off-season.
On Tuesday, the Huskies defeated their arch nemesis Oregon to advance to the NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden in New York. They won three games to earn that distinction. Now they will play on national television in the Big Apple. No matter what happens, this has been a success. They turned lemons into lemonade.
Give credit to the coaches for excellent leadership. Give credit to the players for staying tough. And give credit to the fans for sticking behind them. It was a team effort.
How often in business do we turn lemons into lemonade? In my experience, not often enough. Bad things happen every day in the business world…
- Accounts are lost
- Sales don’t get made
- People are fired
- Companies are sued
- Fires, floods, power outages, and tornado damage occur
You can come up with a bigger list. The bottom line is that bad things happen and how we respond will determine the success or failure of the company and maybe even you. Here are some ways to avoid the failure…
- Have a short memory. Dwelling on the past never helps the present or the future. Gain a “closer” mentality. When Mariano Rivera blows a save (which rarely happens), it’s forgotten by the time he hits the locker room. The next time out is about getting the save. You need to be the same way.
- Be positive. I see too many people with a “victim mentality.” It’s always someone else’s fault; it’s never going to get better; we can’t do this; the sky is falling. You know the people.If you can’t be positive about who you are, your team, and your business, it’s time to get out.
- Take action. Determine your course and take it. Be bold. Be fearless. Others follow bold, decisive leaders.
- Have fun. Some days you win and some days you lose. Have fun anyway. Life’s too short to dwell on the past failures.
Final note – my professional mentor Alan Weiss has always espoused, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.” Life is full of failures; generally many more failures than successes. It’s how we respond to failure to find the next success that matters.
Go make some lemonade…
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
There is a tragic story coming out of Oklahoma State University this morning. Head Women’s Basketball coach Kurt Budke and his assistant Miranda Serna were killed in an airplane crash following a recruiting trip. This happens as college basketball is getting started and leaves the university both mourning and grasping for answers.
Certainly, the focus is on the families of Coach Budke and Coach Serna. However, their loss at such a critical time is also an example of how important it is for organizations to be prepared for “human redundancy.” Certainly, the team has other assistants, but these were the head and first assistant. How well prepared the assistants are to take the reigns of a major college program will soon be seen.
What about your organization? Who is next in line if something happens to you? What if a crisis occurs like this where the top two or three go down?
This is often a difficult subject to talk about, but it must be done in businesses of all sizes and even families. Tragedy usually occurs suddenly and having to make decisions in real-time can lead to problems. Take the time now to work out those issues and potentialities. None of us are invulnerable to them…
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
This week’s focus point -
I just saw an amazing story on ESPN’s college basketball program on the Gallaudet Lady Bison. Gaullaudet is a Division 3 basketball program that is like every other women’s college team, with one exception. They are all deaf. The school is solely for the deaf and extremely hard of hearing. Their coach can hear, but he’s tasked with the difficult job of communicating in their language; in a game that is built around communication. Puts a whole new meaning to your players not listening to you!
Somehow, this team is successful on the court because they’ve found a way to communicate with each other and with their leader through the ups and downs and emotions of a basketball game and season. As a high school basketball coach myself, I find this remarkable and a lesson for all of us who can hear. Perhaps we can often be more “deaf” to communicating in our workplace, with our clients and prospects, with our colleagues, and with our family. Perhaps we are talking too “loudly” to actually be heard. Communicating with each other requires all parties to be engaged and committed. There’s no better example than the Lady Bison.
These women and coaching staff have found a way to make what seems nearly impossible possible. What’s our excuse?
This week’s quote -“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”
- My wonderful wife Barb sent this to me. She doesn’t know who said it so I’ll give credit to her:)