Extra Points: Free Throws

Dan_Weedin_022There was a study done done about 10 years ago about what the deciding factors in NCAA college basketball games decided by less than five points were. The top three in order were: Free throw shooting, rebounding, and turnovers. I was a little surprised because as a former coach and long-time observer and fan, I thought those would be flipped. As I watched many games over this past week leading into the “Big Dance,” the study results were clearly evident.

As a coach, missed free throws just perturbed me. As a fan watching my favorite team, it might be even worse as these are Division I athletes. I know their coaches are on the sidelines pulling out their hair. It’s not like they aren’t practicing free throws; it is the one shot in the game that is completely predictable and the same without any defense as an obstacle. So why are so many missed late in games?

Missed free throws are mental; not physical. It’s a part of mental toughness that gets overlooked. Being able to focus solely on the process without regards to the chaos and consequences around us. That’s why amateur golfers like me can be flawless on the driving range and then clunk one in the water on the real course with all our buddies watching.

In business, it’s no difference. Sales professionals make uncharacteristic mistakes in important presentations when they are anxious (and sometimes desperate) to make a sale. CEOs and business leaders allow external tumult to distract them from the normal decision-making process they use. Employees under pressure (especially time pressure) more easily succumb to missteps and gaffes because of fear of failure.

We are all humans and will occasionally “choke” at our own free throw lines. That’s a part of the growth and development process. The mistake is often made when thinking mistakes are more physical or skills related. While they sometimes are, the majority of uncharacteristic mistakes still arise when we allow our fear of failure (especially in front of others) to mask our talent and cause us to make sometimes crucial errors.

Bottom line: Learn your craft; have confidence; beef up your mental toughness through disciplined thinking; control what you can control; and then (this is the important one) go have fun. The best athletes in the world make the least mistakes because they are simply having fun and playing. You can do the same.

Be unleashed.

Quote of the Day:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

~ Helen Keller

© 2019 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Secrets Behind The Madness

Coach from NK Herald Feb 2006My April column for the Kitsap Sun / Kitsap Business Journal…

I love March Madness. I think it’s the best three weeks in sports, period. Nowhere else can so many upsets, drama, and amazing personal stories converge on such a grandiose stage.

As I write this column, the Sweet Sixteen has yet to occur, so I have no idea who wins. Suffice it to say, my bracket was officially “busted” when University of Maryland-Baltimore County upset the overall No. 1 seed — and my chosen champion — University of Virginia. It was the first time in history a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed. However, other huge upsets to big-name programs came at the hands of the likes of the University of Buffalo, Loyola-Chicago and the University of Nevada. Madness.

As a former high school basketball coach, I always seek to understand the “why.” Why do mid-major teams from smaller conferences and with lesser pure talent upset the higher seeds on a regular basis? Here’s what I’ve decided:

1. The big schools have been besieged with what’s referred to as “one and done” players. The one-year minimum college rule before entering the NBA means the best young players rarely stick around for their sophomore years, opting to go make money. The consequences? There is less consistency and maturity for those big schools as compared to mid-majors that keep players for all four years. You often have 22-year-olds playing against 19-year-olds — plus the more mature teams have played together and create a stronger synergy and teamwork.

2. The pressure gets to younger players with bigger expectations. I’m certain the more talented Virginia team started feeling the pressure midway through the second half when faced with being the first top seed to fall in the first round. You could simply see the change in their body language; they were taught theory and opponents were playing fast and loose.

3. Leadership is everything. I’m not suggesting that the big school coaches are not good leaders, they are. However, I’ve observed that they are more like psychologists dealing with bigger egos. The mid-major coaches resemble more high school coaches because they have the full attention of the players. Their focus can be on strategy and pulling the right strings with strong influencing skills.

Let’s discuss how this correlates to your business and why you can compete with your larger, more highly resourced competitors:

Team: You have the opportunity to build a strong, diverse, and consistent employee base. Small businesses are responsible for the most growth in the North American economy. Large corporations simply exchange the same employees; you grow them.

Once you have good employees on your team, it’s your responsibility to cultivate and develop them. That means having a formal development program where employees at all stages can be mentored, coached, and learn their craft. With the growth of digital technology, there have never been as many resources to utilize.

The problem I see is that small business owners don’t make this a priority. While many say this is what they want to do, their actions and financial investment say otherwise. In order to build a company full of star players, each one has to have an opportunity to grow, develop, and rise in the organization. If they don’t, they won’t stay.

Pressure: We all are familiar with what it means to “choke” in sports. In our business, “choking” means succumbing to the pressure. It means allowing fear and anxiety to win over our talent. As a business owner, you can help allay this issue by becoming a master influencer.

Notice I didn’t use the term “motivator.” Motivation is hardly ever the problem with good employees; it’s fear of failure or rejection. Instead of motivating, your job as a leader is to “influence.” In other words, become that person that can transfer your knowledge, skills, and positive mindset to those that just need the encouragement and — this is the important part — assurance that it’s okay to fail.

Influencing skills are the most crucial part of being a strong boss or manager. Without it, you’re the equivalent of that coach yelling from the bench to try harder. You want to be the coach that shows them how to be better and more confident.

Leadership: Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave people. Business owners and managers hold the future of the business in their hands, and it’s a huge responsibility. Retaining and growing talent is crucial in any industry. That’s why the person in a leadership position must be able to skillfully pull the right strings by understanding what motivates employees under their guidance and how to optimize their skills for the betterment of the company.

When the focus leaves the individual and falls on the team (e.g. the company), then everyone is working towards the same goals. The problem in so many small businesses — especially family businesses — is that agendas and favoritism become part of the culture. The consequence is a crisis worse than any fire or cyber attack to the health and profitability of that business.

The solution is to train and guide those in leadership positions. Leadership is not inherent in people. Just because they have impressive sales skills doesn’t mean they will make a strong sales manager. Don’t make the mistake of choosing leaders and letting them go without development. The investment you make in your “coaches” (including yourself!) might just be the best money you ever spend.

You want to consistently win big in your “bracket.” The follow these three steps:

Step 1: Create a culture of teamwork, consistency, and personal development.

Step 2: Don’t add pressure, but rather find a way to help your employees to work relaxed and unburdened. You will get better results.

Step 3: Grow your coaches. Invest in yourself and your leadership team to become more skilled in developing and influencing your employees.

Do these three things and you’ll find yourself consistently cutting down the nets and increasing your business growth and profitability.

© 2018 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Dan Weedin is a strategist, speaker, author and executive coach. He helps small business and middle market business leaders and entrepreneurs to grow more profitably and create a better life.  He was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame in 2012. You can reach Dan at 360-271-1592; e-mail at dan@danweedin.com or visit his web site at http://www.DanWeedin.com.

Extra Points: Tight Shoelaces

This Week’s Focus Point: Tight ShoelacesDan Weedin Unleashed-40

I love March Madness and the start of this year’s tournament has already been filled with huge upsets and thrilling games. Unfortunately for me, this year was the time I decided to boldly go with just one bracket. Even though I’m competing in several pools, I eschewed hedging my bet and went with one single outcome. That outcome for me fell to pieces on just the second day when my “winner” – Michigan State – went down in flames to 15th seeded Middle Tennessee State. Michigan State was tied with Kansas as the odds on favorite by Las Vegas experts. In the opening round, they showed how you can go from favorite to last in the blink of an eye. The cause of this calamity for the Spartans? Tight shoelaces.

I’ve been a huge fan of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo since I first saw him speak about a dozen years ago. He is a master coach that really prepares his athletes well. However on watching the second half of this game, I noted something very uncharacteristic of a Coach Izzo team. As the Middle Tennessee squad refused to succumb to the higher ranked team by hitting big shots and making the better plays, the Spartans got a case of “tight shoelaces.” This is a basketball axiom that is synonymous with panicking (you may be able to draw other visuals from this metaphor). Middle Tennessee had nothing to lose, so they played fearlessly. Michigan State played with panic. It was evident that they were thinking about the ignominy of being only the 8th #2 seed in the history of the tournament to lose to a #15 seed. This was a talent-filled, veteran group with high hopes and they were self-destructing under the weight of the pressure.

How do you handle pressure? Do you play fearlessly and aggressively as if you have nothing to lose OR do your shoelaces get tight? Panic has nothing to do with courage or skill. Panic is 100% about confidence, or lack of it. When consequences to “losing” align with a drop in confidence, panic sets in. Just like in March Madness, panic is deadly for you as a business professional. What you need to do to avoid it is always keep your perspective, proportion, and absolute belief in your ability and smarts. That way, you’re always in a position to win your game day after day and stay away from those tightening shoelaces.

Quote of the Week:


“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

~ Oscar Wilde

If you’d like to hear more about this concept, listen to my live Periscope broadcast today at 10 am PST. Information below…

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Madness Unleashed Journal #3

You can’t coach “tall.”Jack

I was watching the Kentucky-West Virginia Sweet 16 game last night on TV. Even on the television, it was excessively apparent that Kentucky’s team was just literally head and shoulders better. Any 50-50 ball that was up in the air (including rebounds) was there ball to have. While West Virginia is talented, you can’t change how tall you are. When I coached basketball in high school, I recall we coaches would always joke around and say, “You can’t coach height or speed.” Kentucky is undefeated this year and their ability to bump into the sky while running down the court is one BIG factor.

As a sales professional, entrepreneur, or consultant, you can offer all the same methodology as your competitor – products, services, assessments, trainings, etc. But you always have one thing that is different and can’t be duplicated. You. Too many of you fail to utilize the one thing that can’t be “taught.” You have experiences and gifts that are unique to you. They are manifested in how you influence others and can improve their condition.

Example – in my line of work in strategic risk and crisis management consulting, I can tell stories and draw comparisons based on my experiences as a volunteer fire fighter, a high school basketball coach and a public school board member. In fact, the least scary of these 3 was running in a burning building! My ability to transfer these experiences into something useful is a skill that can be learned (dribbling a ball), yet the fact that I own those experiences are unique to me.

Bottom line – instead of trying to impress a prospect or a client with your insurance knowledge or the number of acronyms after your name, try using what is exclusive to you.

You can’t coach “tall.” So go stand tall.

© 2015 Dan Weedin. All rights reserved

Madness Unleashed Journal #2 – Confidence

Why is it that so many lower seeded teams in the NCAA March Madness bracket upset the favored team?58842030-Dan+Weedin+%22Unleashed%22-30

These are all factors…

3. Lower seeded teams tend to be more “mature.” They have juniors and seniors, whereas many of the “better” teams are younger due to the “one and done” players. This ultimately means better decision-making.

2. In basketball, often you just need one really good player to carry you. Many teams can ride the shoulders of the “hot” player and overcome more talented teams.

And the most important in my mind…

1. Confidence. When teams that aren’t “supposed” to win get to hang around for the entire game, they get to a point where they believe they can and will win.

Confidence for leaders helps you win your own “championship games.” Confidence allows you to say both YES and NO when each are appropriate (and you will know the difference). Confidence allows you to ask tough questions, make bold moves, take risks, and meet people you might ordinarily be fearful of reaching out to.

Confidence wins in March Madness. It wins in leadership, too. It allows you to be “unleashed.”

© 2015 Dan Weedin. All rights reserved

Madness Unleashed Journal #1

Coach from NK Herald Feb 2006I love March Madness. I think it’s the best post-season tournament in all sports – college or professional. What makes it so fun is the unpredictability of the outcomes of the games. Every year, some “Cinderella Team” emerges to knock off heavy favorites and bust the brackets of many millions of fans around the country. The tournament is filled with talented players making incredible plays, the highest level of competition, and dramatically dizzying finishes of games. Even the most pedestrian sports fans are drawn to it and often fill out their own office pool bracket.

How do you bring that same magic, that same “madness,” to your business?

While you aren’t a high profile basketball tournament, you should be high profile in what you do. The same elements that make up a wildly popular sporting event are present in your own potential popularity. For instance:

  1. The tournament is different than the others based on the number of entries and the time span. How are you different than your competition?
  2. This tournament is defined by its drama. Are you an object of interest to your prospective clients? Do you make them lean forward when discussing your value?
  3. The value for the viewer is sheer fun. What do you bring to the table? Is it dull or dynamic?
  4. The tournament is ubiquitous for the next 3 weeks. Are you as visible to your target class of business? How deep is your intellectual property empire?
  5. The tournament is the ultimate water cooler discussion. Are people quoting you? Are they seeking you out as an interview? How strong is your cache?

Here’s the deal…

You don’t have to be popular to college basketball fans, but you do to your audience. During last night’s game between Robert Morris University and North Florida, North Florida coach Matt Driscoll was being interviewed and said he challenged his players by telling them to be “ballers” (hoops vernacular to a dynamic performer). He said “Ballers make plays. Dudes are just dudes…you need to be ballers.” In other words, anyone can go out on the court and be regular. They needed to be special.

Are you just a “dude” or are you a “baller?” Take a cue from the very best of the madness and go be special; be unique; and be a “baller.”

© 2015 Dan Weedin. All rights reserved

Crisis Case Study – Rutgers University

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

Rice - Rutgers
Rice – Rutgers

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

Extra Points – Madness. Memory. Momentum

Madness. Memory. Momentum                     2006 seated huddle vs Shelton

“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.

Next!

© 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

Triumph Over Tragedy

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

Making Lemonade

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