COMPETE EVERY DAY
What matters most to you – winning or getting all of the credit?
Michael Jordan was quickly emerging as one of the top players in the NBA as he started his second season in the league. He came out on fire during the first few games of the 1985 season before fracturing a bone in his foot during an October game against the Golden State Warriors.
The Chicago Bulls began to crater without their star second-year guard, going a disastrous 17-33 in the first half of the season. But, as we saw in ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary, hope wasn’t completely lost. #23 was coming back.
Jordan rehabbed relentlessly and returned in mid-March to the court. Worried about the long-term health of their franchise star, Bulls’ ownership imposed a “7-minutes-per-half” restriction on him. It didn’t matter how great he was playing, or how close the game was, once he hit his minute limit, he was benched for the remainder of the half/game.
The boiling point came on April 9, 1985, when battling for the final playoff spot, Jordan hit his (then) minutes restriction – with 30 seconds left in a one-point game. He fought his coach, who was being told he’d be fired if Jordan played one more second.
It had to be one of the most frustrating moments in Jordan’s life after he’d scored 15 fourth-quarter points to bring his team back. The opportunity to compete was being taken out of his hands. He was angry and helpless to aid his teammates in that moment. He was seething at the Bulls front office as he took a seat on the bench that night.
Almost every one of us can relate to the feeling of having the power to influence a result taken out of our hands.
In many situations, we sulk, whine, or complain about the situation. “It isn’t fair” that they get the chance and I don’t. Our focus has gone from winning and team success, to “what about me?” We focus on our feelings, suddenly apathetic to how the team does because it’s no longer about us.
This isn’t about sports either.
Watch the last 30 seconds of the Bulls-Pacers game in The Last Dance. You’ll see Bulls guard John Paxton hitting a game-winner and the first person off the bench to celebrate the win is Michael Jordan.
The same All-Star player who was just benched by management is on the court hugging and celebrating the win with his teammates when so many others would stay on that bench or go to the locker room because they didn’t get take the winning shot.
That moment right there showed Jordan’s uncanny leadership and focus on simply winning.
It’s also a clear reminder that as leaders, greatness requires us to focus on winning results, not getting all of the attention. Is it any surprise that the winningest team captains in sports history are about the team and not just their own awards?
- Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
- Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
- Anyone on the New Zealand All-Blacks
Leaders – winners in sports and life – care about winning. Period.
It’s not about the individual attention or praise, it’s about making sure no matter what, we as a team win.
When a friend hits a big goal, we should celebrate with them – and be motivated to raise our own game.
When someone on our team gets to make the presentation for a successful client project, we should celebrate with the team that the client is happy – not complain and add negativity to our culture that we weren’t chosen to present.
If you crave the attention, you’ll rarely get the wins. If you crave the wins, you’ll easily get the attention.
Leaders on winning teams care about winning – not the attention.
Compete to do the same this week.
It doesn’t matter how exhausted or hurt you are, we never ring the bell.
One of the most well-known parts to BUDS initiation is the infamous Hell Week. It’s a five-day training period designed to push potential Navy SEAL candidates beyond the point of exhaustion. Candidates will sleep four hours or less over the five-day period as instructors push them past their perceived limits. The completion rate varies between 20-30% per graduating class.
Any aspiring SEAL can quit Hell Week at any moment. The only way out is to walk over and ring the bell three times, signaling you’ve given up. The bell is a sign of defeat – that you weren’t mentally strong enough to endure. The few newly graduated SEALS who survived Hell Week had to commit to themselves that they would never ring the bell. In other words, they would never give up and be gritty enough to endure anything their instructors sent at them.
Among other characteristics, the Navy SEALS demand grit from their members and the ability to persevere through expected (and unexpected) tribulations in the pursuit of a future goal. It’s no wonder they’re one of the most successful organizations in our country. SEALS are put into the most dangerous of situations and expected to perform flawlessly under pressure, remain optimistic about their success, and work together as one unit for a common goal.
How could your company benefit from that same level of team performance?
While they may not perform to the level of our US Navy Seals, they can begin to build the necessary grit & mentality that would elevate their performance in relation to your organizational goals. Here are four ways you can encourage grit within your organization.
1. Clearly Communicate Your Main Goals
Does everyone in the organization know your company’s main goal & their individual role’s goal? Knowing where you’re going, and in many cases, how long it will take you to get there helps someone maintain their grit to continue pursuing the goal. If your end goal is far off, how clearly are key checkpoints along the way communicated so team members know what they’re aiming for in the short term and will be able to realize it when they’ve arrived.
It’s nearly impossible to maintain your forward progress and positive attitude when you’re pursuing something that you have no idea how long it will take. Consider why marathons show mile markers throughout the race. Each point helps boost the confidence of runners while also keeping them focused on their pace/progress during the course. Establishing short-term checkpoints help reinforce motivation for the longer, big picture pursuits.
2. Use Language Optimistic About Future Growth
It’s imperative that we use language that is positive and encourages a growth mindset in order to build grit within our employees. According to Angela Duckworth, gritty people are hopeful and use matching language. They don’t just wait and wish for good things to happen to them, but instead are active in creating the results they want for their career/health/life.
Leaders within an organization can encourage grit within their team by using empowering language to support the development of future skills & goal achievement. Replace phrases “I can’t,” “I have to,” & “I don’t know” with positive phrases “I won’t,” “I’m going to,” and “I’ll discover how.” Reinforcing language that supports an employee’s effort, positive attitude, and ability to grow in their skillset and role gives them focal areas to develop, helping to reinforce their grit.
3. Identify Places Team Members Have Already Displayed Grit
One way to help your team identify grit as a skill they can continue to hone is to identify past examples where individually and collectively they’ve shown grit. For those who don’t believe themselves to be gritty, directly identifying how they positive responded to a challenge or difficulty can open their eyes to how they have some grit – and where they can develop more. Another idea would be to host an open discussion over lunch around a challenging situation your team worked through in order to show them collectively the grit of your organization to persevere through (and overcome) challenges
4. Ask Interviewees About Times They Struggled or Failed
It’s easy to look at our current team members and ask how to develop more grit, but one area often overlooked is during our recruiting and interview process of new employees. It’s important that you look for gritty traits as you add new team members to your culture so they help add to the overall atmosphere within your company’s walls.
Ask candidates about times were they struggled and how they overcame said struggles. Find out what passions they have outside of work and what they did to cultivate their skills in that area. Consider how an accomplished athlete or musician has invested countless into practicing their skills so they can perform on game day. That focus and long-term vision to practice relentlessly display the type of grit that leads to success for an employee in an organization
Grit doesn’t just happen. It’s intentionally built.
Gritty organizations don’t just happen. Cultures don’t just happen to persevere through challenging, stressful seasons. They intentionally survive them because of the work done prior to injecting grit into culture and employees. It’s not an instant change, but it can be done with an intentional focus on these four steps starting this week.
Accountability breeds a strong, positive culture – in the locker room and in the boardroom.
When an organization embraces accountability from the top to bottom, employees are empowered in their role, motivated to do it to the best of their abilities, and proactive to reach the goals they’ve set.
People strive to help and do more when they believe they’re a valuable contributor to the overall success of the organization.
Here are the three keys to building accountability within your organization:
“For a long time, I convinced myself that I could will my way to a dream. As long as I wanted it bad enough, I could make it happen. But if there is one great truth I learned from this great game, it’s that no great accomplishment is ever achieved by yourself. Being successful is contingent on others, and it always starts with someone taking a chance on you.” – Kurt Warner, PFT
I heard retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner say these words Saturday night during his enshrinement into the NFL Hall of Fame with his fellow 2017 classmates.
“…no great accomplishment is ever achieved by yourself.”
I believe a lot of us love the idea of reaching our goals and claiming that “I did it.” I put in the work. I faced the obstacles. I won. Our (long) roads from Day One to eventually reaching our goal can many times feel, well, lonely. We remember the early mornings we woke up and went to the gym, alone. We think about the times we drove cross-country for our dream, alone. And we think about the struggles we went through financially, alone.
Yet, through all that time, we were never actually alone. And the reason we got to that goal was never just us. (more…)