How Shooting Free Throws Can Help Your Business

As many will know, Wilt Chamberlain is considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever live. He even once accomplished the unthinkable, scoring one hundred points in a single game! However, like many seven-foot-tall basketball players, he was a horrendous free throw shooter, averaging one season at about 38%. His career average was also abysmal at 51%. How in the world can one of the best basketball players to ever live only hit 51% of his shots from just fifteen feet away while no one was attempting to block him? Clearly there are some mind games at play, but not all of them follow the rules you would expect.

What will likely didn’t know is that Wilt Chamberlain actually knew how to improve his free throw shooting. He had even proven it worked, too. He just chose not to do it. Surprised?

In order improve his free throw percentage, Wilt Chamberlain took the advice of Rick Barry (another NBA all-time great) and shot the ball underhand, the same way you may have seen done in the movie Hoosiers. This drastically improved his percentage and eliminated a major weakness in his game for almost an entire season, which turned out to be his career best at 61% (This season also included that 100 point game, a game during which Chamberlain hit 28 of 32 free throws. However, the very next season, he decided to go back to shooting overhand, resuming his awful performance. What world class performer would do this?

Later, Wilt agreed he should have kept shooting underhand but just didn’t. He knew what was best for him. He knew what was the right choice. He simply didn’t make it. Shaquille O’Neal, another famously bad free throw shooter, said he would rather shoot 0% on his free throws than ever shoot underhand. These players were more worried about peer pressure and perception than they were about their results.

How often do we make the same decisions in the workplace and in our business? We know that making an extra sales call will yield better numbers. We know that engaging our employees hearts and minds will improve turnover and retention. We are fully aware that attention to detail and transparency with both customers and employees will create healthier business.

But sometimes, even though we are fully aware it does not make sense, we simply don’t do these things. There are myriad reasons why, but the most common is that we don’t want to make a decision that we perceive in our heads to be unpopular or difficult. We take the easier road. I challenge you to make the decisions that will get you greater results, not what will make your life easier.

When you look back at the careers of Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain it is unquestionable who was the better basketball player. However, what is most striking, and somewhat sad in retrospect, is that you could convincingly argue that Rick Barry was the best basketball player he was capable of being, underhand free throws and all, while Wilt Chamberlain, as good as he was, never lived up to his full potential. Unrealized potential is one of life’s great tragedies. Can you say the same about your business career?

 

***To end this post, I want to begin with a simple recommendation. If you don’t listen to the podcast This American Life, you should. I am saying nothing groundbreaking as it is one of the top downloaded podcasts in the country, but for those of you that have not yet discovered the wonderful world that is podcasts, go check it out, as that is the source of the material for this post. This American Life featured the story from Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, another gem.

 

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A Rising Tide…

This entire website is based on the premise that ideas should not be locked away in a deep dark safe within every business (or every business leader) never to see the light of day. Below is an interesting story that I believe is relevant to this mission. I stumbled across it one day when researching a potential rallying cry for my sales team as we started a new fiscal year. I believe it ties in very closely to the teamwork mentality that we need more and more in a competitive workplace and can be easily connected with an earlier post Success Is Not A Zero Sum Game.
I’ll start off with a little history lesson, if you will  bear with me for a little while. Unfortunately, as some of you will come to know, I was an English major in college, but I also made the poor decision of adding on a History minor, so you will have to put up with some of my tangents from time to time no matter how much you may not want to…
Some of you may know that the phrase “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” is often attributed to John F. Kennedy – or, more specifically, one of his speechwriters, Ted Sorenson. However, Ted Sorenson actually stole shamelessly from a regional chamber of commerce in New England called The New England Council. Kennedy used the phrase “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” so much in his speeches however, that many thought he had coined it himself.
The idea behind the phrase seems pretty simple in terms of the economy. If the overall economy does better, then the participants in that economy should do better as well. Similarly, our goal in our workplaces is to keep the tide rising, and with it all of the individuals who contribute to the results of the entire company.
However, there are always two sides to every coin, and one of Bill Clinton’s former advisors enjoyed his own addendum to the popular phrase. He liked to say that if we do not abide by appropriate policies and procedures, “the rising tide will lift some boats, but others will run aground.” Make sure that the success in your organization does not benefit some parties while proving disastrous for others. It is easy to recognize the wins that we are seeing in our own departments or divisions without realizing that other parts of our organizations – integral parts of our organizations – are being left behind. It is not necessarily their jobs to “catch up” or to “get with the program”. Decisions do not occur in a vacuum, and as you make them within your teams, realize that they create ripples. Do not let those ripples cause your coworkers to run aground!

Here, Take This Round Tuit

Team,

 

This week, with just six business days left in the fiscal year, I wanted to expand a little bit on a phrase that our sales manager used in our Location Meeting just last Monday. If you do not remember, what he closed our meeting with was the axiom, “We are judged by what we finish, not what we start.”

 

I do not think there is a much more apt way to sum up the way we finish a year, finish a quarter, finish a week, or even finish a day than by that bit of wisdom. It is a constant occurrence both in the workplace and in our personal lives to start a project but lose focus as time goes on. How many of us have odd jobs around the house that we wanted to get to but haven’t? Home improvements? Fitness goals? New Year’s Resolutions? When I was a kid growing up, my father had a long list of household chores that seemed to continue to pile up. He even physically had a list on our refrigerator. He seemed to spend more time coming up with the things to fix than actually fixing them. Needless to say, handiwork was not a skill he had to be proud of. He did have a cousin, however, who was incredibly good with his hands and was an engineer with the Air Force, working on military planes for over 20 years. Whenever he asked my father when he would finish these projects listed on the refrigerator, my father would reply, “When I get around to it.” One year, my cousin gave my dad a card for his birthday that he titled “Around To It” and did so every year afterward, physically creating a symbol for the mental block that stopped my father from getting to his projects.

 

How many of us have created goals for ourselves out into the future, but also delay in completing the daily tasks that are required in order to achieve them? Are we ever going to get around to them? When will that be? Tomorrow? Next week? Next quarter? Nike once used advertisements that proclaimed: “Yesterday you said tomorrow,” which speaks to the same human urge to delay. Whether you term it procrastination, lack of drive, comfort with the status quo, etc., it is still one of the leading causes of unfinished business. Many of us have the skills but simply don’t take all of the steps!

 

If your goal this year was President’s Club or Winner’s Circle then you have six days to complete it. If your goal is Winner’s Circle or President’s Club for next year, then you only have six days to get yourself ready to achieve it. If your goal is to make more money than you made last year, do better than you have done before, or work towards a position that you do not currently have, then every day should be a step in that direction. The first step may be the toughest, but the last step is the one that many fewer people actually take because they stop along the way. We have six steps left to finish out FY16 and build our momentum to a fever pace entering FY17. Let this email serve as me giving you your “around to it” so that you can get going on what you have been delaying.