Photo credit: www.si.com

We lost by 50 points. FIFTY POINTS! If you’re just now reading this blog series, I’m coaching our middle school’s seventh-grade boys basketball team. We’re currently 0-6, but it feels like way more than six losses. A few games ago, I “achieved” something I’d never done in over 16 years of coaching. We didn’t score a basket in the first half of a game. We nearly went scoreless, but thankfully we hit one free-throw to get on the board with two minutes left in the first half and then another to make it an even two.

For perspective, the other team had 26 in the first half. To test my ability to remain relaxed and calm, the boys didn’t score again in the third quarter because I guess I didn’t build enough character through the first two quarters. What really bothered me was how well the boys were taking it. They were basically indifferent. That made me uncomfortable to say the least.

The monkey on your back

I mean seriously? How can you not be totally upset when you’re getting beat like that time and time again? At first, I was actually surprised at their confidence in defeat thinking these kids really have a great perspective on losing. Then I realized that they truly weren’t bothered by getting slaughtered.

In our previous blog on Uncomfortable Changes, I discussed the idea of being relentless in your desire to change as opposed to indifferent or the change won’t happen. Indifference is like a baby monkey on your back while running a long race. And as for said monkey, it only gets bigger, stronger, and more attached by the day if it’s allowed to stick around. That said, indifference like monkeys, needs to be dealt with immediately. Contrast their attitudes with the coaches.

My assistant coaches and fellow competitors, Ben and Daylen, and I can’t stand losing. Sure, you learn from losing… blah blah blah. Losing stinks! It doesn’t feel great and eventually can be demoralizing. One of the things I’ve learned about the teams I coach is that I’ll probably never have a “Dream Team” (a reference to the 1992 olympic basketball team featuring the first NBA American team).

I refuse to recruit or push the rules to have the best players. Therefore, I pretty much get what I get and try to build them up to the best of my abilities. This is hard work. Or as the athletic director told us during our recent blow out, Saint’s work. With that perspective, I try not to get too high or too low when coaching. I once lost sleep over losing while coaching a third-fifth grade team and haven’t done that again. Now I know you’re wonder, how does this fit into a leadership blog?

You have a choice to make

While meeting with my friend and client Andy Gallion, CEO of inCheck, we discussed his challenges with coaching his seventh-grade daughter’s team. After losing to a much better opponent, he mentioned to his players that the only difference between his team and the team that won was their competitiveness. His team has a winning record, but he wanted to challenge them to achieve a higher level of success. He wasn’t going to force them to want more. The choice was theirs, but they had to choose it.

This is a principle we use with our clients too. You have to choose to want better. If we attempt to take our clients somewhere they don’t want to go, then we are arrogant and out of touch. Through competitiveness, Andy wants to teach his players to be relentless.

Successful leaders develop competitiveness and relentlessness within their people. These values are not a win/lose proposition as in sports. Great leaders create a win/win knowing that a relentless pursuit must stay within ethical and legal bounds. Some leaders and people for that matter believe in a “win at all costs” value system. I do not adhere to this principle. At some point, you will have to sleep at night knowing the corners you cut to achieve greatness. If we’re going to win in business, I must be able to look my children in the eye and justify my actions accordingly. This perspective has come with age, as most things, so there is at least one positive thing about getting older.

Therefore based on this new perspective from Andy, I will work on competitiveness for the remaining two weeks of the season. My joy for coaching has not waned one bit even after the “relentless” losing. But if we can teach the young men to learn competitiveness and ethically sound relentlessness, we will further our mission to develop leaders who may one day change the world.

Are you ready to choose something better in your business? Do you want to start pursuing win-win situations? Let’s talk! We are SPEARity, a local Milwaukee leadership coaching firm that specializes in business coaching, executive coaching, and leadership development training.


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