What Business Leaders Can Learn from the Decision to Put Jeremy Lin in the Lineup

On February 4th the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association were at the bottom of the league’s standings having won just 8 of their first 23 games, a 35% winning percentage. The team has appeared in the NBA’s post-season playoff picture just once (2011) since 2004, and hasn’t won a game in the post-season since 2004.

Struggling on the court in this lockout shortened season and decimated by injuries Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni had no other option than to insert unknown, often overlooked and cast aside Jeremy Lin into the starting point guard position.

What has happened since is now known in New York and throughout the sports world as “Linsanity,.” With Lin in the lineup the team has won 8 of 9 games putting itself back in the playoff picture. Lin has sparked the team scoring more points than any other player in the history of the NBA in his first four career starts. Over the ensuing five games holding now an average of 25 points and more than 9 assists in starting those 9 games since February 4th.

You may be asking yourself, what does all this have to do with business leadership, employee engagement and motivation? Plenty!

There are employees in your organization with untapped skills, talents and interests chomping at the bit to have something that inspires them to contribute at a higher level. It’s your job as the organization or team’s leader to tap into that dormant potential contribution.

If there is one thing Lin didn’t lack it was self-confidence and he was sitting on the benches of three NBA team chomping at the bit to be able to contribute in a way that could make a difference. He was only given a chance as a last resort. He was probably the last option D’Antoni had to save his job as the coach of the one of the highest valued franchises in professional basketball in the world’s largest market.

Lin has saved his coach’s job for a few more months and potentially, even years.

Earlier in my professional baseball career serving as the leader of my final team, I hired an individual, whose name is Steve, that my boss, the owner of the franchise didn’t want me to hire. Fortunately, despite having significant experience working with this individual he didn’t make it entirely clear to me that that was his position, but he strongly intimated that desire. At the end of the day he left the decision up to me.

In going through my hiring process, the interview and background due diligence not only could I not see a reason not to hire this individual, I thought his background, his skills, talents and attitude was just what we needed.

Despite being originally defined as a “C” student, my boss’ code for not being a high-performer, this individual proved my hiring decision to be right. It took at least 3 years for Steve and I to turn around the attitude of our boss and to have him see Steve as a high-performer with future potential within the organization.

Today, Steve is now president and ceo of one of the companies in that organization.

What it took to make my hiring decision work was a simple conversation offering Steve the opportunity to join me in the challenge of changing the attitude and impression of the person holding the key to our professional success at the time. Steve was more than up to the challenge.

There are many Steves in your organization, here are the steps to pull them out

  1. Raise the performance standards and expectations in your organization.
  2. Define the specific and related performance expectations you’d like to see from the individuals on your team.
  3. Create an inspiring reason and purpose for the change that will connect to every individual’s innate human need to make a difference.
  4. Have a candid, private conversation with each of the individuals, clearly articulating those new expectations and discussing how their higher level of contribution will make a difference and to whom that difference will be made
  5. Offer training, development, support and coaching to help them step up to the new role

Follow those 5-steps and I believe you will be pleasantly pleased by the response. And along the way you will be raising the self-esteem and self-confidence of those on your teams while improving performance results for your organization, just like the NY Knicks are experiencing thanks to Jeremy Lin and Linsanity that has erupted this month!

If you’d like a model to follow that will support the five steps above, visit www.EmployeeMotivationEquation.com and download the free report and assessments there.

’til next week,

2 thoughts on “What Business Leaders Can Learn from the Decision to Put Jeremy Lin in the Lineup

  1. Jeffrey B. Senft says:

    I agree. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy listening to sports radio. There are always parallels between sports and business, teamwork, competition, execution, respect, accountability, etc.

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Jeff, Thanks for stopping by and reinforcing the point I was making. I’m pleased you agree. I’m wondering how you apply those type of strategies in your business leadership and what you’ve noticed regarding how your employees/team members respond? Would you care to share your experience a little more? Thanks!

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