On Leadership and Doing What You Do Best

Basketball Player

Brandon was a sophomore, and as always, arrived in the gym for varsity basketball tryouts wearing a terrific smile. He made good grades, worked hard, was always dependable, and got along well with both coaches and his teammates…

But there were a lot of great kids that we had to cut during basketball tryouts.

Playing In the Big Leagues

Not all great kids are good enough to play varsity basketball.

His teammates were all tall and athletic enough to touch the rim when they jumped. But at 5 feet 4 inches tall, he couldn’t even jump high enough to touch the net.

When you looked at him, it was easy to know that Brandon was not going to be a star. But we kept him on the team because he worked hard enough to push his teammates and could be a good role player. And he was excited to be a part of the team and to contribute to something bigger than himself.

But as we reached the middle of our season, he was not getting much playing time.

So after the winter holidays passed, knowing he was probably frustrated with his dwindling opportunities in games, I had him come in for a one-on-one meeting.

Mid-Season Check-Up

We met in my classroom at 7:30 am, and when he walked in I could tell that he didn’t know what to expect.  So I asked him to sit down in one of the desks, and then went over to sit beside him with a pencil and a couple of sheets of paper.

I placed one of the sheets of paper on his desk, and kept the other copy for myself. It was a printout of his statistics report for the season so far.

I then asked him what he saw when he looked at it… He took a moment and stared down at the columns of numbers and categories, and then just shrugged his shoulders.  That’s when I smiled and started to share a few ideas.

Well, Brandon, in our first 12 games, you have only played about 20 minutes.  You have gotten 6 steals, so that is good.  But your 3 point shooting percentage is ZERO!  You missed the only one you took!

He dropped his chin a little.

So I continued… “and your rebounding numbers are awful – you only have 1 rebound for the whole season so far!

He nodded in agreement, and his shoulders sagged a bit lower.

And look at this – ZERO blocked shots!  Did you know that you have ZERO blocks?

He sank down into the chair and whispered – “yes, sir…

Moving to Solution Mode

So, in practice today, what do you think you need to focus on to get more playing time?

He didn’t even look up at me – “Rebounds and block, I guess?

And that’s when I got up and got excited.

I yelled out: “WRONG answer, dude! Forget about blocks and rebounds and 3 point shots.  That isn’t what you do well… and it isn’t why we kept you on the team in the first place!

He looked up at me, still a little confused.

Listen – you could spend all day for the next 3 years working to get better at something that you will never be great at, or you can choose to focus on what you do well.  What have you heard me say the team needs from you most this season?


Exactly!  You can be a terrific on-ball defender.  You can make it tough for the other team to bring the ball up the court and that pressure creates steals.  But for some reason, when you are on the floor in games you sag off the ball and focus more on things that other people do better. If you want to play more, and if you want to help our team more, I need you to focus more on what you do best!

Lesson Learned

This was an important message for him to hear… and I am willing to bet it is an important message for you as well.

So what is the lesson that you can take away from this story?

The message is that whether you are an athlete or an executive who is in the midst of a business team building situation, you (and your teammates!) need to focus on your strengths to excel in your chosen arena.

Darrelle Revis isn’t paid 12 million a year by the New England Patriots to kick field goals, or to throw the ball, or to block people.  He is the highest paid defensive cornerback in the NFL because he shuts down opponent receivers and because he has 21 career interceptions.

He knows his skill set and he is focused on doing what he does best.

The Power of Focus

If you want to succeed at anything, stop trying to do everything.  Most people realize far too late that all failure is the result of ambiguity. Once you are clear about what your skillset is, you can stop being a jack-of-all-trades handyman and start getting noticed for the expertise you offer.

Brandon focused on his strength and was able to contribute a lot over our last 5 games.

What strength will you contribute to your team? Have you and the members of your organization identified your ideal role and the activities that your team personality types are best suited for? If not, perhaps you should…


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Sean Glaze

Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding
He Delivers Engaging Events that Transform Laughter into Lessons
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Image Sources: annarbor.com

L2L Contributing Author