Life Lessons from a Sporting Great

After a game I always have things I wish I had done better during the game so I work on them during the week at training. After a public speaking event, I review it as well  [Damian was reflecting on this immediately after speaking at our Breakfast Event]. I can’t fix this on a basketball court so I thought I would email you all with my thoughts. I won’t be offended if this is simply deleted but if you take the time to read it I hope there’s something you can take out of the below thoughts to implement in to your own performances or workplace culture.

One of the keys to the success we have had is the environment we surround ourselves with. I spoke about our 3 key values and the non-negotiable behaviours which fall underneath each of these. However, these values are only as valuable as the paper they’re written on if there’s no carry through on them and support across the whole organisation of them.

I spoke about Rob Beveridge during my talk and some of this is what he brought to the club. In a nut shell these values are player driven, coach supported and club facilitated.

Players come up with them and adhere to them;

Coaching staff are well aware of them and also hold us accountable to them and expect our daily standard at training to be good enough to win games on a weekend. If we stick to our values this will happen;

Club facilitated - if there’s something we think the club can help with for us players then we have them on-board. Eg, If at the end of the season we have a great player but they fall outside of the brotherhood/commitment/relentless values we believe in, then they have to be open to finding a player to replace them.

In the 4 championships I’ve been fortunate enough to win, only once do I think we actually had the best team on paper. The other times we had the intangibles which separated us from other teams. These stem from those values and behaviours.

Provide an environment that can provide sustained success and growth. I know there’s ways to get immediate success. In sport it may be paying the most money to get the best players. This doesn’t always work, but usually results in problems down the track such as financial losses, ownerships change overs, unsustainable etc.

Intimidation or fear from the boss may also work in the short term and reap instant success as employees work harder and longer out of fear of their boss. Again, you may gain instant success but over a long period of time it creates an unhealthy work environment, employee turnover, bad reputation.

We have an environment where we know the expectations are high and if we don’t reach those then we may be out of a job. However, we also have an environment where we can get better individually through our facilities, coaches, support staff etc... there are incentives to do well (winning games, financial rewards, making Australian team, making family proud etc.) and although there is a clear pecking order in leadership at the club we value ourselves in making sure we empower everyone to share ideas and thoughts and more importantly, they are listened to. You may not always agree with them, but at least they are heard.
As our coach would say, “I don’t care who comes up with the idea, just as long as it’s the right one”.
The team succeeds, all the individuals succeed.

As a leader in your workforce, ask questions to make sure your workmates, employees, clients are ok if things seem off. It’s easy to turn a blind eye and not have what can be considered a hard question to ask. A simple “are you ok” can go a long way when it’s genuine and you’ve developed a relationship where they feel comfortable giving an honest answer.

One of Australia’s greatest players of all time, Luc Longley, says one of the defining moments of his career was when some of the issues he had off the court, carried over to his performances on it.

His team mates noticed he wasn’t being himself at training and during games, they decided to distance themselves instead of seeing if he was ok.  His head coach called him in to his office to chat. Although Luc wasn’t aware of his recent body language and demeanour at training, once he opened up to his coach about some  family issues off the court they came up with a method which helped Luc focus on basketball and only basketball while at training and games. His performances improved, he started enjoying his basketball again and the results on the court speak for themselves.

We are all human - break ups, divorces, love, loss, mortgages, financial problems etc... statistically there’s people in every workforce going through these and it isn’t always easy to separate your personal life from work life. Provide an environment where people aren’t slipping under the radar.  Slips in performances shouldn’t always be punished but sometimes investigated and guided.  Encourage high goals. You don’t get taller by cutting other people down. Provided it’s achievable and doesn’t take away from your workplace then it will benefit you all.

To achieve all of the above means a lot of planning is required. It won’t always come naturally. Surround yourselves with people who will fit the ethos your workplace has.

People may look good on paper but that doesn’t mean they’re the right person for you.

Steve Waugh once said, “attitudes are contagious, is yours worth catching?”. This is important to remember in the workforce. In basketball if one player is constantly blaming the refereeing, the long travel, etc for losses then it’s easy for a second, third, fourth etc player to do the same and we can’t expect the results to change because we are blaming things out of our control. Instead, if we have a collective understanding that high standards at training daily will lead to getting the most of our ability on a weekend then if at the end of the game it turns out we just weren’t good enough on the night, I can live with that. Losing knowing full well we took short cuts during the week would keep me up at night.

Food for thought:

Each week, do something nice for yourself, for someone you love and for a stranger - I find it’s good for life balance.

Too often when things are bad, it’s all we can see. Take a step back and put it in perspective and then find an answer.

When things are good, live in the moment and understand how/why you got there.