Leadership Observations From The Miami Heat

You may or may not be a fan of the NBA. I know that I tend to get a bit more interested in the league around playoff times. It seems in professional basketball…it’s all about the playoffs.

There’s a lot of news coming out of the Miami Heat. Expectations had been high at the start of this season because of the superstar team they had put together. Having acquired both LeBron James and Chris Bosh to complement an already all-star caliber, Dwyane Wade, there was anticipation of greatness.

But things haven’t gone as expected (or at least hoped). First off, they aren’t winning games. Secondly, they aren’t playing that well as a team. Finally, there’s conflict in the ranks.

As I casually observe what’s happening within the Miami Heat organization, I see a growing need for leadership. Here’s what I mean…

  • You can bring together the most talented people in the your area, but talent doesn’t necessarily translate into chemistry. Talent is beneficial when you’re by yourself, chemistry is crucial when you work with others. Without team chemistry, a person’s talent may actually work against what the team is trying to accomplish.
  • The best teams have people who understand what their roles are. In the case of the Miami Heat, you have two players (James and Wade) who have both been leaders on teams, but aren’t quite sure who is going to assume the role on this team.
  • A good team member knows when to assert leadership and when to submit to leadership. It seems that the Heat players, while they like each other, haven’t been able to figure out who needs to lead at certain times and in certain situations.
  • When crisis comes to a team, it’s the leader’s job to step up and take responsibility. At this point, the players have begun to question the coach’s ability to get them to play together. They have stated that “he is not letting them be themselves, that they are questioning his offensive strategies, and that they think he is panicking because he fears losing his job.” (ESPN – 11/29)
  • Everyone recognizes that this team has a lot of potential. Good leadership turns potential into performance.
  • Momentum and success make problems seem smaller and easier to manage. Without momentum or success, problems appear insurmountable. Basically, if the Heat were winning games, these issues wouldn’t seem as pressing.
  • What worked for your competition may or may not work for you. The Boston Celtics found great and continued success by going out and bringing a trio of all star players onto their team. They won a championship and seem poised for another great season. It seems the Heat have attempted to copy that formula, but haven’t found a way to implement it with the same level of success. The difference is the people involved. That’s why leadership is so crucial. A formula or strategy must be adapted for the people on team.
  • The first step to solving a problem is to identify what the problem really is. This quote from the ESPN article is hopefully a good step in the right direction for turning the Heat’s performance around: “While the players think that may mean a coaching change, one member of the Heat organization said the team is suffering from a lack of leadership from the players, not the coach.””They don’t want to step on each other’s toes,” the person said. “There’s no leader on the team. Somebody has to speak up and be the leader on the team. They can’t be afraid to step on people’s toes. They need a vocal leader who’s going to make everybody accountable. I don’t think it’s on the coach. It’s on the players.”

At this point, it looks like one of the Heat players will need to step up and assume a more prominent leadership role on the team. While it’s been Wade’s team up to this point, it appears that Lebron James will need to be the one who fills this spot. The only question will be if Wade is ready to become the Scottie Pippen to James’ Michael Jordan.

10 Lessons For Leading Like A Champion

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be on a championship team?
To be the one who hoists the shiny trophy at the end of a hard fought season?
What if you weren’t only on the team…what if you were the leader of that team?

All of us have those moments where we envision ourselves standing at the end of a big game or contest, coming out the victor. I think there’s something within each of us that has seen enough great sports movies with climactic endings to wonder to ourselves – what if that were me?

While we may not get the chance to win a Super Bowl or a gold medal or score the winning basket, we can still act in ways that will help us to lead like champions right where we’re at. In fact, every team that you’re on or that you lead – whether at work, school, or community – wants to be a winning team. We feel a lot better about success than we do about failure (even though failure has a lot to teach us and is often the path we must take to achieve success…but that’s another post).

Sean Payton: Super Bowl Championship Coach (photo credit: LIFE magazine)

So here is today’s list of 10 lessons each of us must learn if we are going to lead our team like a champion.

1. Ignore the negative voices.

There are going to be all sorts of voices that speak (shout, whisper) into your team’s efforts. Some of those voices will assume the role of critic, of naysayer. But nine times out of 10, the negative voice is merely someone’s opinion. Don’t give it more credit than it deserves. While there will be moments of constructive advice you need to hear, you must filter out the negativity that tries to infiltrate any and every team. It’s contagious and can derail your best efforts.

Do you spend your mental energy on the negative naysayers or on the positive possibilities?

2. Lead with class.

The best way I’ve heard this illustrated is when a coach has told his or her players how to respond to victory. They tell them, “Act like you’ve been here before.” That’s the classy way to win…and it’s a classy way to lose as well. No matter the situation, you maintain your composure. You’re confident and you don’t go crazy. The key to class is to be mindful of the excessive. You don’t overreact. Classy leaders keep their composure throughout the highs and the lows.

What kind of composure do you carry in your leadership luggage?

3. The shape you’re in shapes everything else.

It’s amazing how much better you feel when you’re in shape. Don’t forget that your head is attached to the rest of your body. Your level of fitness has a direct impact on your mental fitness. Strength leads to stamina. This all ties back into the necessity for a leader of others to lead him or herself first. Don’t wait until some type of tragedy hits you to decide you’ve got to do something about your physical health. If you take the time to get in shape (and stay in shape) you’ll feel better, you’ll look better, and I pretty much guarantee that you’ll lead better.

What are you going to do today to build a better body?

4. Prepare for the possible and practice for the probable.

A championship leader will spend time thinking about the future. That’s because he or she doesn’t want to be surprised. They also don’t want their team to be surprised or unprepared for the unexpected. Help those around you to learn to anticipate what’s just around the corner. Give them the tools necessary to respond the right way and not to react the wrong way. There’s a balance here as well. You can’t predict every possible scenario. Spend the majority of your time making sure everyone has the basics down.

Have you spent enough time teaching your team what the basics are in every situation?

5. Know your team.

There’s a difference between a task-oriented leader and a people-oriented leader. If you just need to get stuff done, need to accomplish some tasks that you can’t get done by yourself, you’re probably more task-oriented. But the winning teams, the ones that accomplish the most and find themselves on the successful side of things, are led by people who know and care about their people. Statistics show that people may appreciate their job, but still be unproductive. It is only when workers become engaged (actively using their discretionary effort toward their job) that productivity and pride in one’s work goes up. Leaders must take the time to acknowledge and appreciate their team in personal ways.

Do you actually know your team or only know about them?

6. Don’t make your team guess which version of you is showing up today.

This one is all about consistency. With a championship leader, there is no “wrong side of the bed.” In the face of success and failure, the leader maintains the same level of expectation and encouragement. Team members can’t function at a high level if they’re always concerned about making sure the leader is in the right frame of mind before they approach with an issue or concern. Consistency leads to approachability.

What are the three values that you want people to see in you in every situation or encounter?

7. Be willing to act in big picture ways in snapshot moments.

Sometimes you will need to give something up in order to go up to the next level. In the moment, it may appear that you’re losing something, but sometimes that’s necessary in order to achieve the greater goal. You might need to move your team around to better fit their strengths, causing some to be initially uncomfortable. You might need to say no to expenditures now so you’ll have dollars on hand for what’s most important. You might need to step back and wait until you’re team is better positioned to move ahead. Sometimes a sacrifice in the moment is necessary for success in the end.

What do you need to scrap today in order to be more successful tomorrow?

8. Value time – yours and others.

Time is the one resource that every single person has the same amount of. When it comes to the issue of time, everyone is on a level playing field…until it comes to how we manage that time. If you can’t manage the clock, the clock will manage you. There’s potential in every minute. But we’ll miss out on that potential if we don’t properly use it. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

How will you make sure you don’t miss your moment today?

9. You win only if everyone on your team wins.

It takes a team to win a championship. Even in sports where there is only one person who stands on the podium at the end, there are a host of people who helped get him or her there. I love what John Maxwell says, “One is too small a number for greatness.” If you find a way to win for some of your team, but not all of your team, it’s not really a win. The best leaders (the championship ones!) will point to their team when the microphone points at them. They’ll also be quick to take the responsibility upon themselves when the team is less than successful.

Is everyone on your team going to feel like the trophy is their trophy when you win?

10. Keep your head in the heat of the moment.

This is somewhat of a summary statement for many of the lessons listed above. You can do everything right, to get everyone ready, and then blow it right at the moment of execution. Don’t panic. If you panic, the members of your team will panic. If you lose your cool, it will fuel the emotions of those around you. When you lose your head in the moment you lose your grasp on the options.

Does the temperature in the room change when circumstances change because of your leadership?

What are some of the other lessons you have seen from championship leaders? Share them with us in the comments below.

Book Review: Acting Up Brings Everyone Down

I first heard of Nick McCormick when he sent me a copy of his first book, Lead Well and Prosper. It was a fairly quick read (short chapters with great summary statements at the end) chocked full of helpful leadership advice.

So you might have guessed I was (very) pleasantly surprised to know that Nick had written another book. He provided me with a preview copy to take a look. This one is entitled, Acting Up Brings Everyone Down.

The premise of Nick’s latest work is a comparison of the quirky and often immature behaviors of children that have somehow found their way into, what we hope would be, the mature adult workplace. It appears that some of us haven’t grown up all the way just quite yet.

One of the tools that Nick uses throughout his books is an illustrative dialogue between fictional workplace characters. This simple technique draws you in to each scenario. Then Nick goes to work on helping the reader see how simple childish behaviors aren’t really helpful at all in our work environments.

Topics range from lying, whining, shirking responsibility, selfishness, pushing the rules, procrastination…and many more. Each chapter ends with a list of solid “do’s and don’ts.” Perhaps the best part of the whole book is that Nick takes these summary statements from each chapter and lists them all out in a couple of appendices in the back. You’ve got all the good stuff in understandable statements to refer back to later.

This book will serve as a great wake-up call to anyone who goes to work each day. There’s a big difference between an adult who approaches the world with childlike wonder and the one who still lives each day with childish behavior. The only caution I would offer is to the person who is contemplating having children of their own. Nick does a great job of identifying a lot of negative behaviors that children are prone to exhibit. Having raised four kids of my own I can see these tendencies at different times in all of them. But kids will also surprise you and sometimes act more mature than the adults in the room.

You can purchase the book by visiting the Be Good Ventures site. Nick also offers a sample of the book. I recommend you take a look and buy a few copies for your workplace. Sharing the book with your co-workers would probably be more productive than simply reading the book on your own and writing their names next to the childish behaviors.

10 Tips To Take Your Leadership To The Next Level

It’s Top 10 Week here at timmilburn.com. Check out the first two lists here and here.

Mark Victor Hansen gives great wisdom when he says, “Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.”

In this post I want to encourage you with 10 nuggets of leadership wisdom that, if acted upon, will raise your level of leadership influence and ability.

1. Do what you do best.

Today is the best day to be the most authentic version of yourself. You are packed full of potential and possibility. There’s a reason others follow you or look up to you or are drawn to you. Take the time to figure out where your strengths lie and then invest yourself in those areas. While there will always be times when you have to do “weakness” work (stuff you’re not good at but is a natural and necessary part of your role), you will add the most value to others and your organization when you find ways to do what you do better than anyone else.

What can you do that only you can do and you do it well?

2. Focus on a few things.

My favorite illustration of this principle is juggling. I can juggle three balls. If you watch me juggle three balls you would think to yourself, “Wow, Tim is a pretty good juggler.” I can do different techniques. I can keep those balls moving. But…throw in a fourth ball and the whole exercise comes crashing to the floor. It’s instantaneous. Watch me try to juggle four balls and you’ll think, “Tim is a horrible juggler.” What’s the principle? I would rather do three things that measure an 8 (on a scale of 1-10) than eight things that measure a 3.

What is the one thing you need to focus on today that will cause others to stand up and take notice?

3. An event’s not over until everything is put away and everyone is thanked and you’ve evaluated your experience.

This is all about learning to lead after the important moment is over. You may have planned a presentation, you might be in charge of an event, or you have led a group of people through a process of change. Whatever your situation, afterwards is as important as during. In my work with student leaders, we will often put a lot of energy into pulling off an event. When the event is over, I want our leaders to know that their job isn’t done. Putting everything away brings closure and actually is preparation for the next event. Gratitude shows others that you clearly can’t do this thing by yourself (nor do you want to). And evaluation makes you a better leader for next time.

Do you have any unfinished business to take care of today?

4. Communicate in such a way that people don’t just hear you, but they actually respond to what you’re saying.

There’s a difference between talking at someone and talking to them. A message that’s delivered with no need of a response is a monologue. A message that elicits a response is called a conversation. Your most effective communication will invite people to respond to what you’re saying.

Does your communication help others know how to respond or how to act?

5. If you do it all yourself, then you’re not leading anyone.

It’s not rocket surgery folks (I love that line). If you are in a position that doesn’t require the assistance or presence of any other person, you are not leading. While I will admit that you have to lead yourself first, that only serves as a pre-requisite to actually leading others. I know it might be easier to do it yourself, it might take less time to do it yourself, and it probably goes a little smoother if you do it all yourself. But then…you’re limited by what only you can do…and you’re not leading.

Look around…is there anyone with you?

6. Integrity is not a personality trait.

Beyond strengths tests and aptitude training and finding the perfect fit for your skill set – integrity is not something you find out if you’re good at. You either have it or you don’t. A leader’s character will be tested in a variety of situations. You can’t delegate your integrity to someone else. You can’t make an excuse for a lack of it. Your integrity is all on you. It takes a long time to develop it and it takes one moment to ruin it. The only test to determine the level of your integrity is life itself.

Besides integrity, what are some of the “must have” characteristics of a good leader?

7. Sometimes you meet your expectations, so keep them high.

I love what Ralph Marston has to say about expectations: “Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality. “ If you don’t set your own level of expectation, someone else will. If all you want to do is get by and get through, then you’ll set your expectations at the level of the lowest common denominator. You’ll settle for average and mediocre. But if you want to do your best, strive for excellence, be a leader that others truly want to follow – you’ll set your own expectations…and they’ll be higher than what others set for you.

How high have you set your own bar today?

8. Be on the lookout for someone to take your place.

The best leaders are always on the look out for other leaders. They see potential in others. They find a way to work themselves out of a job. They develop others to fill their shoes. They find opportunities for others to shine. One of the best measurements of effective leadership is one in which an organization or group of people continue to thrive and grow when the leader steps away.

Two words: who’s next?

9. Your greatest opportunities to lead may lie at the point of someone else’s frustration.

Leaders are problem-solvers. Where others may shrink from a challenge, a leader will stretch to the challenge. You can tell which people are the leaders in the room – they’re the ones who are willing to take on and accept the responsibility for solving the problems in your organization. They look for ways to serve by meeting the needs of those around them.

What is one problem that you can start to solve today?

10. The ultimate failure is the failure to finish.

Everyone loves to start something. My bookshelf is full of books that I’ve only read the first chapter. There’s a lot of excitement at the start. Everyone wants to get on board. At the start of a sports season, every team is undefeated. At the start of a semester, every student has straight A’s. But something happens once the excitement dies down, the problems seem bigger than the solutions, or the reward doesn’t feel like it’s worth the risk. People quit. The challenge is to see it through. To do your best to the very end. To get up when you’ve gotten knocked down. To finish.

What will it take for you to see this thing through to the end?

Love to hear your comments on this post. Which one stood out to you the most?

10 Suggestions To Save Your Speech

It’s difficult to get people’s attention. It’s even harder to keep people’s attention.

Making a speech is part communication, part theater. That’s right, you’re an actor/actress on a stage. You finally get your chance to make your presentation, your talk, your big speech. Now that you have their attention, you must now spend your precious time entertaining, as well as educating.

One of the most encouraging pieces of advice I’ve ever heard when it comes to public speaking: Your audience wants you to succeed. That’s great news. They want you to do well. They want to connect with you and your message. And the ones who deliver, the ones who are rewarded with the attention of their audience, are those who add a bit of drama to their presentation.

I’m telling you, a little drama can save your whole speech.

Listen to this…people are making a decision within the first 30 seconds about whether they can trust you, whether they’ll listen to you. That tells me I need to find some way to connect with my listeners…and fast.

But…what if I blow it in the first 30 seconds to 3 minutes? What if my opening bombs and people start checking out.

Is it over? Should I simply stop and refund everyone’s money?

10 Strategies To Grow In Your Influence With Others

Welcome to Top 10 Week.

Each day, I’ll be publishing an article that includes a Top 10 list of ideas, tips, or strategies (like today) that will help you be a better leader. Everyone loves a good Top 10 list. I’m going to offer you some of mine and let you decide if they’re good.

One of the top skills of every effective leader I’ve studied or seen is the ability to influence others. John Maxwell has said that leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. So if influence is at the heart of good leadership, what can one do to develop it? Here’s some strategies to get you started and get you thinking:

1. Listen

I think this one shows up on every good list of leadership qualities. Think about it…most people assume that a leader’s greatest communication skill is the ability to speak. But that’s a myth. It’s the ability to listen. If you were to write out a list, the most influential people in your life truly know you and have been willing to sit down and listen to you. When we take the time to listen to others first, we gain the permission to speak into their lives.

What are some ways that you will not only listen, but show others that you’re listening?

Making The Most Of My Drive Time

I have a 35-40 minute commute from home to work each day. That adds up to over an hour in the car with each round trip  (I just did the math in my head).

Now let me say right up front that the priority of my drive time is driving. There’s too many distractions that keep people from concentrating on the road. I’m a big believer in not texting (or tweeting) while driving. But these restrictions don’t keep me from using this valuable time in a productive way.

5 Ways To Love Your Blogger

If you’ve ever thought of starting your own blog, here’s an amazing stat to consider: There are over 27 million WordPress publishers as of September 2010: 13.9 million blogs hosted on WordPress.com plus 13.8 million active installations of the WordPress.org software.

Did you notice the stat is only for WordPress blogs (I publish this site through WordPress with the Standard Theme). There’s also Blogger, Typepad, and a whole host of other blogging platforms out there. In other words, millions and millions of blogs. The numbers can be daunting for anyone wanting to throw their hat into the blogging ring.

So why are there so many people doing this?

I think it’s easier than ever to start a blog. Blogging sites can get you up and running in a matter of minutes with limited or no coding knowledge necessary. It’s free or extremely cheap. People have a lot to say (or sell) and it’s easy to do it with a blog. Platforms like WordPress can help you create a full-blown website on your own as opposed to requiring the assistance of a web design guru.