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Free Throws and Leadership Skills are Fundamental
By Bill Catlette

Last week, my home town University of Memphis men's basketball team was defeated in the national championship game by a talented, well-coached squad from the University of Kansas. Though I've been a Memphis resident for better than two decades, I am not a Tigers fan. I don't root against them, but I'm not wild about them either. It has nothing to do with basketball, but a rather sorry bureaucratic gauntlet my daughter had to run in order to graduate from the school. Hence, I can hardly be accused of sour grapes for saying that the game needn't have turned out like it did.

Indeed, Memphis pretty well had the game put away with an eight-point lead with a little over two minutes remaining. Then, the Kansas team began deliberately fouling Memphis players in order to stop the clock and put the Tigers' notoriously poor free throw shooting skills to the acid test. The tactic paid off as Memphis players missed four of five free throws in the last two minutes, allowing Kansas to tie the game, sending it to overtime, where Kansas prevailed. Had even one more of those shots from the charity strip gone in, there would have been no overtime, and the NCAA would now have a different champion.

In the game of basketball, free throws and lay-ups are fundamental. They are the first two offensive maneuvers every player is taught. You are expected to make a very high percentage of such shots. Free throws are a gift in that you're not required to hurry your shot, and no one is putting a hand in your face to block the shot or distract you. With each team generally getting fifteen or more free throws in the course of a game, the difference between a 60% completion average and an 80% rate often decides the game. Though Memphis coach, John Calipari is an excellent coach and a great motivator, his persistent failure to address the team's poor performance (58.7% season avg.) in this critical dimension cost them dearly.

In the world of work, leadership skills are as fundamental to success as free throws are to the game of basketball. Teams (organizations) that fail to thoroughly incorporate them into selection, appraisal, and reward criteria for managers are ruining their chances at being a winning organization.

It's not enough to take your star sales rep and convert him or her to a sales manager. In fact, that is often the exact wrong thing to do, especially if the person lacks fundamental leadership capabilities or interests. An individual who is largely self-absorbed, for example, will never make a good leader because one of the basic tenets of leadership is the ability to subordinate one's self interest for the larger good. Ditto for those who would rather hear the sound of their own voice than listen to others.

The good news is that, as with free throws, we can improve many of our leadership skills with good coaching and regular practice. If it has been a while since you worked on your game in this area, you better get with it, because as the Tigers found out, competitors will take advantage. Read a book, hire a coach, take a seminar, or perhaps subject yourself to a 360 survey. But don't wait, because time is not on your side.

Want a more engaged workforce? Want the performance benefits of creating a great place to work? Bring Bill Catlette or Richard Hadden in to speak or conduct leadership training for your organization, or to keynote your association's next convention.

Contact Bill (901- 853-9646) or Richard (904-720-0870), and let's talk about how we can make your next meeting a colossal success!

Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
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