“Do Or Do Not. There Is No Try.”

The sports commentators were all over one particular statistic when they were going through their recap during the post-game wrap-up.

“James Harden had how many turnovers last night?!”  The final number was 13.

Lots of basketball fans were likely saying this about the Houston Rockets’ star guard and runner-up league MVP after the decisive Game Five in the NBA Western Conference Finals last night. The Golden State Warriors closed the door on Harden’s team and eliminated them from the playoffs with a big win at home in California.  Afterward I was talking to a good buddy of mine, Mark, about the game and in particular, that stat on Harden’s performance.

Mark is one of my oldest and closest friends — from college up to present — and has a very keen ability to evaluate situations.  He’s a business owner and also parent to five kids. Though he can be laid back on certain topics, when it comes to his company, his family, his friends and himself, he holds things to a high (but reasonable) standard.

I made the comment that maybe Harden made so many turnovers because he was trying to “make plays”,  to pull his team forward in effort to win the game, critical as it was (after losing, Houston is out).  Mark patently dismissed this idea with a wave of his hand as we sat finishing our pitcher of beer.  Players at their level are not suppose to make that many mistakes.  You can’t expect to perform well if you have that many errors in a game.  This is especially true for a guy like Harden, a leader on his team and the runner-up MVP for the league during the regular season.   The main thrust of my friend’s comments:   You have to MAKE the plays, not “try”.

A quote from Yoda comes to mind:  “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Herein is the simple point of this post, using the basketball game and a conversation over a beer as back drop:  Whether you’re taking about performance in a sport, or doing your job, or raising your kids, or taking care of your marriage, or whatever it is, you should be motivated to do your very best.  If you succeed, great.  If you fail, don’t make excuses.  Hold yourself to a high standard. And next time, do better.

Harden will get his chance next season. Meanwhile, the Warriors will continue to DO their best.  That’s a good lesson for us all.

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Good Leaders Share Information

There are countless books and perspectives on leadership, but it really boils down to a few basic tenets.   One of those tenets is this:  “Good leaders share information.”

“That’s pretty vague”, you might say.  After all, what sort of information?  How often?  In what manner?  Here’s a little of what I’m getting at.

Good leadership means providing those in your charge understanding. By this I don’t only mean your understanding of them, but more importantly for their own development and maximum contribution to your enterprise, helping them understand the reasons behind decisions that are made.  In other words, being transparent.

Whether we’re talking about goals of the company, current health of the business, expectations for employees, professional partnerships, etc., it’s best to have all cards on the table.  The employees are more vested, and more able to align their own personal (professional) aspirations with the organization when they work in this environment.  Transparency gives employees a sense of involvement with and ownership of the business. The approach also allows the leadership to focus on what really matters:  the success of the entity they lead, and the people that make up that organization.

Using these basic strategies as noted above are not only effective for business organizations, but with some adjustments for age and related understanding, also provide a good foundation for management within a family. After all, trust and empowerment work well as building blocks for raising children, just as they do for developing the human capital in a company.   In fact, these principles are useful in government also.  But that’s for another post.

Of course, there are those that prefer the more Machiavellian approach to leadership.  Along these lines, people in positions of leadership like the prince in that famous novel by Machiavelli, use their power together with deceit, influence, manipulation, and selfishness to reign.  At some point though, especially in this day and age, that approach will fall short and the leader will end up alone, with no one to lead.

After mulling over this idea earlier today, I did some quick research and found this great piece by Glenn Llopis that provides additional insights, making the case for transparency business as a powerful tenet for leaders.  One of the central points he makes relates transparency to building and strengthening relationships.    I couldn’t agree more.

In the end it’s up to each leader, at whatever level he or she operates, to choose their path.  If they’re good, they’ll choose transparency. They’ll choose to be open, and share information.  It’s the only sensible way to lead.