With all my attention focused on our incredible event, March to Mastering the Madness, coming up next Thursday I have been writing some different content based on the happenings of the NCAA Division I Conference Tournaments.
Then it dawned on me that something happened this past week in the Illinois High School State Tournament that speaks right into The Athletics of Business.
The head coach happens to be a friend whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for as a person and as a coach. Not the friend that I talk to on the phone, but the kind that we always have great conversation when our paths cross and I love to follow his team’s season and see them play when I can. To me, they do things the right way and represent the kind of basketball program that I want Maddie and EJ to be associated with.
If you know me, that says a lot.
They had a storybook season, winning an outright Conference Championship and then the Regional Championship in the State Tournament. Onto the Sectional where they face an extremely talented team with size, athleticism and skill. This is a team they beat earlier in the season and people had no idea how it happened. I could tell you how and why it happened, but this blog is not about that game or the difference in teams, but rather the lessons to learned from this past week’s game.
From what I have heard, the atmosphere was electric as this was one of the most talked about games, not only in the Chicago land area, but in the entire state of Illinois.
Ball goes up, game starts, and then the shenanigans begin (for the record, shenanigans are defined as tricky or questionable practices). Their opponent immediately began to intentionally foul to not give up 3’s and layups. Did I say, “immediately began to foul.” Immediately, as in the first quarter and this went on for three quarters.
This was not some outside the box thinking in a late game situation. No, this a way outside the box of what I feel basketball is all about.
Again, jumping off my soapbox as this is not the subject matter of the blog. Or is it? In many people’s eyes that move was a slap in the face to the integrity of the game and showed a complete lack of faith in his team’s ability to win doing things the right way.
Now, the good guys went something like 21-36 from the free throw line which was completely uncharacteristic of them. Many will argue, if they just make their free throws then that strategy backfires. You know what, they are right.
Sometimes all it takes in business and in life is to make our free throws.
If you really stop to look at the big picture and what happened I think it is quite simple. We have all been there and most likely will be there again. The bad guys (just for lack of a better term!) put together a game plan that absolutely no one saw coming. I can only imagine what was going through the minds of the players and how the atmosphere completely shifted from one of excitement to chaos. All of a sudden you are way outside your comfort zone as this is something you never experienced before. The emotional roller coaster that seems to never end, especially when you start missing free throws, is a bit challenging. Your strategy goes out the window and now you are feeling pressure as opposed to applying pressure. Basically, you get taken out of your game.
Was there any way to prepare for that all?
Truth be told, they were prepared and most likely did not even know it (they only lost by five I might add). I will get to that shortly.
This is very similar to what happens in the business world when we are competing for something. Whether it is a huge sale, an acquisition, trying to get a new client, a promotion or a new position with a different organization. Sometimes the way the game is played changes in the middle of the game itself. Then there are times like this, when your competitor’s strategy may not be unethical or lack integrity, where their strategy is unconventional and in the gray area of being acceptable. If you allow it, it just might throw you off your game.
Truth be told, similar to the situation I talked about, you are most likely already prepared for this situation.
Here are five actions to take when you find yourself in this situation:
- Slow down mentally and get present
- Adapt, overcome and improvise
- Stay true to what got you to where you are in first place
- Lean in to your core values and strengths
- Continue to execute the little things
True, the harder you work the harder it is to surrender. Sometimes though, it just takes something as simple as making free throws to overcome odd adversity.