I like to think that I try to avoid wasting time and admittedly, there are instances when my self-control is lacking. Sometimes I can redeem these moments by being intentional, even in my “down” time, to fuel some creativity or insight. I’ll give you an example. I watched a very tense Game Six between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz here in Salt Lake City on Friday night. In almost every respect, this could be termed a “waste” of time with the exception of the entertainment value that it provides. In this case, it was anything but; however, I didn’t plan it that way. It raised this important little question: do you have control of yourself?
Like the Loverboy song “Working for the Weekend”, it turned into “Everyone’s watching, to see what you will do, Everyone’s looking at you!” I know – you haven’t heard that song in like 37 years, so the link is in the show notes…
So let me give you a little context. Oklahoma City entered the game in a must-win situation. NBA playoff games are decided in a best-of-seven series. Utah entered that game with a 3-2 series lead after a meltdown in Game five on Wednesday evening in Oklahoma City where they gave up a 25-point lead in the second-half and lost by eight, 107-99.
The series has been physical. And I mean a LOT of contact. As you might expect, there is the lack of consistency in calls by the referees. Watch a game and witness the meltdowns – they are continuous. Coaches/players/fans, you would think life is coming to an end. In the Real Salt Lake game on Saturday night, Brooks Lennon spent so much time crying to the ref about a missed call that he left his team short defensively…and Vancouver scored a goal.
This happens WAY more than it should to supposed professionals. Have you ever seen a ref change his mind about the call?
This is the first BIG lesson for today. I only have three for you to remember and this is the first one:
Don’t Depend On Others For Your Win
We see this a lot when people want to “ride the coattails” of someone else’s email list or audience. Or how about networking? This is a fantastic example of an everyday moment where we might not have thought through the implications of our attempts to connect. Do you attempt to connect in a spirit of service to another or do you attempt to connect with an intended benefit for yourself?
When you focus on personal benefit, you look much harder for the “foul”. It’s that place where you feel treated unjustly or not reciprocated for effort given.
For more on this, go check out Erik Fisher’s interview with Scott Gerber on his Beyond The To Do List podcast episode 219 called Networking vs. Connecting in Business Relationships. Scott is the CEO of the Community Company and has written a book on networking called “Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter. Very quickly, I’ll give you my takeaway: we must enhance and strengthen our connections intentionally. And it looks quite the opposite when it’s self-serving.
Scott gives this example in the podcast. I’m paraphrasing, but he says “Has this ever happened to you? You get a new friend request or connection request on social media. All of sudden the new requester has decided that you both are now best friends. Remember, you don’t know each other, it’s a new acquaintance. Now all of a sudden, they are introducing you to their contacts as if he/she knows you SO WELL and what you are capable of, your strengths, how you can help them earn six figures in six months, etc… and presents a great risk to your reputation and brand. There a lot at stake here with a whole bunch of people you have never met.
OR, even worse, your new best friends wants you to connect them to people in your personal network. I don’t know about you – I’m very cautious and hesitant to bring people into contact with those I respect and admire without having established an understanding of them first. The way I see it, I have been entrusted with a special relationship (a connection) and I want to protect that from being misused or abused.
So back to the game, in the first half of Friday’s game six, the Thunder were in control. The Jazz were down by nine points 20 mins into the game. On one particular play, Russell Westbrook, remember him? Last season’s MVP? Yeah, he’s still ALL THAT! He gets out on a breakaway and throws down a vicious slam on the other end. He’s screaming for a second or two as the emotion just dumps out of him and he turns and looks at the fans (camera on him) and let’s the ‘f-bomb’ fly at the fans.
Now I know we might have differing views on this and this is my podcast so I get to say what I think. The lack of good sportsmanship that I see in players, fans, and coaches is appalling. I get emotion. I play with a bit of it myself. I’m competitive and hate to lose…at anything. Cards, video games, trivia, Chutes and Ladders….well, I honestly don’t remember the last time I played that, but you get my point. In a lot of ways, I wear my emotions on my sleeves and that’s not very pretty sometimes.
Having the ability to control emotions is a critical characteristic of effective leadership. I’m not saying being emotionless is a critical characteristic, but always keeping the highs/lows in-check. When things are spiraling downward faster than a toilet flush, you don’t go into the dumps. When you are killing it, you don’t become euphoric.
It’s a characteristic that your people are looking for in a great leader. Consistency. They can count on you to bring your best and not fear a berating based on your mood. That evenness portrays a lack of bias. How you view me isn’t going to depend on the circumstances of the last 30 secs or 30 days.
Managing the highs and lows conveys to your team that you know how to keep emotions in check to produce the best outcome for the team.
Back to the game. Through a series of events, some seemingly miraculous play by Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, and a bit of defensive frustration by the Thunder, the teams wound up tied at 41 apiece going into half-time. You can imagine, tensions are high and as previously mentioned, the game is VERY physical. During play, some fouls are getting called, others aren’t and I expect both teams feel somewhat disadvantaged by the reffing. So, you know how the cameras often switch to the players heading to their respective tunnels as they head for the halftime regrouping? Well, they show Westbrook headed out and a fan is chirping and I’m sure it’s something nasty, right?! And Westbrook has to be restrained as he goes after the fan. This leads to lesson three and the reference to our episode’s 80’s rockband rep Loverboy: everyone is watching to see what you will do.
Admit It When You Blow It
Understandable, right? Maybe you’ve had someone say something to you that was totally uncalled for. It’s hateful or downright abusive. The response in that situation might be more critical than you think. What I find so incredible about this is that it happened again at the end of the game. So, the Thunder lose the game 96-91, lose the series four games to two, and exit the playoffs.
A bitter pill to swallow no matter as a result of expectations. I don’t think that players are too worried about other’s expectations – they struggle with their own. What they wanted from themselves, what they needed from each other. They are their own worst critic just like many of you are.
Failed expectations can’t be used to justify uncontrolled or enraged responses. Why? It doesn’t change the outcome. So at the end of the game, the camera swings back to Westbrook as he’s walking toward their tunnel and a fan has phone camera recording the exit of the downtrodden Thunder. Westbrook takes a slap at the guy’s hand and is restrained again from going after the fan. The man and his wife seem to have looks of shock on their faces.
I’m sure Westbrook heard something and thought it came from this guy, took a swipe and acted like he was ready to fight. At his press conference at the end of the game, the question obviously comes up about these two incidents.
“I didn’t confront fans; fans confronted me,” Westbrook said. “Here in Utah, man, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans. It’s truly disrespectful. Talk about your families, your kids. It’s truly disrespectful to the game, man.” Can you imagine? I’m sure it’s true. I suspect that in Russell’s 10-year career, he’s heard some horrible, horrible things said about himself, his family, probably even his pets, etc… Hopefully his five-year, $205M contract takes some of the sting away.
As I said previously, it’s appalling to witness the lack of sportsmanship amongst fans, players, coaches, alike. He went on to say “I think it’s something that needs to be brought up,” he continued. “I’m tired of just going out and playing, then the fans saying whatever the hell they want to say. I’m not with that. If I was on the street, they wouldn’t just come up to me and say anything crazy, because I don’t play that s—. So, to disrespect me and do whatever they want to do needs to be put to a stop, especially here in Utah.”
Ultimately, those words stick in the long-term memory of fans. I suspect it won’t have the desired effect – i.e. greater civility from UT fans that next time the Thunder are in town next season. Actually, it might have the opposite effect. That’s not to say that Russell is wrong. Something should be done…to ALL that participate in behavior that denigrates the meaning of sport. Put yourself in this circumstance. What would you have done? How would you have responded? In this situation, what is a reasonable expectation, not just of others, but yourself?
I think it would have changed everything if Russell had apologized for losing control of his emotions (justified or not). The day after the game, a reporter from a local news station interviews the man who was recording the team’s exit. The reporter reveals that the fan didn’t say anything to Westbrook and was just recording the team leaving the stadium. The fan did what the leader, last year’s league MVP, should have done: took the high road. The fan said essentially no harm, no foul and he hopes that Russell comes back to UT soon and ended by saying “I don’t have anything against him.”
I’m not hating on Westbrook; rather, I feel for the position he and others regularly find themselves. Because someone is always watching, a seemingly inconsequential moment can become a major barrier to progress.
So remember, don’t depend on others for your win, control thyself, and admit it when you blow it. They say that character shows itself when no one else is watching. At other times, character is front and center in the public eye. How a leader responds when confronted with unwarranted behavior in public can dramatically impact his or her reputation.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
Loverboy Everbody’s Working For The Weekend
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