Last night’s Cleveland Cavaliers-Orlando Magic NBA game is now passing into the annals of sports “classics”, primarily because of the duel that Hedo Turkoglu of the Magic and LeBron James of the Cavaliers fought over the last minute or so of the game. At :30, LeBron was called for travelling — a crucial turnover — and the game was in the hands of the Magic. Hedo hit a runner in the lane with :03 remaining. So with :01 on the clock, it was up to LeBron. Inbounds comes the pass. James gets the ball, fades and shoots in one motion. The world stops. And. Cavs Win!
What do you do with one second left? It looks like last second heroics happen just because of luck, but there is a substantial component of strategy, planning, and ability that happens in most tasks before the luck can be of any use. The concept of strengths-based leadership helps to think about this challenge. What are the abilities that will allow you to “take the shot” with one second left and believe (accurately) that the basket you are shooting at is attainable?
Strengths-Based Leadership is the latest book from Gallup regarding the technique of accentuating your strengths and improving your weaknesses at least to the point where they don’t get in your way. In NBA basketball there are rebounding specialists, point guards, “grinders”, scorers, and all-around superstars. A lot of longitudinal research at Gallup has shown that similar divisions exist in the work world. This may seem obvious, but how many times have you had a performance review where your superior told you about the things you could have been doing better, instead of leading with the unique things you did that provided value to your organization? Trying to make a “grinder” into a superstar won’t work too well; and vice-versa. The key is finding out what abilities you have that will allow you to make the equivalent of the last second shot when it presents itself.
Ok, great — you say. How do you know what your organization needs to make the last-second shot? The answer is: you’re probably doing it already, but not recognizing where it’s critical. The next time the opportunity comes, it’s going to involve elements of something you already know. Using those skills to create, communicate, and deliver unique value will make you feel like LeBron: able to come through when the game is on the line. You may not be the savior of Cleveland and poised to deliver the first sports championship in 40 years, but you will have made the equivalent of the last-second shot by focusing on what you do well and how to deliver it.