One thing I really enjoy in March is the madness of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. There is nothing like seeing two teams give it their all to survive and advance.

Upsets are one of the most exciting things to watch unfold during the tournament, and they seem to happen more and more. Experts talk about parity and the exodus of good players to the NBA. They talk about team experience of mid-majors versus the lack of high level chemistry at major programs.

Because of this interesting dynamic anything can happen on any given day. Players and coaches talk about giving their all on the court. They say something like, “We have to give it our all, stick to our game plan, and I think we will come out victorious.”

No one ever says, “I hope we can lay an egg and get lucky.” Maybe it’s poor sportsmanship to say such a thing, but my dad often said, “I’d rather be lucky than good. You can be good, but if they’re lucky they are the ones who win.”

Friday night I was watching UNI play Michigan State. I was watching Ali Farokhmanesh miss a three-pointer. He later proceeded to miss a free throw. The commentators were talking about how it was rare to see him miss a free throw, and three… in one game! What makes it so stunning is that he had only missed seven all season!

Later senior Adam Koch, who has an 84% free throw percentage, missed both of his attempts. They were performing sub par. Up to this point excellence had propelled them to the Sweet 16.

UNI ended up losing.

As I watched the final minutes I realized that the idea of giving 100% in order to win is an incomplete idea.

I watched Ali Farokhmanesh miss shots and heard in my mind all those commentators talking about players losing their legs because they are too tired.

I thought, “Giving 100% in order to win 6 games in a row is exceedingly hard, if not impossible.”

UNI won over the previous weekend by giving it their all (or at least close to it). But it caught up to them. When they needed those threes from Ali, they weren’t there. When they needed those free throws there was just enough tiredness in the legs to prevent them from going in as usual.

Winning is the reason people compete. You don’t win by competing at your best.

Giving it your all may make you feel better when you walk away a loser, but the fact remains – you’re a loser. You can’t do it even when you give it your best. You probably should feel doubly bad, but people will tell you to hold your head up high for giving it your all.

I’ll be first in line to tell you to try something else. You weren’t made to win in that arena.

You may be thinking talent is the key to winning, but that’s not really true either. Kansas lost to UNI. It’s not luck either; it’s competing at a level high enough to win.

People practice so they don’t have to give 100%. Commentators might remark, “He’s unconscious;” and that’s a good thing. When you aren’t giving 100% and winning, that’s a good thing. If you only have to give 1% to win, that’s a great thing.

Upsets happen because some team is executing at a higher level. I’m pulling numbers out of the air, but let’s say UNI gave 90% and Kansas stunk it up and gave 40%. As long as Kansas’ 40% is higher than UNI’s 90% they will win, but this year it wasn’t. The other way to look at it is if Kansas’ 45% is higher than UNI’s 98%, Kansas will win even though they performed horribly and UNI did great.

When we practice physical activities we develop muscle memory. When we practice scenarios we develop mental memory. Eventually it becomes close to automatic. When we practice we are extending our 100%, which is limited by raw talent.

The goal is to not have to give 100% so you have something left for another day. Life is a journey not an event, so for most situations it is much better to not give 100%. Just getting by isn’t being a slacker if intentional; it’s being wise.

You can be a slacker when it comes time to perform if you’ve practiced because the discipline of practice allows us to perform at less than 100% and still win.


I started reading The Starfish and The Spider. I haven’t gotten very far in the book but I realized it is related my post on the power of an idea.

I won’t go into the history of Wikipedia, but it actually started as a failure – Nupedia.

There were a lot of gateways of control by the organization. While it seemed like the wise thing to do, the idea backfired.

What does this have to do with a sea star? (It isn’t a starfish, because it doesn’t have properties of a fish.)

OK, crazy fact time. Did you know that if you cut an arm off a sea star it will grow back? That’s not so amazing… other animals do likewise. But did you know that if you cut an arm off the arm can grow into another sea star?

If you take off the head of the spider it dies, but if you cut an arm off the sea star it keeps going. Likewise a traditional organization that loses it’s head will die. The authors are encouraging us to build organizations that don’t need to have a head.

When Wikipedia got started they did without the central control system of Nupedia and it took off. People understood the simple premise of sharing good information.

There are other examples given in the book such as eMule and Alcoholics Anonymous. Without central control the organizations thrive.

The central control, though, is the idea and that is why a mission statement is so important.

A good mission statement allows the leader to be out of control. People will understand the idea and run with it. A good mission statement is the the control.

A good organization will be out of the control of the leader, because the leader won’t call all the shots. A good mission statement encourages and fosters creativity to reach an end goal.

Communicate the mission well and your organization will thrive.

This is part 2 of 12 reflections on Gary Hamel’s WSJ.com blog called The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500.

2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees—none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.

Students complain about classes. Some classes people just don’t like, but classes that seem to add no value to students are the ones despised most.

John Maxwell discusses The Law of Addition in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

The three steps in adding value to peoples lives are:

  1. Truly Value Others
  2. Make Ourselves More Valuable to Others
  3. Know and Relate to What Others Value

Truly valuing others can be summed up in the phrase “we are to love people and use things, not use people and love things.”

Making ourselves more valuable to others requires us to grow so we can become a resource for other people. Learning is not just for you, but for everyone you will come in contact with.

Knowing and relating to what others value is probably the greatest challenge. It requires us to know what other people like and need. This means genuinely listening to others and doing life together.

Social media empowers people to add value. Blogs, updates on twitter, pictures shared through flickr and picasa, videos shared through YouTube, and everything shared through facebook means we get to do life together more easily.

What does adding value look like?

In the movie “Pay It Forward,” Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) was given an assignment by his teacher Eugene (Kevin Spacey) to change the world. Trevor proposed a system of doing good called “paying it forward.” A person does three good deeds in which a good faith obligation is given to each of those people to do three good deeds and so on. The three good deeds Trevor performed were helping a homeless man (Jim Caviezel), his teacher Eugene, and his friend Adam.

Trevor valued others, knew what others valued and acted on that knowledge.

In the end we find that he has become a leader of a movement in doing good. The message was simple: after receiving this good deed, go and do likewise to three people and share the same instructions.

When I started evaluating how I should use social media I started to realize it would be better if I added value. Letting people know I’m eating pizza probably doesn’t add much value, but pointing people to helpful resources can add value to people’s lives.

The internet has bred people with a lower commitment mentality because it has increased people’s agility to attain resources. People will follow those who add value not title holders.

Titles are identifiers. It may get you in the door, but credibility is earned. Make yourself valuable by helping others be better.

This is part a reflection on Gary Hamel’s WSJ.com blog called The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500.

1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.

On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a following—or not, and no one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.

What is an idea? According to Merriam-Webster it is “a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations.”

Why is this important? Everything is birthed from an idea. The idea is the seed that births what we see and apply ourselves to. What Hamel’s point highlights is that ideas become the star not the person or entity that promotes it.

I was listening to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast and he was talking about systems that allow change in an organization. Social media is a system that allows change to take place because it focuses more on the information than the source. Sources still matter, but the information has power on its own.

A good organization mimics the way social media spreads ideas. They are open to ideas and then allow discussion about each idea. Once an idea is allowed to be scrutinized and celebrated on it’s merit, then action is taken.

Bad organizations make people the star. Ideas do not have a chance to be unpacked because it didn’t come from the right source.

Just as a seed is potential production so is the idea. If a bad organization never lets an idea be planted they will inhibit growth.

Make an idea the star. Give an idea a chance and you might see spectacular growth.

Rule 1 of leadership from Jack Welch’sWinning” states

Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.

It is often said that the team with the best players wins, but we know that wasn’t the case for USA basketball.

USA basketball

In 1992 USA started fielding what would be called the Dream Team. The teams dominated in 1992 and in 1996. Then they barely won gold in 2000 and finished 6th at the World Championship in 2002. In 2004 USA got bronze.

If the team with best players always win then USA basketball would win every year they fielded top NBA players. It’s not that there are no great non-American players, but everyone knows that more American players top the list of great basketball players than any other.

So, what made the difference this time? Leadership.

Let’s look at the details under Rule 1:

Evaluate – making sure the right people are in the right jobs, supporting and advancing those who are, and moving those who are not

Coach – guiding, critiquing, and helping people to improve their performance in every way

Build self-confidence – pouring out encouragement, caring, and recognition. Self-confidence energizes, and gives your people the courage to stretch, take risks, and achieve beyond their dreams. It fuels winning teams.

When USA basketball built the new team they wanted to make a good team. They learned from past mistakes that they could not just put the best players together on the court and expect magic to happen.

As much as I hate Duke (I refuse to link), Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the coaching staff did a great job making a winning basketball team.

Let’s not fall into the trap of old USA basketball. In order to succeed you must have a great team, not just a collection of great people.

the decision matrix

On 09/09/09 was an event called The Nines put on by Leadership Network and Catalyst. Greg Surratt spoke on innovation.

The best take away from the talk was the decision matrix.

Decision Matrix

The matrix helps the group to determine what goals should be implemented after a brainstorming session.

Some choices will be easy to implement, while others will be hard. Second, some decisions will create a big win for the organization, while others will only make a minor improvement.

Place each idea in the correct quadrant to determine what goals should be implemented.

Work first on the Easy Big Wins and forget the Hard Small Wins.

The other two quadrants can be worked on later once the Easy Big Win quadrant goals are accomplished.







One of the great mysteries I have stumbled upon in leadership discussions is differentiating mission and vision. I actually stumbled upon a site that had good definitions. I also copied strategy and objective because they are also helpful.

Mission: Enduring purpose. The fundamental reason for the organization’s existence beyond just making money. It is a direction, a general heading, a perpetual guiding star on the horizon. It does not change over time. It is generally abstract and can never be achieved, only pursued. For example, for NASA: “advancing man’s capability to explore the heavens”.

Vision: A picture of a desired future that supports the mission, or an image of the future we seek to create. It is a specific destination that is concrete and achievable. A good one engages people–it reaches out and grabs them in the gut. It should be tangible, energizing, highly focused. There can be many visions over time that support the mission. The time scale is usually around 1 to 5 years. For example: “a man on the moon by the end of the ’60s”.

Strategy: A set of actions or objectives around a unifying theme that work to accomplish a vision. It is broad and action-oriented. If vision is the what, strategy is the how. The time scale of the strategy is equal to or shorter than that of the vision it supports.

Objective: The object of a course of action, something specific that is worked toward. Good objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound). The time scale is usually less than one year. [1]

Jack Welch on mission states,

An effective mission statement basically answers one question: How do we intend to win in this business?
At the end of the day, effective mission statements balance the possible and the impossible. They give people a clear sense of the direction to profitability and the inspiration to feel they are part of something big and important. [2]

Interestingly, the concepts are slightly different. If I have to choose where I’m going to side, it has to be with Jack Welch just because he is a proven effective leader. Maybe, the other way to word the question is “What is winning for this business?”

I’ve observed one thing that makes me want to follow a leader more than any other and that is vision.

If you’ve seen Disney’s Bolt then you may remember this line. Rhino tells Bolt,

They need a hero Bolt, someone who, no matter what the odds, will do what’s right. They need a hero to tell them that sometimes the impossible can become possible if you’re awesome!

This is what a leader does. Interestingly, Rhino himself is leading Bolt. He is casting a vision of who Bolt can be if he lives up to a higher standard. Casting vision helps people believe that what seems impossible actually is possible. People need to be told they are awesome, that indeed they can do amazing things.

So, mission is the grand purpose, vision is what it would look like to live out the mission for this season, and strategy is how vision will end up taking place.

If mission is stated as a vision, then the derived actions can cause the organization to continue in a direction after the appropriate time.

If vision is stated as a mission, then the action plan will not be precise enough.

[1] http://blog.bluesummit.net/strategy/mission-vs-vision/2007/
[2] http://www.welchway.com/Principles/Mission-and-Values.aspx