Power Up Your Follow Through

Power Up Your Follow Through

“A basketball player doesn’t practice his free throw shooting by doing slam dunks all over the place. He does it by practicing free throws.”— Chris Solinsky

I astounded some young teens while playing basketball with them. I made 27 free throws in a row. When asked “How did you do that?” I taught them the magic of follow-through. When people first start shooting a basketball, their hand and arm often stops at the point of release. The most important trick in the whole motion is to be fluid from your arm to your fingertips as they prescribe the flight of the ball. Your fingertips will then end up pointing to the bottom of the net. Many leaders prescribe actions but often their motion stops as soon as they are done speaking. Here are five simple steps to ensure the actions you care about are accomplished with the results you need.
  1. Make the goal and value of the action clearly visible. There is a reason that the basketball goal is bright orange.
  2. Ensure the action-taker understands the action.
  3. Set a date.
  4. Ensure the action is written down so it can be referred to.
  5. Follow up when the date agreed to arrives.
These points may seem obvious but ask yourself this question. How many action items in a row have you given that were accomplished perfectly well? If you are finding that action items are ‘bouncing off the rim’, do the critical step of evaluating your follow-through. Check your form and understand why you are missing the shots you are taking. I did miss free throw number 28, but I made number 29.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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Regenerate to Power Creation

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed.”— Jelaluddin Rumi

We found this bee sound asleep on the flower. When she awoke, she continued her wonderful work.

I read a study performed by a team at the University of Rochester Medical Center. It confirmed what most of us understand intuitively. The researchers found that sleep is analogous to rebooting a computer which has been running too many processes for too long.

These researchers discovered that sleep cleanses the brain of toxins. This detox process aids in fixing the brain’s memory and improves the quality of a person’s ability to learn.

It also greatly decreases the likelihood of mistakes in creative work.  I have found in my own work in writing software that working too many hours results in more mistakes – mistakes that made the project take longer. If I had taken the time to sleep more, the project would have finished sooner.

Getting sleep, taking vacations, and conscientiously keeping your energy high is vital to exceptional leadership and exceptional work.

Would you rather follow someone who is trudging lethargically through work or someone leading a great cause with playfulness and joy?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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Untangling Impossible Problems

“All is big, until it is solved to become small.”— Mladen Đorđević

The task before us seemed impossible. The trumpet vine had grown vigorously on our trellis for twenty years. Then it had been lowered to the ground to make way for house repairs. Unanticipated circumstances meant that it had been on the ground, growing in a new direction, for two years. Now it was time to raise the vine to its former glorious heights.  

I have to admit that I was dreading dealing with this task. When I took hold of the whole vine, I could not even lift it off the ground. I anticipated having to organize a large work party of my neighbors. I thought that even with lots of help the task would take hours. I expected ropes and pulleys, frustrations and aching backs.  

With a deep breath, my partner and I went out and began to prepare for this anticipated work party.  We wanted to better understand how we were going to approach the problem.

Surprisingly, we were able to raise the vine in less than two hours without an enormous work party. With encouragement, some expert advice, and the addition of a couple of pairs of hands we conquered the task.

It turned out we followed a problem-solving process I often use on the job. It worked wonders for this task as well.

  • Clarify the goals.  The goal wasn’t to lift the whole vine at once. The goal was to restore the vine on the trellis so it could grow again.
  • Analyze the situation.  We found that the massive knot of vine was actually composed of four major sections that had tangled together quite thoroughly. 
  • Untangle the problems.  We did not need to solve all the problems at the same time. We just needed to separate them. We worked to untangle the branches from each other. We clipped out the parts that we did not need and pruned away shoots that were holding the larger sections down.
  • Solve one problem at a time. Once untangled, the individual branches were quite light and easy to handle.
  • Get help. We did get an expert to help us. He had done a similar task a few weeks before. With his help and a ladder, the vine was soon restored to the trellis

The main thing we did is often the most important part of any task. In spite of being overwhelmed by the job, we went out there and got started.

Do you have any impossible tasks you have been putting off?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” — USA Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

This week in the United States of America, there is the traditional “4th of July” holiday, celebrating the writing of the Declaration of Independence.

As I thought about the meaning of this holiday, I was inspired to read similar documents from other countries.  Here is a small sample of quotes.

Constitution of South Africa, Chapter 2, Bill of Rights.
Section 9: everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and the benefit of the law. Prohibited grounds of discrimination include race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language, and birth.

The Constitution of the Russian Federation.
Article 19.2.3 Man and woman shall enjoy equal rights and freedoms and have equal possibilities to exercise them.

The Constitution of the United Mexican States.
Article 1. Discrimination based on ethical or national origin as well as discrimination based on gender, age, disabilities of any kind, social status, health condition, religious opinions, preferences of any kind, civil status or any other reason which attempts against human dignity and which is directed to either cancel or restrain the individuals’ privileges and immunities shall be prohibited.

*** 
Words like these are not written into a constitution unless there is a fundamental need to establish clarity in what we aspire to be.

As leaders, we must hold high aspirations about the way we want to see the world and communicate those ideas with clarity.

Most importantly, we must act to make those self-evident truths evident not just in words, but in how we lead.  Our words and actions influence the people and the world around us to also rise to those aspirations.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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The Best Time to Plant a Tree is 20 Years Ago

“When a seed is sown into the ground, you cannot immediately see the plant.”— Mamata Banerjee

I was startled on our walk this evening.

I was taken aback by how tall the trees on our playground have grown. They are well over 60 feet tall. When they were planted there twenty years ago they were about as tall as me.

The work you are doing today is planting seeds for the potential of tomorrow.

The coaching you are giving to others is providing them nourishment and sustenance.

Your followup and optimism provide the sunshine needed for growth.

Twenty years ago is a fine time to plant a tree.

It is also best to keep on planting seeds of growth every day.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

You may also like:

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I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

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"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

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"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

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Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.