“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
You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

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...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"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...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"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...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.