“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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