by Al Wahnon
Height is important to a basketball player, but more important is how high you jump. Many of today’s professionals are over 7 feet tall and their proximity to the basket takes much of the skill out of the equation. The closer you are to the floor, the more difficult the slam-dunks, layups and clutch passing.
But there is more to the game than height. A case in point is Muggsy Bogues, who was the shortest player ever in the National Basketball Association. He was 5 foot, 3 inches tall. Everyone told him he was too small to make it in the big leagues. They doubted that someone his size could challenge the 7-footers who dominated the courts. But he challenged them; ran around, under and through them, and it turned out that his competitiveness, resilience and self-discipline made his success on the court legendary.
What does Muggsy have to do with business? A lot, say Herb Greenberg and Patrick Sweeney, consultants. The two men delivered a keynote speech at the recent annual summit of the National Association of Wholesale Distributors in Washington, D.C., and outlined the traits top athletes have in common with successful business leaders. They said there are four main characteristics that separate top performers, whether you’re an athlete, a salesperson or a CEO. They identified those traits as competitiveness, self- discipline, optimism and resilience.
Competitiveness is the core quality in an athlete or a chief executive officer, said Greenberg. Athletes want to be connected to other top performers and it’s no different in business. Creating a culture in which wins are celebrated and top per- formers are pushed to exceed even their own expectations are critical to a company’s success.
The speakers offered an essential element in taking your business to the next level: Surround yourself with optimistic, can-do people. If you hire positive people who share your vision, you have a good chance to succeed, Sweeney said. Look for confident, optimistic people. Stay away from people who would rain on your parade. Move away from the clouds and into the sunshine.
According to the consultants, anyone who has managed people has seen these types of employees. These workers seem to suck the oxygen out of a room and bring down the attitude of all those around them, unlike the fiery Muggsy, who would light up an arena and ignite a screaming crowd. The pessimists respond to change with a negative view of every new idea and always can tell you why a plan won’t work, why an idea will fail, or why a project is a waste of time. With Muggsy, it’s “give me the ball and get out of the way.”
The consultants stressed that we don’t need the naysayer nor the ne’er-do-wells on the basketball court in our businesses.
There is a correlation between sports and business. Today’s athletes are different from their earlier counterparts; they earn more money and save more. When their playing days are past, they have the resources to survive. Today, athletes invest and go into business, and many— Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, to name a few—are eminently successful at it. That’s why many major corporations recruit from college campuses and tend to favor athletes in the selection process. That, of course, is not the sole consideration, but in a close race the athlete gets the nod.
Addendum: I wonder what the 5 foot, 3-inch Muggsy Bogues would have been like if he was 6 feet, 11 inches tall?