Thursday, February 16, 2012

Learning From Jeremy Lin

You have to be living on Mars if you haven't heard about Jeremy Lin, a rising NBA star playing for the New York Knicks. Waived by two previous NBA teams, this Harvard educated point guard was playing for an NBA D-League team in some podunk city when he was called up to the Knicks due to a raft of injuries to their staring players.

I don't know about you but Jeremy's success has struck a cord in me as well as in a zillion other people on the planet. It has become a personal story, a story we can be inspired by and a phenomenon we can learn from.

So, what can you learn from Jeremy Lin? You don't have to improve your outside shot, lower your turnover ratio or even go to the gym. What you need to do is think about how you will respond to new challenges, impact your organization and adapt to change. Let's see how Jeremy responded to the opportunity to play under the ultimate sports microscope in New York City.

Seize the moment: Jeremy wasted no time in making an impact for his new team. As soon as Jeremy hit the hardwood at Madison Square Garden, he began to post numbers few players have ever put up. He joined an exclusive club of 15 players since 1985 that have posted at least 20 points, seven assists and a steal for six games in a row. This club includes Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Chris Paul ... and now it's newest member Jeremy Lin.

Think about when you started a new sales job or took the reigns of a sales organization. How quickly did you make an impact? In today's environment you had better hit the bricks running. This means quickly building a pipeline, landing a large deal or making necessary organizational shifts. Move fast, take advantage of the opportunity, make an impact. You don't have a long run way so you had better blast off!

Improve others around you: After the Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers and Lin scored 38 points, the Knicks locker room was giddy with excitement. Jeremy's consistent performance has changed the team chemistry and how the other players react on and off the court. The Knicks are revitalized, focused and loose.

There are daily opportunities to impact your team's chemistry and the performance of your peers. Are you lifting up your group through leading by example? Are you demonstrating focused consistency in your sales strategy and activities? A former CEO of mine Al Sisto often said that "sales is an event driven process". It's the ability to string together a series of meaningful events that bring value to the potential customer which ultimately results in a sale. It is executing the fundamentals. There is no short cut. Jeremy's success is largely due to his ability to pass first, shoot second, find the open player and not be selfish with the ball. Your success is directly linked to the activities you consistently execute in the sales process and helping others in your organization do the same. When everyone executes the same plan at a high level, quotas are exceeded and customers win.

Embrace change: Lin entered the NBA on July 21, 2010 by signing with the Golden State Warriors. The Bay Area was thrilled almost as much as Jeremy was. Raised in Palo Alto, CA Jeremy attended Palo Alto High School where he led them to and won the State Basketball Title his senior year. With no scholarship offers, Jeremy attended Harvard University and elevated the Crimson to national basketball prominence. He won in high school, he won in college and entered the NBA expecting to win. Then, change happened. The Warriors waived him. The Houston Rockets picked him up and quickly cut him. The Knicks signed him on the cheap and promptly sent him to their D-League team. With each new transition Jeremy practiced hard, kept focused on his goal and overcame discouragement. Then another change occurred. He got the call up to the Big Show and took full advantage of it.

Change is a constant in all of our lives. Organizational shifts occur all around us, like it or not. Your ability to embrace the change, even when it temporarily may not be to your advantage, could lead to professional growth and new opportunities. Fighting change and resisting the inevitable will only lead to frustration and may not work to your benefit. Of course, there are some decisions that should be challenged or issues that require push back. I will leave it to you to decide when you should fight for a different outcome. Maybe the change is too much to take and you decide to leave the team. That happens. However, most of the time we are faced with changes in role, strategy or personnel and need adjust. If so, see the change as an opportunity and find a way to make it work for you and your company.

If you haven't already jumped on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon, hop on board! You will not only watch some great basketball and be a part of something special but might just learn some valuable life lessons watching the kid from Harvard.