February 17, 2010
This week, the world of professional basketball celebrated the emergence of unlikely superstar Jeremy Lin. Made-up words like “Linsational”, “Linsanity”, and others were used in headlines to describe the performance of the 6’3″ Taiwanese point guard of the New York Knicks. In his debut week as a starter, Lin scored more points in his first five games than any player in recorded history, dominating Kobe Bryant in one game then draining a buzzer-beating and game-winning three-pointer in another along the way.
No one expected this. Lin was not offered a Division 1 scholarship. Lin was passed over in the NBA draft. After being picked up by the Golden State Warriors in 2010 and sent down to D league ball, Lin was cut. He was signed by the Houston Rockets in December, 2011 then cut again at the close of the pre-season. Lin was claimed off waivers by the Knicks a week later and sent down to D league again. On February 3, a week before the Knicks planned to release him, Lin was sent in by Coach Mike D’Antoni to play clean-up in the closing minutes of a horrible loss to the Boston Celtics. The rest is history.
This didn’t just happen Along his rocky road, which included sleeping on a friend’s sofa, Jeremy Lin worked tirelessly on the gaps in his game. Then D’Antoni chose to give him a shot. It was the grand collision of these two choices that enabled the Jeremy Lin phenomenon. That’s how it’s supposed to be. In any relationship, the leader and the led play a role in the advancement of the latter.
That’s the point for the week.
Personal development is a mutual responsibility. Whether parent/child, teacher/student, coach/player, or leader/associate, both parties must fully participate in the process.
Jeremy Lin didn’t just wait his turn or rely on his leaders to suddenly choose him. He put himself in a position to be chosen. Mike D’Antoni didn’t require Jeremy Lin to be perfect. He took an informed chance on Lin based on his observation of the player’s recent progress.
As associates, we must actively engage in the process of our development and advancement by sharing our interests with our leaders, then asking for help to identify and improve on the skills and behaviors that we’ll need to accomplish our goal. Simply believing that our time will come or that advancement is a function of entitlement will leave us disappointed.
As leaders, we can’t wait until we know beyond any doubt that an individual we’ve been given the privilege to lead is 100% ready. We’ll wait forever.
But when associate preparedness meets enlightened leadership, magic happens. The unlikely seems suddenly possible. Small successes beget bigger ones. Confidence and courage bloom adding pace to the work of the team. Associates surprise their leaders and themselves by translating built capability into delivered results ahead of plan.
Best of all, trust blossoms as associates and leaders rely on each other more, arriving together in a better place, and finally marveling, arm in arm, at the fact that what they achieved was somehow greater than themselves.
Make associate development a two-way street.
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