Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lintastic Lesson!

Plenty has already been written about how in the world Jeremy Lin could have gone unnoticed for so long. Certainly a lot of factors have been discussed: his race, his size, his overall "look" (meaning he didn't look overtly athletic), and his self-admitted lack of flashy play. But one reason strikes me as being a poignant lesson for leaders and coaches of leaders: he wasn't really given a chance.

In his stints in Houston and Golden State, Lin didn't get much playing time. Even when he arrived at the Knicks, he had more bench time than playing time--by a large margin. Now, not everyone gets to play as much as they want--even in the NBA. The disparity of talent from starting 5 to bench can often be dramatic. So, this is not an argument that "everyone should play." This is the big leagues. This is the real world. This isn't community-center kids basketball where everyone gets a trophy.

But, what seems to be clear is that this is a situation where scouts, coaches, and GM's didn't really look hard enough at their talent. Instead, they seemed to be content to buy-in to the "conventional wisdom" about Lin. When they got him on their team, they put him into the role that fit that conventional wisdom--without giving it a second thought.

Then disaster pretty much struck the Knicks. Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, THE big stars of the team, both were gone--at least temporarily. That gave Lin an opportunity. Make no mistake, I don't think this story has anything whatsoever to do with great coaching or insight by Knicks Coach, Mike D'Antoni. He was forced to play Lin because of a shortage. He should feel embarrassed just like a lot of Lin's former coaches do. To Lin's credit, he made--and is making--the most of this opportunity. NOW, D'Antoni has to do some coaching because he has to figure out how to keep Lin in the mix when Stoudemire (now back) and Melo are both on the floor. That will also be a challenge for Lin but at least now he has a chance to deal with it--rather than sleep on a couch and dream about it.

The lesson for us in the business world is this: who is the Jeremy Lin on our team? Have we put enough effort in evaluating--and re-evaluating our talent? Have we given our teams a chance to fail? Yes, I said "fail." You can't really give people the chance to succeed if you, as the leader, are also willing and prepared to allow them to fail.

Leaders: avoid buying into the conventional wisdom regarding your team. Make your own judgments and put forth significant effort in giving your team the opportunity to fail. The results just may be Lincredible!

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