2018: The Year Of Coaxing Others Into the Spotlight

My 5th grade daughter was upset after a recent basketball game; she had “played terrible.” “Did you see all those shots I missed?” Indeed, she had missed a number of layups, shots she might typically make – to wit: “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy” (Moltke). Of course, missed layups are an expected part of a 5th grade basketball game…or 8th grade…or college. In fact, it’s important to first address one misconception that has somehow worked its way into our lexicon and cultural mindset: something being “a layup” meaning that it is easy, a no-brainer, something done almost automatically and in fail-safe fashion.

The truth of the matter is that layups are possibly the hardest shots to make in basketball. While the game has changed a lot to now favor 3-point shooting (a 30-footer from Stephen Curry – yes, my 5th grader’s idol – is marveled at as a work of art), we forget that the timing, body control, mathematical precision and a dash of luck all factor into every made layup. This idea that a shot is harder because we attempt it further away from the basket is a bit too simplistic. Yes, the percentage of shots made from 3-point range is lower than shots taken at point blank range, but pay close attention to the next game you watch in person or on television (5th grade to professional) and count the number of missed layups and shots taken inside the “key” area. You will be amazed, impressed and maybe a little confused. Shouldn’t all those close-range shots go in? After all, they’re layups! But for those among us that have experience playing, you know that dribbling the ball at full speed through six or eight other players, timing our jump (over, around, between other players) and aiming the ball (Off the backboard or straight through? Under-handed shot or over-handed?) all make for a very complicated transaction. Hmmm…maybe we’d have an easier time of it hucking it up from 28 feet…

My words of wisdom to my 10 year-old: everyone misses layups. Every kid in the game she played in missed many layups. So rather than (as is our wont) to focus on the things we didn’t execute perfectly (welcome to every day of the rest of your life!!!!), think about the things you did that benefited your team. First off, you guys beat a team that beat you guys twice last year. Secondly, how many assists did you have (passes that the teammate then converted into a basket)? Third, what about the defense you played, including the steal, full court sprint, and pass for a teammate’s basket that effectively sealed the deal with a minute left?

She thought quietly about all that.

Here’s the very best example of this I can think of – which, conveniently, is not only basketball- related, but Golden State Warriors basketball-related. As an East Bay native, I have been a Warriors fan since I first started following basketball – from the fun “Run TMC” years where we were always playoff good but never Western Conference Finals good, to the fun ONE year with Chris Webber to that implosion/trade that sent us into a 10+ year downward spiral, to this new era of dominance whose best feature is that this team is really fun to watch. Mr. MVP Stephen Curry is sulking on the bench because he feels he’s playing stinky. Coach Steve Kerr is empathetic about that but pulls Steph up out of the weeds of his 1st person view and reminds him of all the big, good things happening on the court, in the team’s favor, because of the things he is doing.

“Here’s what I’m going to show you. That’s your shooting totals (3 for 13 at the time). That’s your plus-minus (plus-15 at the time),” the Warriors coach said, seated next to Curry on the Warriors’ bench. “Alright. So it’s not always tied together. You’re doing great stuff out there. The tempo is so different when you’re out there. Everything you generate for us is so positive. It shows up here. Not always there, but it always shows up here. You’re doing great. Carry on, my son.” Full article via Daniel Mano of The Mercury News.

2014 was the Year of Being Transparent.

2015 was the Year of Moving Beyond Friendship, Beyond Agreement.

2016 was the Year of Supporting the School Administrator.

2017 was the Year of Nurturing Dissent.

In 2018, leaders will do their best work by elevating the voices (and confidence) of those around them. While charisma and “people-skills” often get people hired (or elected) into leadership roles, those virtues alone do not determine quality. Social media adds a layer of complexity to this dynamic; there are many great ideas facilitated by these connected technologies, and certain individuals have risen to prominence thanks to the platform. If we have a vision then it is our prerogative (and responsibility) to speak into the loudspeaker; we also need to be mindful of the amount of time we spend messaging about ourselves. One quick self-assessment would be to catalog the quantity of selfies one puts out there in the name of “leadership.”

An equally real danger that comes with popularity is the tendency to message easy-to-swallow ideas that are guaranteed to get a lot of likes and retweets precisely because of their inoffensive nature.

I considered adding a list of educators and other leaders that I think do outstanding, quality work in how they elevate others. But I think list-creation adds to the whole dynamic of “some voices are more important than others” – a bad habit we’ve gotten into in education that awards the extroverts (hand always raised, always ready to participate). So rather than offer a list, my polite challenge to the reader is to use the power and influence of your voice to bring to light the work of those people who spend all their time and energy focusing on quality and little to zero on self-promotion. Everyone needs a hypeman.

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