Lessons from the Winningest Team

In my house, March is usually a big month. My husband is a huge fan of college basketball. I usually enjoy watching a few games with him on TV. But this March is different. Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, all sporting events have been cancelled. Would the winningest team (University of Connecticut women’s basketball) have gone on to another championship? We’ll never know.

But here are some fun facts to take our minds off the constant bad news on TV. This is why UCONN has sustained success for so many decades:

  • 11 national championships from 1995 to 2016
  • Longest ever winning streak in basketball, men or women (111)
  • 20 WNBA players
  • Geno Auremmia has coached the team for 35 years
  • 100% graduation rate among four-year players

How do they do it? It’s a special place. With a special mix of players, coaches, and boosters. I recently read Coach Auremmia’s memoir. He lays out his four priorities: talent, confidence, presence, and toughness.

These are the lessons I learned from Coach:

Practice Consistency

“Let’s stop focusing on the end result and start focusing on what happens every day in practice.”

— Geno Auriemma

My friend Beth, a successful corporate consultant, recently shared her goal for 2020: stay in touch better with clients and prospects. Beth has been in business for over 15 years. Yet she knows she’s losing out on business because she doesn’t keep in touch with clients regularly. She KNOWS what to do. It’s not about knowing. It’s about doing it consistently.

Have you ever started something but slowly lost motivation? Don’t be hard on yourself. It’s completely normal. Motivation goes up and down. We often have more motivation at the beginnings and ends of a new project. That’s why we start new goals on Mondays and pick New Year’s Resolutions on January 1. Scientists call this the Fresh Start Effect.

I see clients struggle with the slump all the time. We start working together. They’re excited. Motivation is high. Then the messy middle strikes.

There are tons of reasons why the daily grind is so tough. Have you heard yourself say:

  • It’s boring.
  • I don’t see results.
  • I get distracted.

I know this happens and expect it. I build it into my coaching. I take advantage of the Fresh Start Effect. I break down goals into bite-size pieces. Clients enjoy lots of little wins along the way and stay motivated more consistently. There will be off years. This past season Alabama didn’t make the College Football Playoff. The Patriots didn’t make the Super Bowl. The Warriors didn’t win the NBA Finals.

That’s not the point. The point is to continue learning, practicing, and progressing.

Tap Into Your Own Genius

“People have watched our team…and they write or call me and say, ‘Can we have your offensive stuff? Do you have it on paper?’ Well, the answer is I really don’t. First of all, if I wrote it down, it wouldn’t make sense to them, because I’ve tailored it to fit our program and to evolve with our basketball team. Second, just because it works for us, it might not work for other people. And third, you can’t really be sure until you actually get out on the court and try it and tweak it and refine it.”

— Geno Auriemma

I love learning new things and asking others for advice. I read a lot of self-help books. I collect book recommendations like Cookie Monster collects cookies.

What trips me up is when I look to others and ignore my own wisdom. One friend swears by her networking group and said I’d love it. I went several times. I sensed it wasn’t my thing.

But I continued to go thinking I should give it more time. I wish I had listened to my inner wisdom, which was right the first time.

Fail Forward

“Don’t they understand that life is gray? Coaches have a tendency to live in that black-and-white world, too. We tend to say, ‘No, you’re doing that wrong,’ but the truth is that you could be doing it wrong and moving toward doing it right.”

— Geno Auriemma

I grew up in a black-and-white world. Either I got straight A’s or I didn’t. Either I won that contest or I didn’t. You get the picture. There was no gray area. That’s how the perfection gremlin latched onto me.

I think I attract perfectionist clients because I understand their struggle. Recently Jeremy hired me to help streamline his business. He was giving away his time for free and undercharging. I suggested that he try charging his clients for the initial consultation and if they hire him, the fee could fold into the project.

He liked that idea and agreed to try it. He called me after he had three calls with prospects. “I’m so mad at myself because I did it all wrong. I messed up the first one, charged for the second one (she was fine with the fee), and I offered a free consult for the third one.”

My heart went out to him. I’ve been in those exact same shoes.

I asked Jeremy, “How long have you been in business?”

“Six years.”

“How long have you been practicing this new technique?”

“One week.”

The light bulb went off. It’s not black and white. Life is not about doing it right or doing it wrong. I reminded him of his courage to try something new and fail forward. And that he now has good data. One prospect even agreed to his consult fee.

Play the Long Game

Our world has changed overnight. This pandemic is causing uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. We don’t know how this will end. But here’s one thing you can count on: Those who go in right come out right.

If you want to survive and even thrive in these turbulent times, you have to play the long game. Let’s create a game plan to flex your business or career so you come out of this stronger than before.