Autonomy of Choice
In the basketball world, the skill trainer industry has exploded over the last ten to fifteen years. In the early 2000s, this type of instruction was relegated to professional players seeking to master nuances of their craft.
That’s certainly not the case any longer. Kids as young as seven and eight years old now have trainers, and not just for skill development. No, parents are now hiring people specifically to improve their shooting, agility, and strength.
In this world, these training sessions are viewed as special, extra work the players are putting in. They’re also viewed as exclusive, something others are not getting. Neither of which are true anymore.
The majority of players now work with a trainer. They call them, schedule a few days a week for a specific time, usually an hour, and pay the trainer before their sessions begin. And, from most trainers' perspective, everyone’s money is the same. It’s only as exclusive as their schedule dictates.
I’m not here to say no one should use a trainer or that trainers are necessarily bad. What concerns me is that we are now eliminating the most important skill: choice.
Why Should We Care?
We schedule workshops for employees that aren’t motivated to attend. We set up workouts for athletes that feel obligated to practice. Rarely do we provide them the choice to decide on their own. That’s what they need to improve so choice isn’t an option.
Nick Saban’s siege advice is certainly true - “The fact of the matter is that if you want to be good, you really don't have a lot of choices,” Saban said. “It takes what it takes. You have to do what you have to do to be successful.” There are not a lot of options on what you need to do.
However, the option to do it, or not to do it, remains the ultimate question.
See, the work is different when you are choosing it. When we’re talking basketball, it’s the intensity, creativity, level of detail, and sheer volume of work that is elevated. In the professional world it’s the depth of understanding, the application to different areas, and embracing the transformational aspect of the work.
The truth is we can’t force others to choose. Our role as a leader is to create an environment that enhances the desire of those on our team to make the choices that most benefit themselves and the team.
This is the essence of culture creation. The challenge, of course, is not getting pulled off the path by daily success and setbacks deemed important by society. By focusing on creating the best environment to drive the choices we want, we are doing our most important work as a leader.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
The question then, is how do we create this environment without mandating it? How do we make it an option when we know it needs to be done in order for our team to perform at its best. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
What is missing from this entire concept is that the training of the skill that we think is so important lags far behind the importance of developing the mindset to choose to do the work on our own. And, as long as we make that decision for those we lead, they will never do it for themselves.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.