Lessons from the Winningest Team

September 19, 2020

Contributed by Judy Dang
HR West 2020 Speaker

HR West 2020

In my house, March is a big month. March Madness, what else? My husband is a huge fan. I get a kick out of watching a few games with him on TV. We even contemplated going to Las Vegas next week for the West Coast Conference.

For one team, the University of Connecticut, the women’s program is known as the best of the best. This is why:

  • 11 national championships from 1995 to 2016
  • Longest ever winning streak in basketball, men or women (111)
  • 20 WNBA players
  • Geno Auriemma 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. 

Here 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.” 

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.” 

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.”

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.

What about you?

Yes, March is here. Where are you with your 2020 goals? Are you on track? Overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time? Or have you given up? Goals, what goals?

It’s OK. Wherever you are, that’s totally OK. 

Ready for some slam dunks in Q2? Let’s start with a warm-up chat. Sign up for a complimentary call with me. See you at HR West 2020 and… on the court.

About the Author

The principal of Avid At Work, Judy Dang is a business productivity training and coach. With laser focused precision, she gets at the heart of what gets in your way and how to move past those hurdles so you achieve your goals faster. She coaches and speaks on not just getting things done, but also getting the RIGHT things done. Judy brings 18 years of project management, training, creativity, and problem-solving expertise across the university, nonprofit, architecture and design, professional service settings. Judy will co-lead a breakout session at HR West 2020 on Wednesday, March 11 “Leading From Within Clarity, Connection, Courage.”

Connect with Judy on LinkedInRead Judy’s previous articles.

Join Judy and Tracy Maher, Area Human Resources Leader, HDR, Inc. for their HR West 2020 session on Wednesday at 9:20 a.m. Leading From Within: Clarity, Connection, Courage.

About HR West 2020

The HR West Conference shapes the future of HR together with the HR community. HR attendees and participants are thriving, in-the-know HR professionals and providers, always striving to stay ahead of what’s next and what’s to come in the HR profession.

The HR West Conference has convened annually for 36 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, attracting professionals from across the country, with a heavy presence from the Silicon Valley companies and their HR experts. These HR experts represent some of the most seasoned HR professionals who deliver on some of the biggest HR demands in the profession since they practice HR in California and around the world.


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