What NBA Superstar LeBron James Teaches Us About Managing Expectations
Back in 2010, NBA superstar LeBron James sat next to new teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and declared that the Miami Heat will win not just one but multiple titles.
James with the crowd going wild: “Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven.”
At the time, it was harmless fun. A tongue-in-cheek prediction to get the fan base buzzing about “The Big Three” – James, Wade and Bosh – and the future of the franchise.
Now, with the Heat crowned the 2012 NBA champions, those words are an indelible reminder of what King James promised his loyal subjects.
Two years ago, James didn’t hope to win NBA titles in Miami; he guaranteed it. Through his own words, he made it real simple: create a dynasty in South Beach or bust.
That’s a tall order, even for basketball royalty.
Like James, let’s say you start at a new company in a leadership-type role. You’re likely hired because of your ability to manage and potentially take the company to the next level. Your employees should no doubt believe in you and your long-term vision.
That does not mean you should promise them the world.
For example, check out the differences between these two phrases:
- “By the end of the year, our #1 goal is to boost sales by 25 percent.”
- “By the end of the year, we will boost sales by 25%.”
Option No. 1 is great. You provide the team with a defined objective. It doesn’t mean sales need to come up by 25 percent; it’s a number to work towards together.
But option No. 2 can be fatal. By guaranteeing 25 percent, you put a target on your back from the very beginning. The company will view anything less than 25 percent – even 20 percent, which may do wonders for your balance sheet – as coming up short.
“Not two, not three, not four…”
Right now, the city of Miami is euphoric over its NBA title. Yet once the party dies down, fans across South Florida will return to James’ speech two years ago and remind the king that the job is far from over.
For James, and anyone else tasked with leading people on the job, it’s a hard lesson in leadership. When you declare victory prematurely, you cheapen your own talents and run the risk of “failing” even if you achieve some degree of success.
For the remainder of James’ time in Miami, fans expect a string of championships and an NBA dynasty. Anything less will be seen as a failure.
James is a gifted leader and an immense talent. It’s a shame the basketball world might ultimately judge him by his poor choice of words on day one.
Danny Rubin is a national news consultant for media research firm Frank N Magid Associates. He is a former television news reporter, lives in Washington, D.C., and tweets as @dannyhrubin.
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