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5 Leadership Lessons From The 2015 NBA Finals

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5 Leadership Lessons From The 2015 NBA Finals

I am neither a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Golden State Warriors (my team wasn’t even close to making the playoffs), but I am a huge fan of the NBA in general. Thus, I watched the recent NBA Finals series rather closely.

Truth be told, what surprised me most about this Finals match-up was the two teams involved: the Cavs and the Warriors. Just a year ago, the former had been out of the playoffs, and the latter had been bounced out in the first round. What was it that allowed them to go the distance this year? The answer is simple: good leadership. Without it, both of these teams would never have made it as far as they did.

You too can take advantage of these leadership lessons. What are they? Read on to learn more.

1. Hire the best people you can find.

Just a few years back, the Golden State Warriors were a mess. They ran a haphazard lineup led by second-tier players like Monta Ellis, hired mediocre coaches like Keith Smart, and lacked direction in their front office. That all changed when two new owners bought the team. What they did was simple, but ingenious. They first rebuilt the team’s culture, basing it around hard work, success, and results.Then they went about re-structuring the front office, hiring Jerry West as general manager.

As one of the premier GMs in the league, and a former superstar in the NBA, Jerry West (otherwise known as “The Logo”) went about making much-needed adjustments to the roster.

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The final masterstroke came when the Warriors fired head coach Mark Jackson last year, replacing him with Steve Kerr. Though a decent coach, Jackson didn’t fit the front office’s vision. Meanwhile, Kerr seemed to be much more of a creative tactician who knew how to maximize the talent on the roster. Obviously, their gamble proved to be successful.

The moral of the story is that to be successful, you need to be surrounded by talented and driven individuals. You can’t be happy with the status quo if it isn’t getting the results you desire. When you couple this with a tireless and devoted staff, you will find your way to prosperity sooner rather than later.

2. Know when to make adjustments.

Though Steve Kerr proved to be a brilliant coach (leading the Warriors to a league best 67-15 record in the regular season), his rotations during the first three games of the finals proved to be inadequate at best. What had worked throughout the year was now being battered and broken by an injured, yet-hungry Cavs team led by LeBron James.

Through the first three games, the Warriors found themselves down 2-1, with game four happening in Cleveland. Things looked dire, so Kerr made a drastic lineup change.

He benched his starting center, Andrew Bogut, replacing him with Andre Iguodala, a former all-star who had agreed to take on a more limited role in order to win. The results were stunning. With his new, smaller lineup, Kerr and the Warriors blew the Cavs away, winning three games in a row and delivering the Bay Area its first title in forty years.

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Had Kerr been stubborn and not listened to one of his assistants (Nick U’ren, who suggested that Iguodala start), it’s likely the Cavs would have run away with the series.

While it can be good to stay the course, there are times when you need to change things up and adapt, even if it seems risky initially.

3. Lead by example.

When Kyrie Irving went down in the first game of the NBA Finals, fans and critics across the league wrote the Cavaliers off. They assumed the Warriors would sweep the depleted Cavs, to such an extent that every game would be a blow out. On shows like First Take and Sportscenter, pundits like Stephen A. Smith and Chris Broussard spoke about the Cavs as if they were already dead in the water.

They forgot; however, about one man: LeBron James. LeBron took it upon himself to make sure the Warriors didn’t have an easy go of things. He did everything for the shorthanded Cavaliers, scoring nearly half of their points, and averaging close to a triple double (that is, nearly ten rebounds and ten assists a game to go along with his point total).

LeBron’s resilience seemed to rub off on his fellow players. Guys like Matthew Dellavadova and Tristan Thompson, who were seen as inconsequential previously, elevated their play to the extant that Delly was dubbed “the Curry stopper,” and Thompson was described as being better than fellow teammate and perennial all-star Kevin Love (who had been injured earlier in the playoffs).

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When you leave it all out on the table, others will take notice, going above and beyond to match the effort you are giving. Without LeBron setting the example that he did, it’s likely the Warriors would have swept his team.

4. Don’t hold grudges.

It would have been easy for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to hang up the phone when LeBron James called in the summer of 2014, asking if he could join his hometown team once again. It would have been poetic if Gilbert rejected him, given how LeBron denied Gilbert back in 2010 when he chose to sign with the Miami Heat instead of resigning with the Cavaliers.

Gilbert, despite all of his faults, chose to do what was best for his business: he accepted LeBron James with open arms. Despite the fact that LeBron is the best player in the game, this must have been incredibly hard to do. After all, back in 2010, Gilbert had described LeBron’s departure as a “betrayal,” vowing that the Cavaliers could and would win a championship without James’ help.

Despite all of those theatrics, Gilbert took the high road, putting his team before any personal grudge that he might hold.

In life, that’s an important lesson to learn. There’s no point in burning bridges with folks if you can still assist each other in the future. Thanks to Gilbert’s decision, the Cavaliers are set to be Finals contenders for the next several years.

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5. Stay true to yourself.

When things began to look bleak for the Golden State Warriors, folks like Knicks general manager Phil Jackson (multi-ring winning coach of the Chicago Bulls, with Kerr on the roster) made some fairly critical comments, citing the Warriors’ reliance on the three point shot and fast paced play as the reason for their woes versus the Cavs. What had worked for the Warriors throughout the regular season and playoffs was now; according to some, causing them to lose against LeBron and the no-nonsense Cavs.

At this point, down 2-1, Steve Kerr and the Warriors could have folded and completely changed their style. They could have played a bigger lineup and battled it out with the bigger, tougher, and downright meaner Cavs. They could have listened to Phil Jackson, and began throwing the ball inside rather than hoisting three point shots.

Instead, Kerr doubled down. He allowed MVP Stephen Curry to play the same game he had played all year. Kerr even took it a step further, going with an even smaller starting lineup than before. The gambit worked. As mentioned earlier, inserting Andre Iguodala into the lineup did wonders, quickening the Warrior’s pace and slowing down LeBron considerably on the offensive end.

Because Kerr had faith in his system, guys like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson eventually found their shooting stroke. This culminated in a 37 point barrage by Curry in a crucial Game 5 victory that practically sealed the series for the Golden State Warriors.

Often, we waver when met with failure, switching up everything we know for little reason other than that we’ve lost confidence in our abilities. Meanwhile, in reality, it’s often better the stay the course, making smaller adjustments to whatever strategy has worked in the past. Chances are, things will turn around for you eventually, much like they did for the Golden State Warriors.

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Featured photo credit: IMG_0585/Amir Aziz via flic.kr

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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