As a successful business owner and veteran basketball performance coach, Alan spent 15 years working with the highest-performing athletes on the planet including NBA superstars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Kobe Bryant.
With clients including American Express, Pepsi, Starbucks, and Sabra, he now shares how companies can utilize the same approaches that elite athletes use to perform at a world-class level, delivering practical lessons that can be instantaneously put into practice.
Here are some of the key lessons/notes from the interview.
Focus on the basics
In 2007, legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant told Alan Stein about the secret to his success: “I never get bored with the basics,” he said.
This meant if you want to get good at anything, you have to decide what the fundamentals of that activity are and then relentlessly focus on them.
You may graduate to more advanced techniques, but you should never leave the foundation you’ve created.
The key lesson from this is: if you work hard on the little things that make the wheels of your business turn every day, it will thrive in the long term.
For many people, the pandemic produced large amounts of stress and fatigue.
Exhaustion is something that professional athletes face all the time.
But they know a team will only perform at its best if they are at their peak.
That’s why, though it can be hard, top players take the time to rejuvenate.
The reason why many professionals don’t take self-care seriously is because the work culture often demands that leaders remain at their posts and take their breaks last.
But actually, if you’re going to perform at your peak and ensure everyone else works well, you need to be the first person “filling your bucket” – not the last.
Exercise: A holistic approach
To find out what activities are important for the purposes of rejuvenation, Alan Stein suggests you write a list of four to five things that make you feel energized, happy, and ready to work.
These could be taking a long walk or jog, listening to a podcast or classical music, engaging in meditation or prayer, or taking a yoga or spin class.
On another list, map out what you do for the first 60 minutes when you wake up, and what you do for the last 60 minutes before you sleep.
Then compare the two. Ideally, there will be overlaps.
Once you start to “fill your bucket” with things you like during these periods, then you’ll be much better prepared to combat fatigue.
How to approach change
Many colleagues are waiting for their workplaces to “return to normal.”
But the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic means this is unlikely.
Instead, Alan Stein suggests you reflect in different ways:
Look at the things that happened pre-COVID-19 that went really well.
Have the courage to review the systems and practices that might have been better.
This approach can also be shortened, so you can reflect upon the changes that have taken place during lockdown, for example.
After this, create a plan based on which aspects of your work are best suited to the current climate and share this with your team. This will provide stability going forward.
“The next play”
This is a concept from his basketball background. In short, this concerns immediately refocusing your attention on the present, not the past.
If you let a mistake get to you, you lower your own performance, and you can let your team down by spending time feeling sorry for yourself.
One way to conceptualize this is through the acronym “WIN” – What is Important Now.
Within a chaotic environment, you need to be able to progress by focusing on the next objective. This isn’t easy. But if the basics are in place, you’ll have fewer barriers to dealing with emerging issues.
Shifts in culture
One of the issues that Alan Stein often sees come up within companies is a trilogy of negative issues that feed into the culture: blaming, complaining, and making excuses.
If your goal is high performance, and you know your “north star,” then the only thing you need to focus on is what is going to move you forward as a business.
It’s never easy, but the sooner you can stop doing those three things as leaders, the better the culture will be within an office.
The way to do this is to lead by example. Actions are more important than words. If a colleague sees their boss making excuses and complaining, they’ll feel this is acceptable and follow them.
Approaching this practically
One of the best ways to improve the application of your colleagues is to ensure that they all know exactly what their daily role is within the business.
An exercise you can do to assist this understanding is to ask them to write down the three most important tasks they need to do every day. You’ll then do the same for them separately.
In a personal meeting, you both reveal these tasks to each other. If they don’t match up, then you know there’s a disconnection between your expectation and their approach.
Face-to-face contact like this is essential. Frustration can build just by colleagues not understanding their roles.
This simple process eliminates confusion.