How You Put On Your Socks is Important

Each of us has two lives: our personal life and our professional life. You know, like the weekend vs. the rest of the week.

Some people say you are two different people: the You that is at work—and the You on your personal time. But I do not subscribe to that philosophy. I believe there is one true You.

If you know me, you know that a big part of my personality has always been that I want people to like me.

When I opened up an April issue of “Inc.” magazine recently, I was attracted to a two-page article entitled, “Management Playbooks: Reading business tomes by sports celebs is great fun. Oh, and you might learn something.” The article highlighted Phil Jackson’s bestseller “Eleven Rings” and how his most famous management trick was dealing with Chicago Bulls megastar Michael Jordan.

Jackson said, “I learned to dial my ego back without surrendering my authority.”

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Inc Magazine

Image from Inc. Magazine: Management Playbooks

Even though I am not a big sports fan, I learned that sports coaches are important in my life and I can learn a lot from them.

So, is it more important to be liked or to be respected?

I was made to face that very question many years ago. I was on a mother-daughter vacation with my friend Liz, and we got into a discussion about work and management styles each night over some wine after we spent time at the pool with our daughters during the day.

At that time, Liz ran a large retail store for a national chain and I could tell she was a no-nonsense kick-butt manager. She posed that exact question.

That was tough for me because I knew what I should answer. But, deep in my heart, I knew that my whole life had been spent making sure I was liked.

When we returned home, she lent me one of her favorite management books, “Wooden” by legendary basketball coach John Wooden. I’ve read a lot of management books in my life, but had never read one authored by a sports figure. It’s a short book and a quick read, so each night I would read a few chapters, allowing myself to soak in Coach Wooden’s management style.

I learned some of my most meaningful lessons from that book.

One of the first chapters was about how Coach Wooden instructed his players to put on their socks.

Yes, their socks.

The reason the socks were so important was that if a player put them on wrong, and there was a wrinkle in the sock when they put on their shoes, it could cause a blister while they were playing. A blister might affect their performance on the court, and ultimately the score.

A tiny little wrinkle in your sock may not sound like a big deal to most people, much like something basic in your job like promptly returning phone calls. But it can be the difference between winning and losing on the court, or making or breaking a sale in business.

I applied that lesson as a leader in both my personal and professional life. I made sure to mentor my team—and my kids—to learn the basics and to do them well. Accuracy first, and momentum will follow. My team and my kids may not like me very much for pointing out these little things to them to get right, but I realized that I could accept some people not liking me, and that as a leader, it truly was more important to be respected.

What lesson have you learned recently? Share with us in the comments so we can all learn something new!

Karen

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