In his column for Forbes.com, John Baldoni writes about how Rick Pitino, coach of the 2013 NCAA national champion Louisville Cardinals basketball team, would keep track of his players’ deflections during their games. He wanted to measure “hustle” and a count of deflections was his best indicator. A deflection in basketball is anything that a defender does to “redirect the intended flight of the ball.” Depending on who is counting, this could include blocked shots, tipped balls, kicked balls, steals, taking a charge, and touched passes. You might hear about blocked shots and steals, but the other kinds of deflections are rarely mentioned. Each of these actions on the part of a defender usually requires concentrated, determined effort at disrupting the play of the offense. Do this enough and at the right times and it can be the difference between winning and losing a game.
If you've read my previous posts, you know that I think we overuse sports analogies in our understanding of organizations. However, I wonder if we can use organizational deflections to measure leadership hustle? We could count the number of times a leader proposes a change in the strategic direction of the organization, asks an insightful question about current policies, challenges a bad decision, gets a co-worker to think about a situation in a new way, suggests new positioning for a product or service that is not doing well, uses own initiative to solve a problem for a customer, has a difficult conversation with a direct report, or embraces change. In each instance, the leader is deflecting the organization from its current path.
Top level leaders do not necessarily have to hustle to keep their jobs and advance their careers. In fact, deflection is the kind of behavior often avoided by leaders because they fear the risk and consequences. To them, it is safer to continue doing what they've been doing then to change direction, even if things are going badly. They stay the course at all costs.
Leaders that hustle are open to opportunities for deflection. They are always questioning the status quo. They ask themselves and others if they are doing something simply because they can or because it’s the right thing to do. They ask, "Is this what is best for our customers, our employees, and the community? Is there a better way?"What actions indicate leadership hustle to you?