405 | Learn to Increase Performance Lessons from Athletes with Alan Stein Jr.

Today you will learn to increase performance for your employees and yourself. Performance is a huge topic of conversation in today’s workforce. I wanted to go outside of business to examine the commonalities to high performance in business and sports. My guest today is Allan Stein Jr., who spent decades analyzing the performance characteristics of legendary basketball players like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant.

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Target Audience: Alan Stein, Jr. is a speaker, coach, and author. Teaches organizations how to utilize the same mindsets & habits as world-class athletes to improve performance, cohesion & culture. Alan delivers high-energy keynote performances to help businesses develop genuine leadership and teamwork…


Alan Stein Jr.: The Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

This is leaders in the trenches. Your host today is Gene Hammett.

All right, this is Gene Hammett. I’m the host of leaders in the trenches. My question for you today is do you want to learn how to increase performance for your team and yourself? Well, everyone, I know inside of a business, once you get a little added advantage to increasing performance and your time here today, we’ll really be awesome because we’re talking with Alan Stein Jr. Alan is a professional speaker. He’s come from the world of sports. So he’s worked with a lot of the best and the biggest athletes. Uh, you know Kobe Bryant, you know Dwayne Wade, you know Kevin Durant. Can I say, Dwayne Wade? I’m not sure about that one. Lebron James. But all of this was to talk about the performance and how do you get more out of yourself and your team. And we talk about that at detailed today.

We talk about some of the counterintuitive aspects of growth. And one of those is they crave coaches. To find out more details with my conversation with Alan Stein Jr and here it is right now.

Gene Hammett: Hi Alan. How are you?

Alan Stein Jr.: I’m fantastic Gene, How you doing?

Gene Hammett: Fantastic as well. Glad to have you here and leaders in the trenches. We’re going to dive into your work and raise your game, but I would love for you to tell our audience a little bit about you and about who you serve and the work you do.

Alan Stein Jr.: Sure. I’ve really had two sides to my career. Basketball was my first identifiable passion and I fell in love with the game as a young kid and I recently turned 43 a couple of weeks ago and basketball is still a major staple of my life, but I spent the first 20 years of my career as a basketball performance coach serving players and coaches at a variety of different levels and had a chance to work with some pretty elite players and be mentored by some elite coaches.

Alan Stein Jr.: And then a couple of years ago I decided to take everything that I’d learned from the game of basketball and translate that to the business world and help business owners and executives and CEOs use the same mindsets, disciplines, rituals, and routines that elite athletes use and show them how they can use those in business.

Gene Hammett: Well, I’m excited to have the conversation. I know some of the name drops there, so I’ll do this for you. Cobe as some of the people you’ve worked with and Lebron and who else could you share with us?

Alan Stein Jr.: Well, here’s what’s neat about my career and I’ve had a unique perspective. So there’s about a dozen players in the NBA currently that I had a chance to work with when they were teenagers. They were 1516 years old. So this was before they made it big. So I got to see kind of that old before picture.

Alan Stein Jr.: And then I was able to do some work with Nike and Jordan brand and USA basketball and I was able to work events for Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash. So I was able to see and observe players that were already established and already elite. So I got to see the after picture. So I have a pretty firm grasp of the before and the after of what it takes to be a high performer and a high achiever. In high school, I was able to work with Kevin Durant, Victrola depot, who recently, unfortunately, suffered a season-ending injury with the Pacers. But I’ve been able to work with some really, really good kids.

Gene Hammett: Well Alan, you know, performance is a topic that I think every company is trying to figure out. How do we activate our employees? And I also want to go back to this and how do you activate the leaders? And a lot of people think it’s a chicken and egg kind of thing. Like you’ve seen a lot of coaches. What do you think about the whole activating the people in activating the actual yourself as a leader?

Alan Stein Jr.: It’s all in your mindset. And I believe, let’s just use a CEO as an example. I think it’s important as a CEO to have the mindset that my people don’t work for me. I work for them. In fact, I’m a huge believer that the higher up you are on the org chart, the more people you serve, not the more people that serve you. And that attitude and mindset of servant leadership where your number one goal is to fill other people’s buckets and to empower them to improve their performance, I think is the foundation to which everything else is built.

Gene Hammett: Now you said empowerment that’s a big part of, of my own core message. When I go out and speak to organizations, how does a coach empower their layers and how does that translate into the business role?

Alan Stein Jr.: It’s important to know that we’re always communicating even when we don’t think we’re communicating. We’re actually communicating, and I’m not just talking about the nonverbals that everyone knows, you know, body language and eye contact and tonality, but there’s always an underlying message in everything that we do. And a perfect example would be if you and I are colleagues and I delegate and important tasks to you, I’m sending you the unconscious message that I trust you, that I believe in you, that I know you’re competent enough to do this task is one well as I could and that’s why I’m having you do it, which is clearly going to improve and deepen our connection. Whereas the other would be if I were to micromanage you, I give you this task and then I stand over your shoulder and I breathe down your neck. Now I’m sending a very different unconscious message that I don’t trust you, that I don’t believe in you.

Alan Stein Jr.: In fact, I think you’re such a bone head that you won’t be able to do this unless I’m standing over your shoulder. And clearly that’s going to erode our connection and every single interaction we have with every single human being either deepens the connection already, roads, it, and empowerment is all about making sure we’re deepening that connection. So I’m giving you tasks and I’m supporting you and I’m letting you know both consciously and unconsciously that I believe in you that I care about you and I know you’ve got this and when we can make that, you know, ramp it within our organization, you see performance go through the roof.

Gene Hammett: One of your core messages, Alan is about what’s going on behind the scenes. Like you know when you look at Kobe Bryant and I’ve watched some of the interviews and I’ve watched some of that stuff and read about him and he’s, he’s retired now. But when you look at some of these high performers, what are some of the key things you notice going behind the scenes and things we don’t get to see other than you know, how they performed on the court.

Alan Stein Jr.: And we actually call that the unseen hours. And when I was with basketball players, I would tell them, hey, this is when the gym lights are off. This is when the cheerleaders stopped dancing and they turned the cameras off. That’s when you make yourself a player. And it’s the same in any walk of life. Most of our performance is determined when no one else is watching. And it’s the rituals and the habits and the routines that we have. I would say the number one factor is that the best never get bored with the basics, that no matter how high of a performer someone is, whether it’s a Kobe Bryant or it’s an elite level CEO, they are committed to doing the basics during the unseen hours routinely. And that’s not easy to do. And it’s important to make sure that folks know that there is a difference between basic and easy. Those two things are not synonyms.

Alan Stein Jr.: You know, if it was easy, everyone else would be doing it. And as you and your listeners know, I mean, we live in a world that often tells us it’s okay to skip steps that encourages us to circumvent the process and look for a shortcut and is always pushing us to chase what’s new and flashy and sexy and ignore what’s basic. And that is a major pitfall because the basics work they always have and they always will. And one of the reasons they’re not easy to stick with is because they’re usually boring and they’re mundane and their monotonous, but true greatness lies in your ability to stick with the basics and I know as we’re recording this, you know that the super bowl just happened recently, but I find this comical because it happens every single NFL season. I saw it happen a few months ago that when a team loses two or three games in a row, the coach comes on during the post-game press conference and says something to the effect of at Monday’s practice we’re going to get back to the basics and of course in football you’re talking about blocking and tackling and so forth, but that always makes me laugh, not because I think I’m a better leader than an NFL head coach.

Alan Stein Jr.: Those guys are absolutely brilliant, but it makes me laugh because if their solution to the problem is to get back to the basics, then my question is why did you ever leave them in the first place? If you think what’s going to solve your problem is getting back to doing the basics, then never leave them. Make sure the basics are integrated into your own routine during the unseen hours and in the case of a team, make sure they’re integrated into your practice. And I’m a big believer that’s why groups like the New England Patriots and the Golden State Warriors, you know, are constantly successful because during every single practice they spend time working on the fundamentals.

Gene Hammett: No, I read one time and maybe it was an interview that Kobe had and he talked about over the decades of his basketball experience. He always looked at the game film. I don’t know if you had any experience with this, but I know I have my perception of this, but you being the insider to this community, why has he, you know, two decades later looking at the game film when he’s done every game as I’ve heard, right?

Alan Stein Jr.: Absolutely. I had heard the same thing. There are two ways to look at it and game film, you know, we can use that and extrapolate that to different metrics and things. We could look at in business, but you know, there’s the old adage that coaches say all the time, and that’s film don’t lie. And there’s a lot of truth to that. You know, Kobe would watch his own performances because there’s, being able to watch it as a spectator to your own performance is going to be different than when you’re actually going through it. And we can’t see our own blind spots. That’s why they’re called blind spots. So being able to go back and watch a film, he’s able to see things that he wasn’t able to see in real time. And then, he can say, was the decision, in this case, to shoot the ball from the left elbow?

Alan Stein Jr.: Was that the best decision at the time? Obviously, he thought it was in real time. That’s why he did it. But now he can step back and look and see the big picture and evaluate whether or not that was the right decision. And when it comes to forming and developing a basketball IQ, this is one of the best tools that you have. But then he also uses film relentlessly or did, he’s retired to study his opponent and he would watch everything he could watch about the player he was going to go up against to study their tendencies to see what areas of the court do they shoot the highest percentage from. Because as a defender, I’m not going to let them shoot there, I’m going to make them go to areas where they shoot a low percentage. So the fact that he was an incredible athlete and had an unparalleled skill, but he also was so strategic and so cerebral and how he played the game.

Alan Stein Jr.: That’s why he’ll, you know, he’ll go down in history on the, on the Mount Rushmore of, of all-time greats.

Gene Hammett: Well I’m glad to share that with us because we, you know, we don’t always have that insight from this. You know, you have been doing this for a long time, bringing what you’ve learned from these athletes into the business world. And I want to ask you from the perspective of the coaches because the coaches have a completely different way of engaging and what did you learn from coaches and how they get the best out of their team members?

Alan Stein Jr.: There are two mantras that I learned very early as a coach that I’ll be forever grateful for because they’ve served me incredibly well and they absolutely work in businesses. Well, first mantra is the mindset of it ain’t about me, it’s about you. And that goes back to what I said earlier, that it’s not how many people serve me, it’s how many people am I serving.

Alan Stein Jr.: But for a coach to always remember, or a CEO or an executive to remember it ain’t about me. It’s about you, is a very important foundational mindset. And the other is that you have to connect first and coach second. It has to be in that order that before you can ever try to teach someone something tactical, let’s say shooting mechanics or footwork, you have to connect with them on a human level. They have to know that you care about them as a person first and a player second or in this case you care about me as a person first and an employee second. Once you’ve created that connection and we’re constantly making deposits to deepen that connection, then and only then are they going to be truly open to whatever coaching you can give them.

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Gene Hammett: Now, one of the things that you talk about within your [inaudible] work is the performance gap. I’ll give you my take on just setting you up here, but there’s a difference between what we know to do and what we actually do. And you know, what would you tell the leaders listening in today from your sports experience of how do you close that performance gap?

Alan Stein Jr.: And we have performance gaps in all different areas of our life and you can have them in your financial life, you can have them in your health and fitness, you can have them in relationships. So the key is finding the most pressing performance gaps and figuring out how to close those. You know, it’s, I’m a huge advocate of continual learning and development and I devour books and podcasts like this and do everything I can to keep adding tools to my toolbox. But you realize, and I’ll just use myself as an example and everyone else can self reflect.

Alan Stein Jr.: If I didn’t learn another thing for the next calendar year, the next 365 days, I didn’t learn anything new, but I actually implemented and acted upon everything I currently know my performance would go through the roof. That just shows you how many things there all of us know to do, but we’re not currently do them. And and in order to close that gap, there’s a process that we have to go through and I’ll give you the abbreviated version because it’s actually much more lengthy and sometimes it takes a half day workshops for me to share this. The first thing is you pick one behavior that you want to change, not several. You pick one. You need to have razor-sharp focus in what it is that you want to change. So you either want to find a behavior that you want to start or you want to find a negative behavior that you want to stop.

Alan Stein Jr.: It goes back to that old adage that if you chase two rabbits, they both get away. So figure out one thing that you’re going to do. Step two is relentlessly committed to doing that behavior, either starting or stopping either one for 66 days. Why 66 there’s some decent research out there that says it takes approximately 66 days to create a new habit or to groove a new pattern. I don’t think there’s anything magical about that number. I’m not implying that on day 67 your life is different. But I like that number because it’s concrete, it’s tangible. It gives me a goal to shoot for. It’s enough of a stretch that I know it’s going to be challenging, but it’s also very doable. It’s a hair over two months, so make the commitment for 66 days. And you know, I’m old school, I’ve got a paper calendar here on my office desk and I use a big red sharpie.

Alan Stein Jr.: And if I’m trying to create a new behavior, I’m not stopping until I get 66 big red x’s in a row. And then the third step to really close it all together is you need to recruit your inner circle. The people that you know love you and care about you, want to see you happy and successful. But people that will tell you the truth and hold you accountable and you tell them about this one behavior that you’re trying to start and you tell them that, hey, I’m going to be committed to doing this for 66 days. But I had the humility to acknowledge that I won’t be able to do this by myself. Will you please hold me accountable? Well, you check in with me and make sure that I’m doing it. Will you call me on my stuff when I inevitably fall off? And if you can pick one behavior, be committed yourself for 66 days, and you can get those that truly care about you to hold you accountable.

Alan Stein Jr.: If you can do those three things, you’ve got a really good shot at being able to change that behavior. And in this case, the context of what we’re talking about, clothes that performance gap.

Gene Hammett: I kind of want to turn my calendar. I’ve got this old, you know if you guys can see this, can you see this?

Alan Stein Jr.: Let me see. Yeah

Gene Hammett: It’s an old school calendar on the wall and it shows the habits and I’m fracking up there.

Alan Stein Jr.: I love it.

Gene Hammett: So it’s, I believe in what you’re saying and I’ve seen this and I’ve got my own inner circle. I didn’t have the framework that you have around this because I just, I know what works. This performance gap though is a serious problem inside of companies and I’m going to go with the leader here when you are really trying to help them identify what the one thing is, how do you go through that Alan?

Alan Stein Jr.: What’s going to always start with self-awareness and self-awareness is always an interesting one to me because one of the first steps to acquiring self-awareness is actually to ask others and it’s not asking some random, stranger off the street. It’s asking the people that know you the best. Because as I mentioned earlier, then, as we have blind spots and by definition, we can’t see them. So what I always used as an example, let’s say it’s the skill of active listening. Well, I might believe that I’m a great active listener. But if you were to ask the five or six people closest to me and they all say no Gene. Alans an awful listener, that I’m probably not a good listener. I don’t have very high self-awareness. I see myself different than the way the rest of the world sees me. So part of it is when you’re trying to get someone else to close their performance gap is being able to shine the light on what it is and help in a compassionate and empathetic way, expose, you know what their blind spot is, what it is that they can’t see and you know, it takes high emotional intelligence to be able to do that and do it in a way with grace and compassion that’s going to get them to be open to close that performance gap because they have no interest in closing it.

Alan Stein Jr.: It doesn’t matter how bad you want it, they’re not going to close it until they want it. So it’s speaking their language and getting them to understand how them closing that gap will benefit them as human beings. We’re all inherently selfish. I mean that’s wired in our DNA. To look out for ourselves first. So the key is being able to show what’s in it for them. If you close this performance gap, you’ll make me more money or you’ll make our company more successful, what’s in it for them? And when you can paint that picture for them, then they’ll have a much higher likelihood of wanting to close it themselves.

Gene Hammett: You’re all about increasing performance. And so our audience here may want to, you know, learn to increase performance for themselves. What is something counterintuitive or something that you learned in this journey of working with these phenomenal athletes?

Alan Stein Jr.: The Best Crave coaching and they crave being held accountable. A lot of people get that backward. They think that holding someone accountable or disciplining them means you’re angry at them or you’re always busting their chops. And that’s not true. Holding someone accountable is something that you do for them. It’s not something you do to them. In fact, the best way to show someone you care about them is to hold them to a high standard and hold them accountable. And it’s important to develop that type of mental construct and your company. And in your business so that everyone on the team knows that when you hold them accountable to a high standard, you’re doing it because you care about them and you’re doing it because you care about the organization and the North Star and the mission that you’re going after. But that’s one that I find a lot of people, they get confused.

Alan Stein Jr.: I remember having this conversation numerous times at the high school level and I worked at some fairly elite basketball programs at the high school level player would say something to the effect of, you know, wise coach Jones always getting on me and I say, you should be so thankful that he’s getting on you. It means he loves you and he cares about you. You need to start worrying the day he stops getting on you because that means he’s given up. So that’d be one that quickly comes to mind.

Gene Hammett: I love that because I can see how powerful that is because a lot of leaders, they’re probably listening yesterday, don’t have coaches. They don’t have someone to really guide them and hold them accountable and maybe call them on their bs. If you will, but you’re saying that athletes, we know this, right? Why does Michael Jordan need an athlete or whiteness? Kobe Bryant or Lebron or Nita coach because they want to get better.

Alan Stein Jr.: Yeah. And you can go look at, I mean, any incredibly high performer. I mean, I know he’s making a come back now. Back in his day, tiger woods was arguably the most dominant athlete in history. And even then he had a coach and I heard stories that he would crave for that coach to find a little bit of a hitch in his swing or a little bit of something that he could improve because that gave him hope that he could still continue to get better. I mean, Tom Brady has a coach, not just bill Bellacheck. I mean he has a private coach and all of these different areas of his life. And you could go down the list to anyone, you know, I can guarantee you that before she goes on tour, Beyonce has a choreographer and a coach to help her with her dance moves and so forth. So every high performer has a needs a coach because you can’t see what you can’t see and that’s what a coach is there to do is to be able to help you see your blind spots is to be able to ask you the right questions so that you can come up with the answers yourself. But as the puts you in a position that you can raise your own performance and raise your game.

Gene Hammett: So we’re with Alan are talking about increasing performance and it really is such a great conversation if our audience wanted to follow along with you and see what you’re up to next. We didn’t talk about your game. Raise your, raise your game, write your book. That’s the book. Raise your game.

Alan Stein Jr.: Yes.

Gene Hammett: How can the audience get in touch with you?

Alan Stein Jr.: If they’re interested in the book, they can go to raiseyourgamebook.com if they’re interested in anything else I’ve got going on. You can just go to AlanSteinJr.com and you can find me at @AlanSteinJr on Instagram, linkedin, Twitter, all of the major social handles. I love engaging with folks. So if anyone was listening or watching this and something resonated, I’d love to have some extended dialogue. Just shoot me a line on social and yeah, we can chop it up.

Gene Hammett: Perfect. I had a great time with your day. Thanks for being here and being a part of leaders in the trenches.

Alan Stein Jr.: Thank you.

Gene Hammett: Love, love, love this interview because there’s so much packed inside here because if you want to increase performance, if you want to race the next level and you make sure to apply what Alan talked about, you want to make sure that you’re showing up in the right way, doing the things that need to be done, closing that performance gap and really getting the coaching that you need so that you can see your blind spots and move forward with intention.

Gene Hammett: Now, if you have any questions about what you’re doing and the clarity of that, I would love to get to know you. If you’re listening to these podcasts. I do hundreds of interviews. We’re coming up on just some special stuff that can’t wait to share with you, but also if you just have a challenge that you want to talk to someone who’s been through fast growth, who’s no understood or understands leadership and understands growth the way I do, then love to get to know you. If you’re listening in here, make sure you send me an email at [email protected] or [email protected]. All right, that’s my piece today. As always, lead with courage and I’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

In this episode we’ll cover:

  • Help Business Owners and Executives
  • Empower to Improve Performance
  • Coach Empower
  • Important Foundation Mindset
  • Performance Gap
  • Self Awareness
  • Raise your Performance



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