Most of us accept the concept that we improve our performance by being challenged. When people around us challenge us, most of us will rise to the challenge. We perform better, strive harder, and achieve greater things. But did you know that we also improve and become better when we challenge others?
Here is a true story that demonstrates this notion:
Give It Everything You’ve Got
Back in the late 1960’s, John Wooden, one of the all-time greatest college basketball coaches, was playing a center named Bill Walton on his team at UCLA. Walton practiced with the other team members, but there was no one on the team over 6’7’’ to really challenge him and help him improve his skills. Out of the blue, a junior college basketball coach phoned Wooden, and said he had a 6’11” player who could give Walton the opponent he needed to practice against. Wooden gave the junior college player, Swen Nater, a scholarship to UCLA just to practice against Walton. Coach Wooden told Nater that he would likely never play in a game; his role was just to play against Walton in practice, much like a sparring partner. “He told me to get good enough to challenge Walton,” said Nater. Swen did what he was told, and gave it his all, challenging Walton as hard as he could. “I really understood the concept of team basketball, not just in the games, but in the roles you play in practice,” said Nater. “No one outworked me, not even Bill. I had fun challenging Bill. I gave him everything he could handle. That was an investment on my part and it paid off.”
With Swen challenging Walton as hard as he could, playing with all of his effort, Walton became a great basketball player, one of the greatest centers to ever play the sport. He would credit a lot of his skill to the level of opposition that Swen gave him. “Bill always said that I was the best center he played against…” said Nater. The interesting part of the story is that as Swen became better at challenging Walton, he developed into a great basketball player himself. Although he never started a game at UCLA, and averaged only about 2 ½ minutes per game when he did play, Nater was a first round NBA draft pick (16th overall), and played for 11 years, setting a number of records. To this day, Nater credits his success to the time he spent challenging Bill Walton.
You see, being challenged helps us get better, but we also get better when we challenge others.
Are you challenging your management team? If you do, not only will they get better, but your game will improve as well.