Hard-learned lessons

Ross Bernstein shows how team-building is the same whether it's in sports or business.

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October 18, 2018

It’s true in sports and it’s true in business: individuals win games, but teams win championships. Ross Bernstein, best-selling sports author and Fortune 500 award-winning speaker, shared his insights from years of talking with top athletes at the National Association of Landscape Professionals CEO Forum at LANDSCAPES Wednesday morning.

It’s the little things you do every day that determine your success, he said. You have to go above and beyond at every opportunity to stand above the crowd. “What are the differentiators that set you apart from everyone else?” he asked. “Being a champion is about doing the little things the right way.”

Using sports metaphors and anecdotes, he explained how landscapers could learn from the greatest of all time. There are 12 traits that drive champions and generate the momentum that makes people inspire others, he said. Whether you’re on the field or in the landscaping field he said they are:

1) Find your passion.

Ask yourself what you’re really passionate about, Bernstein said. You’ll find your drive at the intersection of passion and purpose.

2) Don't be selfish.

One of the greatest hockey players of all time, Wayne Gretsky, loved assists more than he loved goals. He thought it was his job to make sure everyone on the team was doing well. What will your next great assist look like? 

3) Build trust.

Inspire greatness in your team and make sure they know you appreciate it. 

4) Find your drive to win.

Michael Jordan hated losing more than he loved winning. What drives you to do the best you can? Find your motivation and run with it. 

5) Have a great work ethic.

Find out where your people can improve and make sure that they are aware of it. Do whatever you need to do to be at top performance whether it’s physically or mentally.

6) Set goals and visualize success.

Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach in hockey, subscribed to the idea that, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” You have to know where you’re going and have a plan to get there. But you also need to constantly adjust the plan to deal with obstacles and challenges.

7) Be consistent.

“There’s no elevator to the top,” Bernstein said. “Be willing to do whatever it takes. You can have a good year and have a bad year, but you have to keep coming back.”

8) Be compassionate.

Being a good sportsman isn’t just about winning. “Sometimes being a champion isn’t about winning a championship. It’s about doing the right thing,” Bernstein said. “I think at the end of the day we choose to do business with people with kindness and empathy.”

9) Cultivate mental toughness.

Bud Grant, former coach of the Vikings, famously said, “You can only control what you can control.” He wouldn’t give his team gloves or sweaters for the cold because he wanted them focused on the game, not on staying warm.

“You can’t control the economy; you can’t control the regulations,” Bernstein said. “You know what you can control? Your attitude. Simple. Work ethic, how many calls you make a day, how many times you get in your car and add value to a customer.”

10) Find your way.

Great leaders find their own way to get things done and create buy-in. “It’s amazing what you can do when you get everyone rowing in the same direction together,” he said.

 11) Be someone your team respects.

Make sure that you’re walking the walk, Bernstein said. “Your people hear you but they may not be listening to you.” If your employees see that you're doing what you ask them to do, they'll have better buy-in.

 12) Be confident.

“You never had to ask Muhammed Ali who the greatest of all time was – he would tell you,” Bernstein said.

That kind of confidence will take you beyond where you think you can go.