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Records Are Made To Be Broken: Lessons From UCONN Women’s Basketball

The world of sports abounds with magical records that no-one-believed-would-ever-be-broken. Consider New York Yankee Lou Gehrig’s grueling mark of 2,130 consecutive baseball games played, which stood tall for 56 years: Cal Ripken, Jr. smashed it by playing in 2,632. Or Hank Aaron’s 1976 career home run record of 755. Insurmountable! Until Barry Bonds passed it in 2007. Leonidas of Rhodes’ 2,168-year-old mark of twelve individual Olympic titles? Unbeatable! Until Michael Phelps churned right by to capture his 13th individual gold medal last year in Rio.

One such unsurpassable mark was John Wooden’s UCLA men’s college basketball team's 88-game winning streak, set between 1971 and 1974. None of us imagined that any other team—especially in the topsy-turvy sport of basketball—could ever win 89. Yet along came the UCONN women’s basketball team, and pushed right past UCLA to win 90 straight games and set a new record in December of 2010.

What I remember most clearly about those post-record-shattering December days, was the collective uproar about the validity and integrity of the Huskies’ phenomenal achievement. Pundits and pedants alike cried foul: You can’t compare the women’s game to the men’s, they claimed. The competition UCONN faced was not stiff enough, they argued setting the consecutive-wins record was a much easier feat for head coach Geno Auriemma than it was for the inimitable Wooden, they insisted.

A 3 Step Comeback For You And Super Bowl Losing Coach Dan Quinn

As the curtain closed on the most dramatic denouement in Super Bowl history last Sunday, offering us so many indelible images—a tearful Tom Brady hoisting his fifth Vince Lombardi trophy, a defiant Bill Belichick pumping his fist skyward—I sunk back into my couch feeling oddly contrarian.

Rather than celebrate the many riveting plot points in the New England Patriots’ record-setting 25-point comeback victory—Julian Edelmann’s mind-boggling last-minute catch and Dont’a Hightower’s crushing fumble-forcing sack of Matt Ryan—or marvel at Belichick’s unflinching stewardship or Brady’s Shermanesque fourth-quarter march, I fixated on Atlanta’s fantastic failure.

I thought of the challenges Falcons head coach Pat Quinn will face this off-season. There can be no greater test of leadership than a moment like last Sunday’s, when a brilliant young team—buoyed by a boisterous locker room culture and an enthusiastic, forward-thinking coach—get soul-crushed the way Atlanta did. And there is no better cross-over lesson for business leaders who may at some point be forced to face a similarly devastating challenge of their own—the loss of an anchor client, a crippling economic slump or even termination or bankruptcy.

Four Ways To Make Your Team Meetings Matter

In business, as in sports, there is nothing more frustrating than a poorly executed meeting. Whether you are stuck in an office conference room listening to a droning, directionless boss or huddled up on the field with a queasy, indecisive quarterback, your confidence, productivity and competitive edge are bound to plummet.

That’s why every great leader—be they coach, captain, division head or CEO—knows that in order to spur high performance, meetings (and huddles) must be focused, disciplined and inspirational.

This principle of Great Teams was most poignantly reinforced for me four years ago at Madison Square Garden, as I watched Villanova face off against Louisville in the 2013 Big East Tournament quarterfinals. Every time Villanova called a time out the players moved their chairs out towards the middle of the floor so that—as the starters sat down—the rest of the team could encircle them, arm-in-arm, forming a protective cocoon. Everyone was present. Everyone was dialed in.

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Some of the Winning Teams Don Yaeger works with


DELL
Chevron
Microsoft
Hewlett Packard
BROCADE