After just his second season, the New York Knicks on Monday fired head coach Mike Woodson and his coaching staff. The same Woodson who finished first in the Atlantic Division and made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals just one year ago.
The problem is that his new boss, Knicks President and 11-time championship coach Phil Jackson, thought his numbers were trending in the wrong direction. After a 54-28 season last year, Woodson’s Knicks finished this season at 37-45.
Gone are the days of the five-year plan, it's more like the five-minute plan now. Sports are a microcosm of society and today you are seeing less visionary leadership and more reactionary management. Leaders of organizations are making knee-jerk decisions to make the quarterly numbers look better to shareholders, or in the case of sports, ticket holders. I call it seed-counter syndrome, a concept from my book, Seeds of Success.
If you take an apple and slice it in half, you can look inside and count the number of seeds. What you can't count is the number of apples that will grow from one seed. My neighbor owns an apple orchard and I learned from him that one of those little seeds will grow into an apple tree that is about 30 feet tall. The average apple tree will usually yield a harvest that can fill about 20 bushels, weighing about 42 pounds each. Yet the interesting thing is that apple trees often take up to four or five years to produce their first harvest. Those same trees, once they become productive, will produce fruit for 30 to 40 years and can live more than 80 years.
"Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted." -- Albert Einstein
As a leader, you're a lot like a farmer. You can count the number of employees in your business but you cannot immediately count the amount of business that will come from one employee. Over time one employee can mature into a leader, a sales pro or an ambassador for your brand who will impact hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of people over their career. Like an apple seed, their harvest is often immeasurable. The average tenure of an employee at a company is just 4.6 years, according to bureau of labor statistics.
In his six-year tenure as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, Woodson took the team from 13 wins in 2004-05 to 53 wins and a conference semifinal appearance in 2009-10. In this instant, on-demand society, many seem to forget that it can often take people years to begin producing the fruits of their labor. Many leaders are seed counters, as they are reliant on analytics to a fault, watching the numbers from day to day and week to week.
Others simply subscribe to the microwave mentality of if the results aren't instant, they aren't worth it. People seem to forget it took John Wooden, the greatest basketball coach of all time, 16 years to win his first national championship. Once he won his first, he proceeded to win nine out of the next 11 NCAA titles.
We live in a society where for many leaders, if the results aren't instant they give up on the process. And with that, if their people don't produce right away, they give up on them. Whether it's sales, sports or anything else worth pursuing, we must approach it like a seed planter, not a seed counter.
It’s too early to tell if Jackson can definitely be diagnosed with seed-counter syndrome -- he’s had the Midas touch everywhere he's been. But even leaders at the highest levels such as Jackson aren’t immune to seed-counter syndrome.
Many don't want to invest in long-term growth, and when they allow seed-counter syndrome to happen, productive employees die on the vine and flee for other companies that will mentor, train, nurture and invest in them.
When you plant seeds of success and water the roots of your business, your people will grow and produce amazing fruit. Seed planter or seed counter? The choice is yours.
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