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Prepare for the Spontaneous

Recently, I caught a replay of a keynote discussion with Adam Grant and Sue Bird, and while there were a lot of points made by each about work and talent development, Sue mentioned one thing that I felt I needed to share with you all. (I don’t have a link, sadly.)

She talked about one of the essential sports and life lessons she learned from her college coach at Connecticut, Geno Auriemma, to prepare for the spontaneous.

Now this seems like a paradoxical statement, but it’s not. I promise. It reminded me of an adage about public speaking – if your presentation sounds “too rehearsed,” practice it more. Of course, the idea is that practicing it more forces you to know it better. That deeper level of knowledge then causes you to sound more natural when talking about the topic because it is more natural. It’s not something you are reciting, it’s something you KNOW, and it comes across in how you talk about it.

Sue mentioned how Geno would help the team prepare for the spontaneous by throwing random challenges at them. Sometimes they would practice against seven defenders instead of five. Other times he would call out unanticipated situations, 30 seconds left, two minutes left in the game, etc. They got comfortable with the idea that random things would happen during a game, and they had made adjustments in those situations so many times that they could do it again. They were used to the spontaneous, so even though they had to make a specific adjustment that they hadn’t made before, they were comfortable making adjustments.

At work, we are asked to make adjustments all the time. In our modern, technological jobs, we are constantly facing change. The individuals and teams who will succeed are the ones who’ve gotten comfortable with it. They’ve prepared for the change and know they can adjust on the fly because they know the work well and are used to making the proper decisions. Those who don’t have a deep understanding of what is going on will overreact to change and commit turnovers.

The only way to ensure you’re ready to adjust in your career is to be prepared, and you prepare yourself by constantly learning. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to learn. Take the initiative to prepare yourself for the unknown that lies ahead.

If you want to prepare your team for the spontaneous, ensure you provide opportunities to learn and develop those skills. It’s the best bet for facing an unknown future.

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