“Belief goes a long way in provoking greatness, and as leaders, that’s our
most important job.” – Misti Burmeister

A couple of years after they built a horse barn, my parents and my brother decided that owning horses was too much work, so they converted the barn into a basketball court … sort of.

Never would it have occurred to me that a horse barn might be a great place to install a basketball hoop. But I must say, the uneven dirt, mud, poop, and support beams make for an interesting game.

Back in early July, I headed out to play a game of horse (ironic, I know) with my brother Jimmy and his two daughters (ages 12 and 13).

After playing for a few minutes, his 13-year-old got upset and didn’t want to play anymore. “I’m too short,” she said, tears flowing.

It’s true that she is short. She’s also very far from athletic and has a slight developmental disability. Wanting to keep the game going, I was willing to let her off the hook, but her father wasn’t. “Make baskets, not excuses,” he said.

“But Dad … I am short,” she insisted.

I hate to admit this, but I remember thinking, It’s nice that Jimmy’s being so supportive, but good luck with this one! We had already given her two shots for every one of ours, and she wasn’t even getting it halfway to the rim.

“Can you try?” he asked.

“Dad, I’m too short!” she said with another burst of tears and a cough at the end.

This went back and forth several times as we continued our game. I was hot and smelly and ready to get back inside. I thought, Well, she’ll be out soon, and then we can quickly finish our game.

About that time, she stood just to the right of the hoop, squatted down really low, and pushed that ball up as hard as she could. I couldn’t believe it, but she hit the rim, which gave her the encouragement she needed.

On her next attempt, she got it over the rim and into the basket. Jimmy’s face lit up, and the three of us surrounded her, high-fived her, and celebrated her success.

Not only did she make that shot; she nearly won the game!

Reflecting on our game, I’m reminded of what it really takes to provoke greatness. As leaders, it’s easy to encourage those who already believe in themselves and simply need a bit of support. It’s a whole other ball game when the person we’re provoking has lost confidence in his or her greatness.

Most companies go through tremendous effort to attract the best of the best, forget to provoke them, and end up losing them. I wonder what would happen if these leaders did a better job of provoking greatness in the talent they already have. Perhaps they would not only retain their A-plus employees, but also uncover the talent in their “B-team” players.

What if they focused on bringing out the strengths in each person rather than analyzing their weaknesses. I analyzed my niece and really thought there was NO WAY she would make a basket.  Thankfully, her father saw her as capable… and so she was.

Belief goes a long way in provoking greatness, and as leaders, that’s our most important job.

Join the Conversation: What does provoking mean to you? Has anyone ever provoked your greatness? How?

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across GenerationsHidden Heroes and Power Suck.

Misti on Google+