Walter Bond is a former NBA basketball player who speaks to groups about what it takes to succeed on the court and in the office. When Bond played college ball at the University of Minnesota, he won the most improved player award four seasons in a row. Successful people, he said, always seek improvement. “Average people are okay being average, but successful people what to improve,” he told a group of Iowa bankers last summer.
I pulled out my notes from his talk to an Iowa business group last summer because it struck me that it has never been more important to hire the right people. Bond’s comments offer insight into who those people might be.
Improvement means change, so a successful person is someone who is willing to change. “Is your organization becoming obsolete because everything around you is changing and you’re not?” he asked.
Successful people also pay attention to detail, and they are confident. They don’t complain. Too many people like to throw themselves a “pity party,” Bond said. “Ninety percent of life is pretty good, yet too many folks focus on the 10 percent that is negative.”
Bond challenged each member of his audience to consider whether they are likeable. “People want to be around people they like, so do people like you?” he asked. “If someone likes you and you screw up they are likely to give you another chance. If they don’t like you they will walk away.”
Likeable people brighten up a room. Bond said his college coach Clem Haskins could brighten up a room. Recalling the recruiting visit Haskins made to Bond’s family home, Bond stressed that the most important evaluation points in a new relationship occur the first time someone sees you and the first time they hear you speak. Smiling and making eye contact, Haskins made a good impression, he said.
Bond said any office wants people who smile and make eye contact. Those skills help a person not only to communicate but to actually connect. Deals get done when people connect.
At 6-foot-5, Bond is short by NBA standards but he carved out a niche for himself as the top sixth man in the country. He always dreamed of being a starter but found he was best suited to come off the bench. He made the most of his niche, which lasted eight years in pro basketball. He urged bankers to find their niche and make the most of it.
Hiring the right people is never easy but Bond’s comments give us a little better idea of what to look for.