Six Lessons Learned From LeBron’s Decision 2.0

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Bill Calkins

Following all of the buzz on sports radio about where the NBA’s most coveted free agent would sign, followed by The Decision 2.0 and the overflowing excitement it caused not only in Cleveland but across the country and around the world, got me thinking about how it all went down and lessons we can all take away from the experience. I came up with six. Well, that’s a lie. I came up with more than six — but I couldn’t quite get to 23.

Lesson #1: Take your time.

Over the entire preceding week, Clevelanders and the media were impatient waiting for LeBron’s decision. What did he do all week: patiently met with the Heat, his family and friends and focused the rest of his attention on the youth basketball camp he sponsors and helps lead.

LeBron wasn’t in a hurry. He did his due diligence before making any sort of announcement. How calm and collected would you be with millions of eyes on you and somewhere around $100 million hanging in the balance? Like mom always said, slow down, take your time and do the job right.

Lesson #2: Forgiveness is possible.

Hardly anyone faults LeBron for leaving Cleveland and joining the Heat in 2010. We were angry about the way he left. Similarly, no one faults Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert for being upset about LeBron leaving the way he did. But the angry letter Gilbert wrote definitely went too far. Many felt the two would never be able to stand in the same room together. Look where we are today: LeBron and Dan Gilbert had a man-to-man discussion and decided to forgive, forget and move on. If they can do it, none of us have any excuse to hold a grudge — whether that’s with a coworker, customer, another local business or anyone else. Get over it and move on for the betterment of your organization.

Lesson #3: Tell your story.

Please take five minutes, to read LeBron’s open letter explaining the decision he made. Not only is it a heartfelt letter from a mature guy, it was a very smart way to handle the announcement. As he explains, LeBron wanted to have an opportunity to tell the story without interruption and in his own words.

There’s power in every personal story. I’m a 38-year-old guy, and I’ll admit to shedding a tear or two as I read it out loud to my wife. What’s your story to share? Is it about starting a family business? Is it about a great employee who makes a difference every day? Is it about a particular customer who taught you a lesson? You have a story to tell. Tell it!

Lesson #4: The power of local.

LeBron came home. I heard a guest on a radio show explain that his return to the Cleveland area is the economic equivalent of landing a Fortune 500 company in the region. But what LeBron brings is so much more. He’s a hometown kid. This is the national story, a prodigal son returns. Just about everyone I’ve talked to loves the fact that he is returning home. The buzz wouldn’t be anywhere near where it’s at if it were Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durrant coming to Cleveland.
It’s the local part that makes the announcement so powerful. You have a bunch of ways to capitalize on local in your marketing. Just do it! (Yes, LeBron is a Nike guy.)

Lesson #5: Social media is a blessing and a curse.

Twitter was going crrrrrrazy with news of LeBron’s decision. If the brother of the cousin of the person who changed someone’s oil heard that Dwyane Wade’s grandma threw away an old newspaper that referenced LeBron, it was tweeted as the inside scoop that he might sign with the Cavs. It was nuts. There’s ninety-nine percent of what was flying around cyberspace was speculation, but we all consumed it voraciously. But when the announcement was made, social media had the best and most up-to-date info. Use social media, but don’t be blinded by it.

Lesson #6: Family first.

Ultimately, LeBron’s decision seems to be centered on raising his family in Northeast Ohio. In his letter, he talks about his wife, kids and mom. It was clear through the week that he was consulting personal and professional friends before committing to either team. Even in business, family comes first. This balance is critical, and LeBron set a great example for young dads and husbands by being so open about the importance of family above all else.

As we hear more and more about the reasons behind LeBron’s decision, take some time to think about how some of his approach and tactics might be applied to your business. And of course, keep an eye on the marketing powerhouse that is about to explode in Cleveland. The King has come home!

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