• Author: Mike Lee
  • Los Angeles, CA, USA
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A couple of weeks ago I was in Orlando for a talk. And, the night before I was sitting at the hotel restaurant grabbing some dinner. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that there was a basketball game on the tv at the bar and I knew the THE 3 C’S OF ELITE TALENT DEVELOPMENT.

The Chicago Bulls were playing and a kid that I’ve coached and mentored since he was about 12 years old had just checked into the game.

The past couple of weeks had been a bit rough for him — not shooting the ball even close to his skill level. Soon after I sat down he relocated off a ball screen action and hit a three at the top of the key.  I felt an incredible amount of fulfillment being able to play a small part in him achieving his childhood dreams of playing in the NBA. But, it wasn’t about me. It was feeling happiness for him.

It reminded me that the most fulfilling thing we can do as a leader is to pour into our people. It brought to mind all of the players that I worked with over the years and seeing that potential come to life. Whether it was Joel Embiid becoming an NBA lottery pick, sitting courtside when Paul Jesperson hit a buzzer-beater against Texas, or seeing Bronson Koenig drain an iconic shot to beat Xavier in March Madness. The way I played a small part in these moments was driven by the 3 C’s.

First, we have to communicate with them, connect with them through an authentic relationship and challenge them to put in the work required to develop the potential that we see in them.

Even with all the things I’ve accomplished — I can say with 100% certainty — that none of them has ever come close to filling me up as much as playing a part in someone else’s journey.  We can apply this to business just as much as sports.


It might sound so simple it doesn’t matter, but a relationship is the first step to helping your people be at their best. I saw a lot of basketball coaches in my days that weren’t great with strategy, but had an unbelievable ability to develop relationships with their kids and instill confidence, which ultimately led to success. Cy Wakeman, a leadership expert and NY Times best-selling author, was recently on our podcast and she said, “rules without a relationship equal rebellion”. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a truer statement about why communication is so important.  The more you invest in the relationship, the more trust you instill and the less you need to manage.

Connection goes beyond communication. This involves communication, but on a much deeper level. Get to know your people personally. And, do it authentically. This is especially important with so many new hires in today’s world.

Find out what they are passionate about, music they listen to, things they enjoy outside of work or what their kids do. And, then support them in that in some way. Just like in the basketball world, I’ve seen so many leaders get more out of their people simply because they knew they were cared about beyond the bottom line. Why? This creates psychological safety to take risks, try new things and be creative, which is a premium in today’s complex world. When we feel cared about, we reduce stress levels, and it frees up energy to focus on the things that matter.


Only until we communicate and connect can we get to this 3rd step. The state of the relationship when you can challenge people to do more, become more and achieve more. Why is this important? Right now people are looking for psychological safety and belonging in their work.

But, when those needs are met I fully believe that people are going to be looking for a place of work where they have the opportunity for self-actualization. This is essentially an opportunity for us to maximize our human potential.  A F500 company recently hired me to work with their leaders on shifting their leadership focus from inclusion to belonging.

And, during our session, I challenged them to go beyond belonging to self-actualization. Because when we work for a place that is helping us maximize our human potential, and feel cared about and supported on the journey to that, we can’t help but feel a sense of belonging. This is how you stay on the cutting edge of organizational development.

As leaders, focusing on these 3 C’s will help initiate, strengthen and maximize the potential of a relationship to support retention, drive engagement and level up productivity.

All things that will deliver bottom and top-line results. And, deliver more fulfillment as a leader than you could ever imagine.


These are three simple, actionable concepts you can put into place immediately to level up your leadership skills.  If you’re looking to dive deeper my UNSHAKEABLE  workshop or keynote, or our coaching program, might be your ideal next step. Drop us a note to see if we’d be a good fit to help you level up your organization’s leadership.

About the author

Mike Lee has blended his background working with some of basketball’s elite, with mindfulness and emotional intelligence, to help high-performers unlock the human potential within.

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