Many years ago, a wise old leader explained to me that what hurts us most in life is not what happens to us, but how we react to what happens to us.

I thought of that valuable piece of advice this past Thursday. My decades-old recollection was prompted, believe it or not, by the end of a basketball game.

I was watching the first round NCAA men’s tournament game between number 4 seed Virginia and number 13 seed Furman. Virginia was up by two points with 10 seconds to go and had the ball out of bounds. All they had to do was maintain possession and hit one or two foul shots to win the game.

Kihei Clark, a fifth-year senior and the acknowledged leader of the team, got trapped in the corner by two Furman defenders.

Clark is known as a very smart player.
-He could have thrown the ball off an opposing player’s foot and let it go out of bounds.
-He could have called time-out because Virginia had one time- out left
-He could have just held the ball and waited to get fouled.

Instead, Clark heaved the ball toward the other end of the court, hoping a teammate would catch it. It was intercepted by Furman’s Garrett Hien, who passed to J. P. Pegues. Pegues made a three-point shot at the buzzer.

Virginia lost the game. The Virginia team and Virginia fans were devastated.

What did Terry, Bennett, the Virginia coach, do?
-Did he rush up to Clark and ask him why he did not call a time-out?
-Did he yell at Clark for making such an egregious mistake?
-Did he chide him or his team for losing the game?
-Did he bemoan the fact that they lost to such a lower-seeded team?

This is what Bennett told the press about Clark and his teammates:

“I’ve told you how much I enjoy coaching him, how much of a warrior he is. His story is unbelievable, and this adds another chapter to it, and he can handle it. We can handle this. Sometimes things happen, and you get to choose how you respond.”

Reading that quote from Terry Bennett brought back that wise piece of advice. I had received many years ago.

So let me ask you: When unfortunate things happen to you or a member of your team, how do you respond?

Your response is a reflection of who you are as a leader. It is your choice.

-Do you choose to be emotional or do you choose to be intentional?
-Do you choose to blame your team member or reaffirm your faith in him or her?
-Do you choose to view it as a terrible mistake or a learning experience and teaching opportunity?
-Do you choose to feel sorry for yourself or your team or serve as a leadership role model in handling adversity?

These are all choices that we as leaders are called upon to make in the moment.

Let’s make sure we make excellent choices!
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