What the Cleveland Cavaliers Can Teach Us About Comebacks at Work

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What the Cleveland Cavaliers Can Teach Us About Comebacks at Work

By: Steve Cox
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Steve Cox, Vice President, Public Relations, Sodexo North America

Monday, June 20, 2016 - 12:45pm


Last night was an historic comeback win for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but what was really impressive and a lesson for us all, was the nature of the Cavs’ comeback. Psychologically, when you’re already behind, winning can become even harder. That’s a lesson that’s as true on the basketball court as it is in the office.

We’ve all had the experience of being behind. In sports, that means being behind in points or in games. In the workplace, employees can fall behind on sales numbers or deals made. Or you might feel like your peers are being promoted more quickly than you. Sometimes, when your team or your business isn’t meeting goals for growth, not moving forward can feel like falling behind.

When we fall behind, it’s easy to feel that there’s no coming back. The distance to cover seems too great. Because we don’t want to just catch up with our competition, we want to surpass them. That usually feels like a long way to go. No wonder coming back from behind seems so daunting.

In those situations, there are really only two responses: Give up or try harder. Very few people, when they’re falling behind at work, would continue to put in the same amount of effort and hope things change. Many would feel so overwhelmed that they’d stop putting the hours in to cut their losses. But some are inspired to work even harder.

“Everybody counted us out—and that’s when we strive the most,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said.

For teams like the Cavs, being behind isn’t a disaster, it’s an inspiration. It forces leaders to stop, rethink strategy and look hard at what’s working and what’s not. What was working for the Cavs, it turned out, was LeBron James.

LeBron, who’s not afraid to pass the ball to his teammates, decided to focus on scoring. “You all just get (defensive) stops, and I’ll take care of the other end (scoring),” James reportedly told his teammates during game 6.

It was a strategy tweak that had a huge impact, and it worked. If the Cavs weren’t so far down, would LeBron have felt liberated—or desperate—enough to make that change?  We’ll never know, but there’s something freeing about being the underdog, something that clears our vision and allows us to ignore what’s not important and get down to only what’s necessary to succeed. We saw it in the Cavs performance over the past few days, and I see it at work all the time. Being down helps us prioritize and prepare to make a comeback.

How have you come back from being down at work?  Share your experiences in the comments.

Steve Cox leads Public Relations for Sodexo North America with $9B in annual revenue, 125,000 employees, 9,000 operating sites and 15 million consumers served daily.

Keywords: Diversity & Inclusion | Business Ethics | Cavaliers | LeBron | NBA | Responsible Business & Employee Engagement | Sodexo | comeback | resilience | workplace strategy