the ceo magazine, leadership qualities,
Randall Bell, CEO, Landmark Research Group, LLC

Tennis is all about footwork. As many Roger Federer fans know, watching a great tennis player is like watching a dancer. After each shot, he returns to the middle baseline, squares his stance, and gets ready for the next return. He hits a great shot and he’s back. He hits a poor shot, and he’s back again. He moves like a rubber band. The further from the baseline he gets, the quicker he is back.

In the middle of a point, a great tennis player doesn’t stop to analyze a poor shot or celebrate a great shot. If he started analyzing every shot, he’ll never be ready for the next one. Instead, he focuses on footwork and on regaining balance.

Many players have rituals to remind them of their footwork—to remind themselves that they are in balance. They may twirl their racket or bounce once on the balls of their feet.

Successful leaders do the same.

Business is full of decisions. Much is said about how to make the right decision or how to avoid making the wrong decision. But what about after the decision is made or the project is completed? What do you do then?

In other words, how is your footwork?

The first and most important step is to realize that the strategies that make us effective decision-makers may not help us after a decision is made. These are two different domains of action. The second step is to develop a set of strategies for regaining balance. This is your footwork.

To be ready to act and solve problems, leaders must always be aware of their balance. A set of simple strategies can serve like a tennis player’s footwork—getting a manager back to baseline after a good move or a bad move.

  1. Be quiet! Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, but he refused to have one in his study. He was afraid that a phone would distract him from his scientific work. When we examine the lives of great historical figures, such as Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, and Harry Houdini, we find a pattern. These historical figures cherished times of personal isolation and reflection. When we have just acted, taking time for quiet reflection is crucial for regaining our balance.
  2. Pick up the phone. Pick up the phone, call a family member or friend, and listen. Though quiet reflection is important, we must ensure that we do not fall into rumination or obsessive self-reflection. After taking action, it is important to get out of our own heads and connect with another person. Call somebody and ask them how their day went. Listen intently.
  3. Smile and wave. Kindness is the most powerful force on earth. Fortunately, opportunities for kindness are everywhere. Take some time to treat a cashier like a human being instead of a machine. Wave at a neighbor. Smile at a passerby. After completing a project or taking a decisive action, moving into a mode of giving can act as a powerful rebalancing measure.
  4. Clean your room! Get out of your mental space and into the physical space. Clean your desk and your workspace. Dust your bookshelf. Clean your keyboard and your screen. Manipulating and organizing a physical environment is an easy and effective way to reset your balance. New surroundings can also help generate new kinds of thinking.
  5. Move your body. Most people know that is important to exercise. But many people do not understand the importance of exercising after completing a project. Don’t sit and talk about it. Go to the gym and release some endorphins. Get out of your head and into your body. Your head will thank you.

As leaders, we may be used to acting and engaging. But it is just as important to know when to disengage. The same behavior that leads up to the completion of a project needs to be put aside. We cannot sit and obsess or rehash what we could have done or what we should have done. We cannot sit and obsess. The solution is to return to our foundation though a set of strategies. Develop your own footwork. Get back to the baseline. Get ready for your next winner.


Randall Bell, PhD, is CEO of Landmark Research Group, LLC, and author of Me We Do Be: The Four Cornerstones of Success. The strategic and problem-solving skills of Dr. Bell are well established. He consulted on the World Trade Center, the Flight 93 Crash Site, the BP Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina, the nuclear testing on the Bikini Atoll, and several other tragedies including the JonBenét Ramsey and O.J. Simpson cases. Dr. Bell’s research has taken him to fifty states and seven continents, and his work has generated billions of dollars for his clients. As a leading expert, Dr. Bell has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, and ABC’s 20/20 to name a few. Follow @RandallBellPhD.

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