Like any Mormon boy who was raised going to a church with an indoor gymnasium, I love playing basketball. It was one of the focuses of my teenage years and it taught me many life lessons. One of the great things about basketball is you can learn so much about the character and personality of individuals that are on the court. A manager would have an easier decision about whom to hire by watching them play a pick-up basketball game compared to a sit-down interview. The only problem is, this would require each person you interview to have fundamental basketball skills. Many would look like confused rodeo clowns if you pushed them onto the hardwood.
Many articles could be written about the personal human characteristics which are manifested by playing team basketball. However, I would like to discuss a theory that comes from my time playing hundreds of church ball games.
Most people find it beneficial and appropriate to be a good teammate by showing good sportsmanship to the other players on their team. This is why you see many high-fives, pointing at one another after a big play, and even yelling “GOOD JOB” after a teammate makes a good play. Cheering after a play is culturally normal. The loudest part of a game is when a player makes a basket. In my years of playing basketball, whenever I try to shout my congratulations to a teammate immediately after his big play, all the other noise, coming from players, coaches, and the crowd, would drown my voice out. But if I waited 5 seconds for the noise to dissipate then my praise was more likely to be heard.
This same principle is applied in LDS leadership. Imagine sitting through a sacrament meeting talk that is downright remarkable. After the meeting, you—along with others—approach the speaker and thank him or her for the remarkable job. This is fine and very encouraging. I can think of many times I have given a talk and people have thanked me after the meeting. It feels good and encourages me the next time I am asked to speak.
However, there is something magical that happens when we delay the recognition. The pause should be much longer than the basketball analogy of 5 seconds—more like 5 hours or 5 days. When someone accomplishes something great and their leader calls them (or writes a letter) a few days after, the praise is received with more impact; it is heard more clearly because the noise of other superficial acknowledgements have diminished.
The next time you are impressed by the performance of someone in your life, especially someone you lead, give them a quick pat on the back and then delay your words of recognition until it will be heard more clearly.