Being the Closer

Austin Gallagher was really frustrated. One of the high-profile projects in his organization had fallen behind schedule, and getting it back on track was going to be expensive. The most frustrating thing about the project was it was in great shape just a short time ago. But his team didn’t react well to some setbacks. While the setbacks were tough, they could have been managed.

Later that evening, Austin was even more upset. His favorite college basketball team had just lost a game and their chances of getting selected for the NCAA tournament were doomed. What made it worse was that the team had a 12-point lead with eight minutes to go and had just collapsed.

He always enjoyed listening to the post-game press conference of their Hall of Fame coach. The coach was asked to contrast this year’s team with those of prior years’ which had gone deep in the tournament. His response was very insightful: “We don’t have a closer.”

The coach went on to elaborate: “Every team needs to have one player who can rally the team when it’s challenged. I can draw up plays and put the players on the court that give us the best matchups, but that’s not what matters if we don’t have a closer.”

“A closer builds confidence with a calming, get-the-job-done approach. Our guys know what they need to do, they just need to do what it takes. One player can impact an entire team by just their winning presence. The team will stop taking stupid shots, they won’t make foolish turnovers, they will fight for second shots, and do whatever it takes.

“It’s tough to recruit for a closer. What they have isn’t measured by game statistics, physical measurements, or any other quantitative information. Closers are not big ego guys. They are not shouters or crowd-pleasers. They don’t show off after a good play. They stand out by being invisible until the game is on the line.”

Austin had a tough time sleeping that night. He wasn’t upset by the game or the frustration over the project. In fact, he wasn’t upset at all. He was thinking of the coach’s comment about the need for a closer. He had a closer on his team, but he had never given her the chance to influence the team when it was challenged.  He realized that he needed to rethink his project staffing and pay more attention to those who have the closer attributes.

When we look at talent, we tend to over-emphasize the measurables and not pay enough attention to the intangibles that really count. True leadership is rarely revealed by what you can measure.  

* * *

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.