Coach John Wooden was considered by many to be the greatest coach of all time, and his coaching philosophy was almost entirely rooted in fundamentals. His players would expect to spend a great deal of their practices working on the basics. It didn't matter how many fancy skills a player had. If he couldn't execute the basic fundamentals at the highest level, success would be limited.

Golfers spend countless hours making minuscule changes to their hand placement to improve their swings. Professional musicians practice their scales every day. Baseball players spend a great deal of their time on batting practice. Coach Wooden began every practice with what he called "change of pace, change of direction." The greatest coach of all time started every practice having his all-star athletes work on running up and down the court changing their pace and their direction.

Just like making small improvements to the fundamentals in athletics often leads to vast improvements in overall execution, small improvements to the fundamentals in business does the same. Most people overlook this, and this is a huge missed opportunity.

In athletics, it is easy to identify the essential fundamentals for each sport. They were probably the first things you were taught. But do you know your fundamentals for your business?

For most in the business world, the equivalent of working on "change of pace, change of direction" would be to work on "listening and speaking skills."

Think of how many times you "speak" and "listen" throughout your day. If you could focus on doing these things just a little better each day, how much would that affect your momentum and growth?

Mary is a financial advisor I coach, and prospecting for new clients is a fundamental aspect of her job. When we targeted her listening and speaking skills in conversations, she started to see significant improvements in her numbers. Mary specifically focused on 2 things. First she decided to spend the first 2 minutes of each of her pro-active phone calls with her eyes closed. She realized that looking at her computer screen was making it difficult for her to give full attention to listening. Closing her eyes made it much more likely to hear tones in the prospects' voices, thus giving her a much better idea of what was really going on.

The second thing she decided to do was to start each conversation by asking 2 open-ended questions. Questions like, "From a financial standpoint, what is the number one thing that makes you the most proud?" or "What is the number one thing you wish you were getting from your current financial advisor?" Asking open-ended questions seemed to work wonders at getting her prospects to feel comfortable enough to at least agree to her checking in with them on a regular basis, and there was a significant uptick in getting appointments with the prospects.

Mary didn't need to make monumental changes to what she was already doing. She just needed to focus on improving her fundamentals slightly. Targeting this simple improvement to the way she would speak to potential new clients translated into significant improvements in her revenue.

Identify and Improve Your Fundamentals Like the Greats

1. Take a moment to decide on the one aspect of "speaking" or "listening" that you would like to improve.

2. Once you've identified if you want to improve an aspect of "speaking" or "listening," ask yourself, "What is the number one thing I can do that could cause an improvement with my "speaking" or "listening." Limit your response to one.

3. Next, commit to working on the desired improvement for 1 week. You may want to put a time block in your calendar with a reminder so you don't forget.

Again, do not feel that you need to make monumental changes to your routine in order to make monumental changes in your results. So many make the mistake of not identifying and targeting the tasks and responsibilities that are fundamental to their success and spend too much wasted time on non-essentials. If you can nail your fundamentals, you can nail your results.