Coaching a professional basketball team is not different from managing a team of corporate employees. You have stars, utility players and bench warmers, all of whom thrive when their coach tailors his approach to their unique talents, weaknesses and contributions to the team. Bare Knuckle People Management speaks directly to managers who have been frustrated by the notion that all employees need to be treated equally and with kids’ gloves.

—Mike D’Antoni, Head Coach of the New York Knicks

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Hey 2012 – Bring it on!

2012Dear 2012:

I’m ready for you and for anything you’ll bring my way. Your recent predecessors have prepared me well. I’m stronger for what I’ve endured. I’ve never been more ready for any one year in my entire life.

I’m resilient. I’ve scrambled and scavenged, scratched and clawed, reinvented and rediscovered. I had to, and so I did.

I’m realistic. I’ve stopped relying on year-over-year growth as a foregone conclusion. I’ve become ok acknowledging when business just sucks, but that with some creativity and hustle I can make it better today. And that I might need to be even more creative and hustle even harder to make it better tomorrow. I can, and I will.

I’m focused. I frighten myself with my focus of late. I’m like an entranced diver preparing to perform the Triple Lindy at the Olympic Games. (You are still an Olympic year, right?) I’ve stopped watching for the U.S. unemployment rate to drop off or for the world’s debt crisis to end. I can’t control these things, and they do nothing but distract me from what I can do to make my immediate world better right now. I’m like a laser I’m so focused.

I’m new and improved. I’ve learned how to sell something when no one appeared to be buying anything. Sure, my salesmanship improved, but so did my products and services. Because I offer greater value, demand has increased. The 2012 version of me is going to cost you a pretty penny. It will also give you goose bumps.

I’m efficient. I’ve realized that I can do more with less. It’s like I’ve spent the last two years in a prison cell converting it into a resort villa. I do more in an hour than I used to do in a month. I get simply giddy thinking what I’ll do with that extra day you’ll bring us in February.

I’m reliant on others. I have gathered convincing evidence that my wife and children really do love me in spite of my many warts. And that they love me no matter what. And that I desperately need them. I thank God for them.

I’m fit. I’ve made time to work out more and eat and drink less. I’m no Mr. Universe, but I plank for like 4 hours straight. I play Frisbee with 45-pound plates. Yep, I’m a badass, so mess with me at your own risk.

I’m responsive. I’ve got my ear to the pavement and I’m listening for subtle opportunistic shifts. When I hear them, I will pounce like a wild animal.

I’m in the moment. I no longer regret past decisions or fantasize about future boom times. The only place is right here, and the only time is right now. I like it here, and I think I’ll stay.

I’m stable. Your predecessors have spun me into a storm of uncertainty. But I’ve got my two feet under me again, and I feel sturdy and strong. Don’t plan on knocking me over. It won’t happen. I dare you to try.

So, I’ll see you soon, 2012. But don’t just rush in and expect to send me reeling. I’m ready for whatever you send my way. I just thought I’d give you some notice.



About Sean O’Neil

Sean O’Neil is a workplace and team dynamics expert. He is also Principal and CEO of Bare Knuckle People Management (, a sales and management training firm with clients that include the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, News Corporation, First Data, ADP, Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Oakland Raiders. Sean and John
Kulisek co-authored Bare Knuckle People Management: Creating Success with the Team You Have – Winners, Losers, Misfits and All, which was published in May 2011. Sean has contributed to or been featured in, among others, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Selling Power Magazine,, HR Morning Magazine, Leadership Excellence Magazine, Training Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Sports Business Journal, and Incentive Magazine. Sean appears regularly on radio and television programs, including Fox Business Network and Imus in the Morning, mostly about workplace communications and management issues. Sean is a nationally-recognized speaker on everything concerning people and the way they interact with each other. He can also frequently be seen pacing the sidelines of a youth team he’s coaching.


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