Natalie Gilbert froze. 20,000 fans stared. All eyes were on her. This was supposed to be her moment. She was 13-years-old and had won a singing contest to perform the national anthem at an NBA game. She had dreams of Broadway. She had made it one line in when she completely blanked on the lyrics. “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hailed, at the starlight’s… star….” she covered her face. She looked to her side. The crowd cheered in support but she was frozen. What do you do?
When we’re stuck, we need a hand. On that day in 2003, Natalie Gilbert had never felt so alone while surrounded by so many people at the same time. She really needed a hand and not just a cheer for support. In her moment of panic, someone suddenly appeared by her side. Maurice Cheeks, coach of the Blazers, saw what was going on. He stepped up beside, helped her put the microphone back in front of her mouth, and he started singing along with her.
Now, Maurice Cheeks is not winning any singing contests on his own, but as a coach and a father, he knew if someone didn’t help this kid right now, the confidence that got her to this point could get smashed. As he joined in to help, he beckoned the whole stadium to sing along, and sing along they did. With a little help from 20,000 people, Natalie Gilbert performed the national anthem at an NBA game.
Small gestures can make big differences. When we find moments where we can be helpful, we find ways to make lasting impressions. A big risk on someone else’s part might need a boost from a small risk on our part. That little bit of leverage can keep someone’s confidence alive. That’s power. That’s doing good work. Whether it’s with strangers, clients, colleagues, or anyone else, a mindset of “how can we help” can go a long, long way to creating real value.