How Is Your Team Playing the Game?
How Is Your Team Playing the Game?
It was so tough to watch the NBA finals this year. As you may know, I’m a diehard Los Angeles Lakers fan (and much to my dismay they were hurriedly ousted early on). The upside was that I could watch more dispassionately and observe both sides equally because I didn’t have a horse in the game.
And whether you’re a faithful NBA fan like me, or just a casual observer tuning in for the championship playoffs, this series was a perfect example of why basketball has so much to teach us about leadership.
Basketball Is Exactly Like The Office Sports You Play Each Day
Think about it. The team is comprised of the owner, the general manager, the coach, superstars, bench players, role players and poor performers. Then there’s always the occasional odd guy out. And oh, yeah, the fans (a.k.a. your paying customers).
Talent, attitude, and work ethic are the basic keys to success. Add good knowledge about the game, strong execution and a passion for playing a position to strengthen the starting lineup. And above all else, the intangibles like chemistry, respect, and trust in each other create a stronger team.
And with office sports, just like in the NBA, there are “finals” each year. There are performance reviews, and success year-to-year is based on winning with your stats. Wins and losses are likely reported via sales — or whatever your company’s benchmark may be.
7 Games…7 Leadership Lessons
Watching the seven games as they were played between San Antonio and Miami delivered the best of what basketball offers with some defining moments. I want to share seven leadership lessons I learned from watching the 2013 NBA Championship.
1. Don’t ever give up. The Spur’s Tony Parker beat the buzzer in game one with a broken play. Dribbling out of control and losing the ball multiple times, he still managed to get the ball to drop in the basket to deliver the needed points. It pays to be persistent even when the odds don’t look favorable.
2. Don’t let up when you’re ahead. When momentum is yours, take advantage of it to keep running up the score. The Miami Heat did so in game two and were virtually unstoppable. They sealed the victory and brought the team confidence after a disappointing loss at home in game one.
3. Make the easy ones. Sure the epic dunk posterizing the opponent looks amazing. And it is only worth two points. Same as two free throws. Take advantage of them. They can pad your score without much effort. And down the stretch, should you miss them, they can cost you the game. Missed foul shots cost the Spurs the Championship in game six. That is not a good replay for them. Don’t look back and get caught up in “coulda, woulda, shoulda” when you see the easy shots missed.
4. Embrace diversity. Chris “Birdman” Anderson, a midseason pickup for Miami, sticks out in a crowd. With his spiked hair and colorful tattoos, it would be easy to dismiss him. But he fires up the crowd and brings a unique energy and enthusiasm to the game. Make sure you aren’t overlooking someone who might be different from the group who can make a big difference for your team.
5. Bench players rule. Sure it’s your top performers you count on that often bring the trophy home. Still, it’s the bench players that make for huge impact and give the stars a chance to rest. Give a bench player a chance in an important game and see if they rise to the occasion. And watch them thrive under the spotlight so you can add some strength to your bench.
6. Age doesn’t matter. Spurs coach Greg “Pop” Popavich has been coaching there for 17 years, the longest of any NBA coach, and is elderly compared to Erik “Spo” Spoelstra, with Miami for only 5 years and is among the youngest coaches in the league. These coaches are surely two of the finest in the game and the difference in their ages is merely a fact, not a factor. Coaching is too important of a role to judge on age. It’s the experience and wisdom about the game that counts.
7. It’s the long haul. Don’t let one game affect you. Sure there are huge wins and demoralizing losses. That’s all part of the game. Learn from both and keep your eye on the long term. Concentrate on your goals. Manage the disappointments and appreciate all the victories along the way, small and large. You might not get to lift that trophy high like LeBron and his Miami Heat team did. But you’re making a difference to your team and your raving fans, your customers. Remember why you’re here and what you need to do.
The Bottom Line Is This: Basketball is ALL About Leadership.
Whether it is the coach or individual players on the court, leadership is instrumental to win every game. It’s exactly the same way for you to achieve success in your business. The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat demonstrated some impressive pointers on the court to take back to the office. I hope you find inspiration and motivation to make your own team a winner every day.