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5 Leadership Lessons From The 2015 NBA Finals

5 Leadership Lessons From The 2015 NBA Finals

I am neither a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Golden State Warriors (my team wasn’t even close to making the playoffs), but I am a huge fan of the NBA in general. Thus, I watched the recent NBA Finals series rather closely.

Truth be told, what surprised me most about this Finals match-up was the two teams involved: the Cavs and the Warriors. Just a year ago, the former had been out of the playoffs, and the latter had been bounced out in the first round. What was it that allowed them to go the distance this year? The answer is simple: good leadership. Without it, both of these teams would never have made it as far as they did.

You too can take advantage of these leadership lessons. What are they? Read on to learn more.

1. Hire the best people you can find.

Just a few years back, the Golden State Warriors were a mess. They ran a haphazard lineup led by second-tier players like Monta Ellis, hired mediocre coaches like Keith Smart, and lacked direction in their front office. That all changed when two new owners bought the team. What they did was simple, but ingenious. They first rebuilt the team’s culture, basing it around hard work, success, and results.Then they went about re-structuring the front office, hiring Jerry West as general manager.

As one of the premier GMs in the league, and a former superstar in the NBA, Jerry West (otherwise known as “The Logo”) went about making much-needed adjustments to the roster.

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The final masterstroke came when the Warriors fired head coach Mark Jackson last year, replacing him with Steve Kerr. Though a decent coach, Jackson didn’t fit the front office’s vision. Meanwhile, Kerr seemed to be much more of a creative tactician who knew how to maximize the talent on the roster. Obviously, their gamble proved to be successful.

The moral of the story is that to be successful, you need to be surrounded by talented and driven individuals. You can’t be happy with the status quo if it isn’t getting the results you desire. When you couple this with a tireless and devoted staff, you will find your way to prosperity sooner rather than later.

2. Know when to make adjustments.

Though Steve Kerr proved to be a brilliant coach (leading the Warriors to a league best 67-15 record in the regular season), his rotations during the first three games of the finals proved to be inadequate at best. What had worked throughout the year was now being battered and broken by an injured, yet-hungry Cavs team led by LeBron James.

Through the first three games, the Warriors found themselves down 2-1, with game four happening in Cleveland. Things looked dire, so Kerr made a drastic lineup change.

He benched his starting center, Andrew Bogut, replacing him with Andre Iguodala, a former all-star who had agreed to take on a more limited role in order to win. The results were stunning. With his new, smaller lineup, Kerr and the Warriors blew the Cavs away, winning three games in a row and delivering the Bay Area its first title in forty years.

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Had Kerr been stubborn and not listened to one of his assistants (Nick U’ren, who suggested that Iguodala start), it’s likely the Cavs would have run away with the series.

While it can be good to stay the course, there are times when you need to change things up and adapt, even if it seems risky initially.

3. Lead by example.

When Kyrie Irving went down in the first game of the NBA Finals, fans and critics across the league wrote the Cavaliers off. They assumed the Warriors would sweep the depleted Cavs, to such an extent that every game would be a blow out. On shows like First Take and Sportscenter, pundits like Stephen A. Smith and Chris Broussard spoke about the Cavs as if they were already dead in the water.

They forgot; however, about one man: LeBron James. LeBron took it upon himself to make sure the Warriors didn’t have an easy go of things. He did everything for the shorthanded Cavaliers, scoring nearly half of their points, and averaging close to a triple double (that is, nearly ten rebounds and ten assists a game to go along with his point total).

LeBron’s resilience seemed to rub off on his fellow players. Guys like Matthew Dellavadova and Tristan Thompson, who were seen as inconsequential previously, elevated their play to the extant that Delly was dubbed “the Curry stopper,” and Thompson was described as being better than fellow teammate and perennial all-star Kevin Love (who had been injured earlier in the playoffs).

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When you leave it all out on the table, others will take notice, going above and beyond to match the effort you are giving. Without LeBron setting the example that he did, it’s likely the Warriors would have swept his team.

4. Don’t hold grudges.

It would have been easy for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to hang up the phone when LeBron James called in the summer of 2014, asking if he could join his hometown team once again. It would have been poetic if Gilbert rejected him, given how LeBron denied Gilbert back in 2010 when he chose to sign with the Miami Heat instead of resigning with the Cavaliers.

Gilbert, despite all of his faults, chose to do what was best for his business: he accepted LeBron James with open arms. Despite the fact that LeBron is the best player in the game, this must have been incredibly hard to do. After all, back in 2010, Gilbert had described LeBron’s departure as a “betrayal,” vowing that the Cavaliers could and would win a championship without James’ help.

Despite all of those theatrics, Gilbert took the high road, putting his team before any personal grudge that he might hold.

In life, that’s an important lesson to learn. There’s no point in burning bridges with folks if you can still assist each other in the future. Thanks to Gilbert’s decision, the Cavaliers are set to be Finals contenders for the next several years.

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5. Stay true to yourself.

When things began to look bleak for the Golden State Warriors, folks like Knicks general manager Phil Jackson (multi-ring winning coach of the Chicago Bulls, with Kerr on the roster) made some fairly critical comments, citing the Warriors’ reliance on the three point shot and fast paced play as the reason for their woes versus the Cavs. What had worked for the Warriors throughout the regular season and playoffs was now; according to some, causing them to lose against LeBron and the no-nonsense Cavs.

At this point, down 2-1, Steve Kerr and the Warriors could have folded and completely changed their style. They could have played a bigger lineup and battled it out with the bigger, tougher, and downright meaner Cavs. They could have listened to Phil Jackson, and began throwing the ball inside rather than hoisting three point shots.

Instead, Kerr doubled down. He allowed MVP Stephen Curry to play the same game he had played all year. Kerr even took it a step further, going with an even smaller starting lineup than before. The gambit worked. As mentioned earlier, inserting Andre Iguodala into the lineup did wonders, quickening the Warrior’s pace and slowing down LeBron considerably on the offensive end.

Because Kerr had faith in his system, guys like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson eventually found their shooting stroke. This culminated in a 37 point barrage by Curry in a crucial Game 5 victory that practically sealed the series for the Golden State Warriors.

Often, we waver when met with failure, switching up everything we know for little reason other than that we’ve lost confidence in our abilities. Meanwhile, in reality, it’s often better the stay the course, making smaller adjustments to whatever strategy has worked in the past. Chances are, things will turn around for you eventually, much like they did for the Golden State Warriors.

Featured photo credit: IMG_0585/Amir Aziz via flic.kr

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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