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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 November 26, 2020

How Relationships Building Helps Achieve Career Success

How Relationships Building Helps Achieve Career Success

As playwright Wilson Mizner supposedly said all the way back in the 1930s,

“Be kind to everyone on the way up; you will meet the same people on the way down.”

The adage is the perfect prototype for relationship building in 2020, although we may want to expand Mizner’s definition of “kind” to include being helpful, respectful, grateful, and above all, crediting your colleagues along the way.

5 Ways to Switch on Your Relationship Building Magnetism

Relationship building does not come easily to all. Today’s computer culture makes us more insular and less likely to reach out—not to mention our new work-from-home situation in which we are only able to interact virtually. Still, relationship building remains an important part of career engagement and success, and it gets better with practice.

Here are five ways you can strengthen your relationships:

1. Advocate for Other’s Ideas

Take the initiative to speak up in support of other team members’ good ideas. Doing so lets others know that the team’s success takes precedence over your needs for personal success. Get behind any colleague’s innovative approach or clever solution and offer whatever help you can give to see it through. Teammates will value your vote of confidence and your support.

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2. Show Compassion

If you learn that someone whom you work with has encountered difficult times, reach out. If it’s not someone you know well, a hand-written card expressing your sympathy and hopes for better times ahead could be an initial gesture. If it’s someone with whom you interact regularly, the act could involve offering to take on some of the person’s work to provide a needed reprieve or even bringing in a home-cooked dish as a way to offer comfort. The show of compassion will not go unnoticed, and your relationship building will have found a foothold.

3. Communicate Regularly

Make an effort to share any information with team members that will help them do their jobs more effectively. Keeping people in the loop says a lot about your consideration for what others need to deliver their best results.

Try to discover the preferred mode of communication for each team member. Some people are fine relying on emails; others like to have a phone conversation. And once we can finally return to working together in offices, you may determine that face-to-face updates may be most advantageous for some members.

4. Ask for Feedback

Showing your willingness to reach out for advice and guidance will make a positive impression on your boss. When you make it clear that you welcome and can accept pointers, you display candor and trust in what opinions your superior has to offer. Your proclivity towards considering ways of improving your performance and strengthening any working interactions will signal your strong relationship skills.

If you are in a work environment where you are asked to give feedback, be generous and compassionate. That does not mean being wishy-washy. Try always to give the type of feedback that you wouldn’t mind receiving.

5. Give Credit Where It’s Due

Be the worker who remembers to credit staffers with their contributions. It’s a surprisingly rare talent to credit others, but when you do so, they will remember to credit you, and the collective credit your team will accrue will be well worth the effort.

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How Does Relationship Building Build Careers?

Once you have strengthened and deepened your relationships, here are some of the great benefits:

Work Doesn’t Feel So Much Like Work

According to a Gallup poll, when you have a best friend at work, you are more likely to feel engaged with your job. Work is more fun when you have positive, productive relationships with your colleagues. Instead of spending time and energy overcoming difficult personalities, you can spend time enjoying the camaraderie with colleagues as you work congenially on projects together. When your coworkers are your friends, time goes by quickly and challenges don’t weigh as heavily.

You Can Find Good Help

It’s easier to ask for assistance when you have a good working relationship with a colleague. And with office tasks changing at the speed of technology, chances are that you are going to need some help acclimating—especially now that work has gone remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of relationship building rests on your genuine expressions of appreciation toward others. Showing gratitude for another’s help or for their willingness to put in the extra effort will let them know you value them.

Mentors Come Out of the Woodwork

Mentors are proven to advance your professional and career development. A mentor can help you navigate how to approach your work and keep you apprised of industry trends. They have a plethora of experience to draw from that can be invaluable when advising you on achieving career success and advancement.

Mentors flock to those who are skilled at relationship building. So, work on your relationships and keep your eyes peeled for a worthy mentor.

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You Pull Together as a Team

Great teamwork starts with having an “abundance mentality” rather than a scarcity mentality. Too often, workers view all projects through a scarcity mentality lens. This leads to office strife as coworkers compete for their piece of the pie. But in an abundance mentality mode, you focus on the strengths that others bring rather than the possibility that they are potential competitors.

Instead, you can commit relationship building efforts to ensure a positive work environment rather than an adversarial one. When you let others know that you intend to support their efforts and contribute to their success, they will respond in kind. Go, team!

Your Network Expands and So Does Your Paycheck

Expand your relationship building scope beyond your coworkers to include customers, suppliers, and other industry stakeholders. Your extra efforts can lead to extra sales, a more rewarding career, and even speedy professional advancement. And don’t overlook the importance of building warm relationships with assistants, receptionists, or even interns.

Take care to build bridges, not just to your boss and your boss’s boss but with those that work under you as well. You may find that someone who you wouldn’t expect will put in a good word for you with your supervisor.

Building and maintaining good working relationships with everyone you come in contact with can pay off in unforeseen ways. You never know when that underling will turn out to be the company’s “golden child.” Six years from now you may be turning to them for a job. If you have built up a good, trusting work relationship with others along your way, you will more likely be considered for positions that any of these people may be looking to fill.

Your Job Won’t Stress You Out

Study shows that some 83 percent of American workers experience work-related stress.[1] Granted, some of that stress is now likely caused by the new pandemic-triggered workplace adjustments, yet bosses and management, in general, are reportedly the predominant source of stress for more than one-third of workers.

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Having meaningful connections among coworkers is the best way to make work less stressful. Whether it is having others whom to commiserate with, bounce ideas off, or bring out your best performance, friendships strengthen the group’s esprit de corps and lower the stress level of your job.

Your Career Shines Bright

Who would you feel better about approaching to provide a recommendation or ask for promotion: a cold, aloof boss with whom you have only an impersonal relationship or one that knows you as a person and with whom you have built a warm, trusting relationship?

Your career advancement will always excel when you have a mutual bond of friendship and appreciation with those who can recommend you. Consider the plug you could receive from a supervisor who knows you as a friend versus one who remains detached and only notices you in terms of your ability to meet deadlines or attain goals.

When people fully know your skills, strengths, personality, and aspirations, you have promoters who will sing your praises with any opportunity for advancement.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it is “who you know” not “what you know.” When you build relationships, you build a pipeline of colleagues, work partners, team members, current bosses, and former bosses who want to help you—who want to see you succeed.

At its core, every business is a people business. Making a point to take the small but meaningful actions that build the foundation of a good relationship can be instrumental in cultivating better relationships at work.

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Featured photo credit: Adam Winger via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The American Institute of Stress: 42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics

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