As the NBA begins the 2014-15 season, one of the big questions is whether the San Antonio Spurs will be able to repeat as champions and win their sixth title since 1999. There has been much fanfare about the core of the team remaining together for many years. Rightly so in an age of free agents who change teams every couple of years in pursuit of ever increasing salaries. In fact, San Antonio’s big three (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker) could have all gone to other teams and made more money at different points in their careers, but they chose to stay together in San Antonio and play with coach Gregg Popovich. Why? In your leadership role, the answer to this “why” question is important. Every day, you have talented people (staff and volunteers) who will make a choice. They will choose whether to continue to work for your organization or take their abilities somewhere else. They will choose whether to give 110% or something less. Their decision will not be motivated primarily by compensation. It will be driven far more by an organizational culture where it is fun to work, a sense that the organization is making a difference in the world, and a knowledge that their personal contribution matters.
It is important that you spend time charting the organization’s direction and that you make wise leadership decisions. But it is more important that you invest in people in order to build a championship team. One of Patrick Lencioni’s Three Signs of a Miserable Job is anonymity. Lencioni says, “All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority.” When this happens, you begin to see championship results.
Building this kind of team doesn’t mean that its members aren’t held accountable. One of the turning points in the 2014 championship series was when Popovich had a heart-to-heart with Kawhi Leonard after Game 2. Leonard responded with breakthrough performances in the remaining three games and was chosen as the tournament MVP.
One final thought on building this team – if you have someone who is more interested in his or her own advancement than in the team, find a way to “trade” them quickly. They may be a “star” performer and may achieve short-term results, but their attitude will poison the chemistry that is needed for a long-term championship. What kind of team are you building?