Even though the Miami LeBrons dropped a discouraging loss on the Boston Celtics last night in the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs, the Celtics run over the last several years, (including an NBA title in 2008), has been one of the most compelling stories in all of sports. An experienced, veteran team, led by three aging hall of fame caliber players, (Pierce, Garnett, Allen), and driven on the court by a mercurial and fabulously talented young point guard, Rajon Rondo, that together present a unique set of challenges in terms of management and coaching. How to keep star players who were always the leaders and best players on every team they'd ever played on happy in a system that, in order to achieve sustained success, often demands that individual egos be sublimated to the greater good. How to blend in new and talented players like Rondo, and lesser (but still important), additional players to fill needed roles on the squad.
It is easy, and in fact every professional sports team and coach talks about the need for players in a team sport to be willing to sacrifice their individual goals at times for the benefit of the team's goals, but very often all the talk is well, just talk. For a myriad of reasons many players and teams never can reach that point where team goals are seen as more important that player's individual goals. Particularly on the professional level where each player might have one eye on his next contract, which very likely will be enhanced by his ability to post impressive individual scoring statistics, whether or not these statistics are achieved in the context of team play.
The fact that everyone talks about 'team play' and 'team goals' and very few teams ever seem to manage to actually buy-in to the concept, makes this short video (embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), from Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers worth two-and-a-half-minutes of your time on Friday. Rivers lays out the three simple, yet hard to pull off things a leader needs to do to get the best performance out of a team.
Short and sweet, but really a key point. Role players in the NBA, and perhaps even in your organization, don't necessarily see themselves as just role players. In order to get them, as well as the stars and former stars of team, to accept and truly buy-in to the overall team concept you really have to three things firmly in place.
One - First, the team has to buy-in to the leader as someone they trust and believe can lead them
Two - The team and each player has to buy-in to the actual business or team strategy and see it as a winning approach
Three - They have to understand their individual role and beyond that, have to see how the effective or exceptional performance of their individual role is essential for team success.
This last one seems to me the most important and often the most overlooked. We talk a lot in talent and performance management about things like goal alignment and line of sight and making sure employees and team members understand and buy-in to the organizational mission. And those things are certainly important and necessary. But that last bit that Rivers talks about in the video, that every player on the team needs to believe that their individual contribution is absolutely critical to the team's success, and that every contribution is essential in order to win, well it seems to me that part of the 'buy-in' formula often gets underplayed.
There are lots of variables and components that have to be assembled in just the right way to have a winning basketball team as well as a effective and productive work team. In the clip above Doc Rivers lays out his take on what a leader needs to install in order to get everyone on the team bought in and he does it in under three minutes. Nicely done Doc.
Now just take all the extra time on your hands and figure out how to keep LeBron from dropping 50 on you in Game 7.
Have a Great Weekend!