Yesterday I listened to a portion of an interview with ESPN (www.espn.com) analyst Jon Barry who stated emphatically “There are no great teams currently in the NBA!” It was further noted that each of the remaining four play-off teams (Orlando has since been eliminated) was flawed in key areas.
The teams that were noted for being great were the Celtic and Laker teams of the 80s as well as the Piston and Bulls teams of the 90s. I grew up during that era and those were GREAT teams. Looking back at those organizations, I think there are some key common success links we can identify and then apply to our teams in hoping that they help us achieve greatness.
- Organizational Alignment – I can’t believe Mike Brown of the Cleveland Cavaliers just got fired after having the best record in the NBA. In the same context, I am stunned by the conversations regarding the instability of Stan Van Gundy’s position. The four teams mentioned above had stability, like-mindedness, and a similar commitment to excellence starting in their front office, and then moving to the coaching staff, and finally to the coaches on the floor, their superstar players. Great teams have accountability practiced at the lowest level possible. Leader, does your team have this type of organizational stability and cultural DNA?
- Great Depth – These teams not only had quality depth, but star-talent depth. Players like Bill Walton, Cedric Maxwell, Michael Cooper, Michael Thompson, Vinnie Johnson, John Salley and Dennis Rodman were all coming off the benches. The best thing the NBA could do to help create great teams is to contract teams like the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies. When’s the last time your team added an “all-star”? For your team to be great, you must be actively acquiring superstar talent.
- Preparation – The four teams listed had fantastic fundamentals. They shot well, made the extra pass, had high assist-to-turnover ratios, possessed high defensive intelligence, and practiced hard for countless hours. Today’s players as a whole because of their limited or no college experience lack the foundational elements needed to support great play. Have you identified the fundamentals of your particular discipline and work continually to master them?
- Passion – I give the Celtic teams I’m currently watching credit in that they play with anger. With the large majority of modern teams, I don’t sense a chip on their shoulder. The four teams listed all played with a literal hatred of losing and an attitude that the only thing that mattered was championships. I define passion as owning the result. The Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Orlando Magic in game 3 of the Eastern Finals have all literally quit this year. Great teams take out frustrations on the other team. Does every member of your team own the result?
- The Gift of Struggle – It is a biblical principle that struggle produces strength. The Lakers and Celtics had to overcome the Philadelphia 76ers and then each other. The Detroit Pistons had to first overcome the Celtics and then the Lakers. The Bulls had to overcome the Pistons and some very physical New York Knick teams. The competition and ability to overcome adversity prepared them for the big stage. As a leader, do you effectively utilize failure and embrace the process of struggle?
- Versatility – The four teams listed could play any style. They had Hall of Fame backcourts, athletic wings, bruising frontcourts, deep benches, and the ability to play a half-court or open court style. The key ingredient needed to make interchangeable parts effective is when the superstar has a desire to see every player leveraged in a way that results in team success. I see this level of unselfishness in today’s superstars. However, I don’t see the same level of supporting casts.
When you are looking for greatness to be achieved in your organization, look for these six qualities. If you are lacking any of these success links, please know the answer to any problem is a person. Acquire the talent needed to make your team great.