Watching teamwork in action

Over the last week, I’ve…actually we’ve…had the opportunity to watch true teamwork in action.

I’m not a huge basketball fan and like most sports, I generally only watch playoff games. Additionally, I’m from Detroit and I live now in San Antonio, so I am generally split when it comes to basketball between the Pistons and the Spurs.

However, the Spurs would be the only non-Michigan team that I normally support…maybe A&M sometimes because my wife graduated from there…it’s a civic duty.

If you watched the last three playoff games between the Spurs and the Heat, you were witness to what teamwork is all about and how it pays off. Clearly, San Antonio Spurs played as a team, where Miami Heat did not. And it was so obvious, it was almost painful to watch.

Many years ago, in my early years in the Air Force, I was going home to Detroit (Beverly Hills) on leave. My dad got us tickets to an expo match between the Red Wings and the Russian Olympic Team. He was pretty excited because the previous year’s game was full of fights and he expected the same level of rivalry this year. Everyone loves the fights at hockey.

Instead, to our disappointment, the Russian team demonstrated their skill and prowess and literally skated around the Red Wings to slaughter them in points. I was witness to true teamwork of skill and passing.

Over the last week, this memory came back to me. I was reminded why I have chosen to openly like the Spurs even thought they are really the only non-Michigan team I follow. They play as a team.

Last night, the Spurs clinched their fifth NBA title and they did it in style. The Heat came out fighting after losing horribly two games at home. LaBron James, the key player of the Heat, was playing very aggressively and the Spurs were down by like 16 points or something at the end of the first quarter.

The Spurs rallied back in the second quarter and took the lead before halftime. They went on to totally demoralize the Heat and beat them by more than 20 points at the end of the game.

I literally was counting the number of passes the Spurs would take versus the number of passes that the Heat would take–on average, six passes to two. In many cases, with the Heat, they never passed the ball…whoever took the ball to the defender’s side, took the shot and most of the time that was LaBron James.

This is what I witnessed in the last three games of the finals, the Spurs were like the Russian Olympic team and through skill and teamwork, they walked away with the title.

Everyone knows where this comes from…

The Spurs are a great team, but their greatness comes from the leadership of their coach, Gregg Popovich, two-time NBA Coach of the Year award winner. Pop has installed this level of teamwork to complement their skill. Clearly the Heat have the skills to be great basketball players…what they did not possess is the level of teamwork that leveraged every player’s skill against their opponent.

In the last game, one of the Spurs’ top players, Tony Parker, didn’t score a single point until the fourth quarter. Yet, the Spurs had a commanding lead by then. How could they possibly do that? Because everyone was shooting…everyone was passing…no one was standing out.

Additionally, at the end of the game, Kawhi Leonard, a 22-year-old rookie with the Spurs, was selected as the MVP. Not Duncan, not Manu, and not Tony—no, A relatively new player with the franchise.

His team let him shine…they gave him the opportunity through teamwork.

Teamwork means that everyone gets the ball and everyone gets the opportunity to score. Thus, everyone gets the opportunity to shine. Sure, the limelight won’t be on the best player(s), but if their leadership can guide them well enough to accept this, then others on the team can also become the best players as well.

What would be wrong with everyone on the team scoring and being your best player versus just one or two? In game four of the finals, in Miami, that happened for the Spurs…every single player on the team scored!

Leaders, pay attention…

Get some playback reels of the last three games…

This is what a real team looks like and how it dominates over the competition.

I have seen many companies and organizations that rely on single players and they fail when that single player leaves. I have seen this in nonprofits, specifically where one person–generally a dedicated leader, like the President–dominates the organization and makes all the plays. Then they leave and the rest of the team and organization falls apart.

Leaders; be like Pop.

Grow and develop your team. Give everyone the ball. Make sure you’re leveraging the skills of your team by passing the ball constantly.

It really is that simple.

Do this and your team will dominate!


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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