The Essence of Building Winning Teams — Sacrifice and Trust

Great talent wins games. But great teams win championships.

Chandar Pattabhiram

Board Advisor || CMO/GVP/Consultant: @Marketo, @Badgeville, IBM Cast Iron, @Accenture


That was the word Golden State Warrior Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA finals MVP and avid technology enthusiast, used when I asked him, “What is the secret of building championship teams?”

Now that the Warriors won so convincingly over King James & Co last week, I can’t help but recount my conversation with Andre a few months ago. I had the pleasure of interviewing him as part of a product launch event last year.

I had written out a set of seed questions beforehand but he preferred not to see them, telling me that his best interviews are when his answers are instantaneous, instinctive and from the heart. That made me a little nervous, but to my pleasant surprise, he was awesome in his real-time responses.

In answer to my query about building championship teams, Andre told a story from his days growing up as a fan of the great Chicago Bulls teams in the 1990s. He said that the Bulls started winning only when Phil Jackson came on board as head coach and asked the great Michael Jordan to “stop shooting and share the ball.” Michael was the NBA scoring champion and was stunned that he was being asked to score less. But in Coach Jackson’s eyes, a lower-scoring superstar would empower the rest of the team to come together as a collective and bring home more victories, which is exactly what happened. Of course, Michael did his thing many times when the game was on the line, but we oldies also remember Steve Kerr’s and John Paxon’s game winning shots in the finals for those Bulls teams.

Which bring us to Andre Iguodala and the Warriors. Andre emphasized that the secret of their success has been the coach’s understanding of the strengths of every player and his giving them each a specific role based on these strengths. The job of each player then is to maximize their passion, preparation and performance for that role and not try to do everything. In other words, “sacrifice your personal ambition for the greater cause of the team.” Only then does an assembly of great talent become a great team.

The Bull’s Phil Jackson understood this when he claimed, “Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we.’” So did the great football coach Bill Walsh when he said, “As a player or a coach, you cannot be distracted by your own importance.”

We can all apply the sage advice of Andre, Phil and Bill to our role as leaders in the business world. As leaders, it’s our job to define structured roles for each person to put them in a position to win, and make it possible for each player to trust in the team and sacrifice their personal ego for the greater cause.

It is this kind of structure that makes it easy to add a superstar (as the Warriors did with Kevin Durant) without upsetting the chemistry of the team. It is this kind of structure that halts the development of destructive prima donnas and provides every team member with a powerful voice — a voice that is not stifled by the presence of a superstar, but rather amplified. And it is this kind of structure that drives true synergy and maximizes the efforts of all.

As Jeff Vangundy, former head coach of the Houston Rockets, once said, “Great teams play for each other, not just with each other.” That is a beautiful thought, and so true.

Follow me on twitter: @chandarp

#leadership #winning #management #marketing #team

Board Advisor || CMO/GVP/Consultant: @Marketo, @Badgeville, IBM Cast Iron, @Accenture

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