Ten Ways to Motivate Your Team to New Heights

Did you catch the San Antonio Spurs as they won the NBA championship?  What I’d give to feel the euphoria those team members felt afterwards!

As a businessman, I don’t play in that league.  Most of us don’t.  However, the thrill of winning, especially against the odds, IS something we can all experience.  In fact, from a management viewpoint, the reasons they won are experiences we can create and recreate for our own teams, in whatever league we play.

In the spirit of “advancing the ball down the court”, here is my view on how and why the Spurs won yet another championship, and more importantly, how we can all use this in our own organizations:

1. The importance of corporate culture and the impact on high performance teams: Having 5 NBA championships, it seems as though the San Antonio Spurs have consistently recruited a certain type of player that fits in their system.  Are you mindful of whether a candidate fits both your skills requirement as well as fits into the organizational culture?

2. Selfless leaders have a big impact in organizations: If your most valuable player is willing to sacrifice his or her overall statistics for the sake of the team, that sends a powerful message to the rest of the team on the importance of everyone working for the benefit of the team.  Are you building a culture of “taking one for the team”? 

3. Control your emotions: In any game, there are going to be changes in momentum. You have to be prepared to withstand shifts in motion, whether in a game or in business. Team members on the bench need to be reminded to stay in the game and not get distracted by the other team. This is often done by a leader, formal or informal — and is a critical role in any organization.  How do you ensure that the focus in your organization is on the “game” and not on red herrings?

4. The power of resilience: How you respond to your failures makes a difference.  Listening to the San Antonio Spurs players after their victory highlighted how they utilized last year’s loss in the finals as the momentum for getting back to the finals and winning this year.  If you’re not debriefing after your losses, you’re losing the opportunity to learn and motivate your team.

5. You don’t have to have the best players to have a winning team: The San Antonio Spurs are a great example that the sum is greater than the individual parts.  As the leader in your organization, how do you make sure that your team members are strongest together?

6. Let your play do the talking: The San Antonio Spurs exemplify how you don’t need to be the loudest team to be the best. They just quietly go about their business and succeed. Year after year.  Do you use stealth and great work to your advantage, or is the talk bigger than the work?

7. Don’t pay too much attention to the media: If you listened to the media, you would have believed that the San Antonio Spurs were over the hill. They just kept working and adjusted their game throughout the years and didn’t necessarily pay attention to what the media wrote about them.  Whether it’s the media or your competitors, remember not to pay them much attention.  They all have an agenda, and chances are, it’s not the same as yours.

8. Coaching matters: Coach Gregg Popovich continuously demonstrated his focus and expectations to his team, whether it was the post-game talk or the timeout conversations.  How do you communicate your belief in your team?  How do you coach them to be their best?

9. Joy in the success of others: It was great to see how joyous the top players of San Antonio reacted to the success of other teammates. I’m sure that was motivational to the rest of the team and help the level of play of everyone.  In the culture you’ve built, how does your team celebrate the individual successes? 

10. Focus on the fundamentals: Sometimes we forget that the truly great performers just do the basics. More often than the rest of us. The San Antonio Spurs are not necessarily the most fantasy or flashy team, but they have consistently performed the fundamentals of the sport better than any team this year.  Remember that consistent performance advances business more than any one flashy diversion, and that the basics of your business are what consistency is based on.

Boxer Advisors, LLC, is a full-service consulting, training and coaching firm with more than 50 professional consultants, facilitators, and coaches and carefully selected partners providing services to Federal agencies and Fortune 1000 companies since 1996.

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