As the NBA kicks off_ 4 things business can learn from a championship sports teamATR International is headquartered in Silicon Valley, which means those who work here have been fortunate to experience first-hand the amazing success the Golden State Warriors have had the last few years, including winning back-to-back NBA Championships. Full disclosure, I am a huge Warriors fan and ATR has also partnered with the Warriors Foundation on charitable endeavors.

That said, What I’m writing about here isn’t the result of bias or being a fan. Championship teams make people ask – how did they do it? And, can we do it too? I think that’s true of any champion.

Competitors certainly study what they do, but other teams aren’t the only ones interested. We’re interested. Creating a great team in business is just as critical.

At ATR, we’re in the staffing business, so we have two reasons we want to learn the secrets to the team’s success. To build a great team ourselves and to help our clients build better teams as well.

The truth is though – there really aren’t any secrets.

There are many things that successful teams do that business people can too. It isn’t necessarily easy but it’s very possible. They don’t guarantee a championship (there are no guarantees in life!) but they make success more likely. Plus, business isn’t a game with only one winner. We can all build championship teams!

So, what can we learn from the champions?

Hiring great people makes for a great team.

First and foremost, having the right players is critical. Great teams are not assembled accidentally. Countless hours of thought and planning goes into it. They know what skills they need, and they look for them. They’re constantly aware of the market place and who is or will become available. They court highly talented players. They follow college players and scout other leagues to find talent. They make big deals and pay big money for superstars. They make great bargain acquisitions. They sign amazing veterans. They hire great coaches like Steve Kerr.

Business needs to do the same thing. Think strategically. Know what talent you need and hire it. Hire superstars when you need to. The Warriors had Steph Curry and went out and signed Kevin Durant too. In the offseason they’ve inspired envy and anger as they continued to make moves like this. Build strategically though. Look for talented people who fit your team’s vision and culture. Hire diamonds in the rough, and get great value for your money, but be willing to act quickly and invest appropriately when necessary.

Every team member is important.

If you look carefully at any championship team you’ll find that the bench, a veteran, a rookie, or someone who came as an afterthought in a trade for a superstar contributes in important, often game winning ways. There are also many others who support the players behind the scene, e.g., coaches, trainers, scouts, management. No one succeeds as an island or is more important than another team member.

This is a lesson that any business team can absorb. What good is an awesome product without a good website that customers can reliably order it from? Or the best software if there are no salespeople to find clients? Make sure everyone understands how their job matters to the overall success of the company. Make sure everyone feels valuable – because they are. Everyone needs to do their job and do it well. Teams win, not individuals.

Great teammates make great teams.

Being a great teammate isn’t just congratulating each other after scoring. It’s being encouraging when things go wrong. It’s leadership at practice, working hard every day, and being prepared for every game. It’s having the right attitude. When Steph Curry was hurt he became the team cheerleader, energizing those on the court from his seat on the bench. It’s helping others get better rather than assigning blame. It’s giving and taking feedback and advice, no matter how successful you are. Curry wasn’t always a star and was mentored by many on his journey. He returns that favor, for example helping Quinn Cook adjust to his first playoff appearances.

Does your team do that? Do you have employees who help each other succeed? Do your managers help new team members? Are your veterans open to new ideas? Do you encourage this kind of behavior? Do you model it? You should. Being supportive of colleagues, sharing knowledge freely, and helping out when and where needed are just as important as being a brilliant coder. Encourage and reward supportive behavior and you’ll have a more successful team. 

Champions never give up. They don’t quit.

This may seem obvious because great comebacks happen plenty in sports but for that very reason it’s easy to overlook the importance of this. Champions don’t win because they don’t have bad times – it’s precisely because they overcome adversity that they become champions. The Warriors did not have an easy season last year. They seemed out of sync and lackluster and just made the playoffs. Steph Curry was plagued by injury. Even in the playoffs they were almost routinely down during games, frequently heading into the second half trailing, by a lot. But they pulled it together. Others stepped in to pick up the injury slack. They repeatedly pulled off amazing, even historic comebacks. And, well, we know how it worked out in the end.

Business teams need to do the same, to foster this kind of attitude and behavior. Make sure you hire people who have the emotional IQ to weather the inevitable frustrations. Hire people who have demonstrated the ability to work under the pressures of deadlines and project milestones. Hire those who don’t get ruffled when challenges arise, instead they find solutions. Championship business teams are made of these individuals.

As I said, I’ve been focused on the Warriors because I love them! They’re my team! But take a look at any championship team, in any sport, and you’ll see the same things. Whether it’s my NBA Warriors, the World Cup team from France, the current MLB teams vying for the World Series crown, or whichever sport and team you root for, there are plenty of examples for those of us in business to learn from. Let’s go champions!

Contact our champion recruiters!


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