Leaders must incorporate team building skills into their plan in order to build winning teams. Leaders who get their teams to work together capture the benefits of teamwork and create amazing possibilities.
“My driving belief is this: great teamwork is the only way to reach our ultimate moments, to create breakthroughs that define our careers, to fulfill our lives with a sense of lasting significance”-- Pat Riley
In The Winner Within, author Pat Riley discusses his role as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball dynasty.
The Lakers were a dominant team for decades, but despite having some of the best players during the late 1970s, they had lost their edge and began finishing their season half-way through the playoffs.
In 1979, they drafted Earvin “Magic” Johnson who had departed college early after leading his Michigan State Spartans team to a national college basketball title.
When Success Can Lead to Adversity
In "Magic's" first year in the National Basketball Association (NBA), The L.A. Lakers won the NBA championship.
During the next season, “Magic” was injured and did not play for several months. While injured, the team won 70% of their games, but the press played up the eventual return of last season’s tournament Most Valuable Player so much that the other players felt that their contributions were neglected.
Veteran players felt all the attention given to “Magic” came at their expense. As a consequence, team resentment began to build and the Lakers did not work well together after his return. In the end, the Lakers were unable to repeat as NBA champions as expected.
Coach Riley knew he would have to eliminate the conflict between the players to get his team back on track, which included validating everyone’s need to contribute and feel like valuable members of the team.
While “Magic” had great leadership potential, he had joined a team of professionals filled with several stars and individual egos and would have to become accepted.
Coach Riley knew the importance of teamwork and was able to turn things around the following season by insisting that his players commit to the vision and values of the team. Simply put, he established “buy-in” by requiring players to declare whether they would were IN or they were OUT.
When everyone committed to the same set of beliefs, a climate of trust developed and the players began to work together like never before. As a result, the Lakers went on to win five titles in the 1980s and they became the first team in two decades to repeat as back-to-back champions.
The Team Building Investment
Most people recognize that teamwork is the road to success, but they sometimes miss that it requires sacrifice and hard work.
The key point is that before players will commit and place the needs of the team before their own, they have to feel that their sacrifice will be worth it.
Imagine overcoming obstacles to teamwork and harnessing efforts so that everyone works together. It is up to the leader to exercise team building skills that will create synergy and enable your business to achieve its long-term goals.
When asked whether he would rather have a winning team or a together team while coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Coach Riley responded,
“When you understand team dynamics, it’s obvious. A team must first be together – like a strong family.”-- Pat Riley
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