Saturday, February 7, 2009

The four pillars of a successful team

Here's a good excerpt from Phil Martelli's book, "Don't Call Me Coach."

Coach Martelli is in his 14th season as head coach at St. Joe's, where he's won 18-plus games for eight consecutive seasons. This season, the Hawks are 13-8 and have won 9 of 10.


To me it's never been about a system. It's about building on foundations. It's absolutely essential that our players be willing to compete. That's the first pillar. We set up a competitive atmosphere throughout -- in practice, in our scheduling, and our game opportunities.

Yet, it's also essential to learn to share the basketball. To me, sharing the ball is the ultimate sign of respect on the court. That's the second pillar in building a team.

I think it's really important that you take your shot, the third pillar. Everyone's worked hard to get you that opportunity, and if you don't take it, that's worse than taking a bad shot. It sounds ironic, but teamwork is based on competition.

To relate that to the wider world of work, suppose someone has prepared you for a promotion, to take a position in your company, and you decline to accept it. Your not taking the shot others set up for you is harmful to the whole organization. They thought you were ready, and put their effort behind you. You let them down, as well as yourself.

The fourth thing we ask every player is to know your abilities, the key final pillar that holds the structure up. There's nothing harder than being realistic about yourself, but we all have to do it.

Go to your strengths, stay away from your weaknesses. We will try to analyze both, as we've seen them, practice after practice. We will explain both to you, and then plan around your strengths, in combination with those of your teammates. But then you have to do the rest.

If life is a competition, stressing your strengths is the way to be a winner. I don't want to make basketball bigger than it is, but it's the same lesson you'll need in life.

I know it sounds simplistic -- to compete, to share, to take your shot when it comes, to really know your strengths and weaknesses -- but that's what builds a team. Nobody does it alone. Look into the stories of great statesmen, great generals, great entrepreneurs, great leaders in any field, and see how they achieved success. It won't be a waste of your time.