Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors on winning the NBA title for the first time in 40 years!
The "Dubs" went wire-to-wire in the regular season, winning 67 games (good enough for sixth best in league history) and 16-5 in the NBA playoffs to capture championship glory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There is no question that reigning MVP Stephen Curry became the face of the Warriors franchise this season. However, what helped them not only win, but also become the NBA's top offensive and defensive team, was the culture coach Steve Kerr created and an unwavering team mentality.
In a sport full of individual "world's best player(s)," how did Kerr--a brand new coach with no prior NBA coaching experience--break through the "I" mentality?
He set the tone early on that culture, transparency, and team commitment was the only path forward to success.
For starters, the first thing Kerr did when he was hired was visit every single player on the team individually (he even traveled to Australia, where center Andrew Bogut lives in the offseason). He was transparent with his plans for this season and his intentions for each player.
Some of Kerr's decisions were difficult ones. David Lee and Andre Iguodala, two former All-Star players who could easily start on any other team, had to accept a reduced role and serve as backups.
Kerr's honesty and transparency on his expectations inspired them to have faith and be patient. Neither player complained and both contributed heavily throughout the season- especially in the playoffs. In fact, Iguodala became the first NBA Finals MVP to have never started a game the entire regular season.
He also scrapped the quintessential drill-sergeant approach to coaching and created a culture based on trust and respect. He valued rest and recovery and didn't run his players to the ground with three-hour practices and two-hour film sessions. Their mental and physical health mattered to him and the players saw that. This environment allowed him to give feedback and make tough decisions in the best interest of the team when needed. It wasn't backstabbing and closed door--it was open, honest and enabled the team to constantly be moving forward toward their collective goal.
I have long been saying that in business, "culture is the new currency." Money alone can get an employee to come work for you. But it can't inspire them to give their all and motivate those around them to do the same. Only culture can do that.
As business leaders, we know that we can get the most out of our employees when they work in a place they can enjoy, know how they fit in the team, and can see how their contributions are moving the needle, both personally and professionally. They are open to change and feedback because they have trust and respect in the system.
In sports--and in business--there's nothing wrong with being the star of the team. That said, it's also not the end-all, be-all. If employees can accept specific roles that play to their strengths, the entire team will be successful.
Having a business in the Bay Area, it's been remarkable to see what the Warriors have pulled off. In a copycat league such as the NBA, we will likely see other teams follow Kerr's blueprint. And in the business world, these keys to success can resonate with companies across the country. Regardless of industry, a great company culture is an important step in achieving greatness.