Over the summer, San Antonio Spurs five-time all-star basketball player LaMarcus Aldridge asked his coach, Greg Popovich, to be traded. That's basically the worst thing a coach or leader wants to hear from a talented and valuable contributor.  

Popovich then spent time with the player, took action, and according to ESPN, recently responded by doing something unexpected: He admitted he was to blame, he admitted to coaching the player the wrong way.

How often does a celebrity NBA champion coach admit he's wrong?

Not enough.

That is why this admission is so shocking.

Yet, when you look at how he has coached the team for the past 20 years. It's actually almost expected. His teams have always been selfless. They play like they actually care about the team, their teammates, and the end result over individual awards. Popovich builds championship teams, with a focus on 'team.'

When Aldridge approached Popovich and asked to be traded, the coach was taken aback. "Whoa, nobody's ever said that to me before.' It's my 20-whatever year, and nobody's ever said that," Popovich said, according to ESPN.

Popovich's response was a masterclass in accountability and self-reflection: He applied emotional intelligence and took a look inside, and then took action. He met with Aldridge, had multiple dinners and conversations and realized what needed to change. And that change was within, not without.

Popovich went on to tell ESPN that "as discussions went on, it became apparent to me that it really was me... total over-coaching. So we took care of it, and he's been fantastic." 

Once Popovich accepted responsibility for the situation, he could then take the proper actions that would correct the situation. Here's what he did and didn't do, which allowed him to turn a bad situation into a success:

  1. He didn't get defensive, which allowed his player to feel heard.
  2. He didn't make excuses, which allowed him to accept responsibility.
  3. He didn't ignore the situation, which allowed him to take corrective action.

That's a formula you should apply to every business and personal situation. Each step leads to the next. By controlling how you react to your emotions, you give yourself the space to make better choices.

In business, it's the same. Losing talented team members hurts your bottom line in addition to your pride. Approaching the idea of losing talented contributors the way Popovich did is the sure way to make every situation better. You might still lose the player, but at least you know your reaction did not make the situation worse.

We all get confronted at times with difficult team member situations. It doesn't feel good to have someone want to leave your team, or to be called out, or to be told we are wrong. Yet, if we take a step back, look at the situation from the other person's perspective we can find the truth behind the criticism and fix most problems that come our way.

By first controlling your emotions and then accepting others and their perspectives, you then can better "see" them.

Once you truly see and understand someone, you can then adjust your behavior to take the needed action.

Just like Popovich did.

Published on: Jan 17, 2018
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