making the Gregg Popovich system work for your business

For threeslam dunkswish…

For those of you who know me, I love me some basketball.

Growing up in England, I loved football (otherwise known as soccer), but over the years I lost interest due to too many games ending in either a draw or a 1-0 victory.

What drove me nuts though, was when a team was leading in the final minutes and they started playing keep away.

Basketball, on the other hand, has a 24 second clock, forcing teams to be more aggressive.

Not only that, but they also have the three-point line which allows teams to catch up in a hurry as well as the ability to stop the clock using their fouls. All of this adds up to more drama. Don’t get me wrong, some basketball games can be very boring, but overall, I find it the most entertaining sport.

And one team over the past 20 years has excelled more than any other.

Naturally, you might think that would be the Lakers (with Kobe Bryant) or Miami (with Lebron James). But you’d be wrong.

In fact, the San Antonio Spurs have been the most consistent professional sports team in the past two decades, constantly making the playoffs and winning it all on 4 separate occasions.

Over that time, their line up may have changed, and with it their style, and yet each year they keep winning.

Just what is their secret?

I suppose the best person to ask would be their coach.

So just what is Gregg Popovich’s secret? And more importantly, how can we use it in our businesses?

I was reminded of his brilliance the other day when reading this Huffington Post article.

As the article starts off, Gregg Popovich’s secret isn’t a system per say, he simply does 4 things extremely well:

  1. Develops his players
  2. Chooses the best strategies for his players
  3. Chooses the best tactics for the situation
  4. Get his players to execute his strategy and tactics

Now this might sound simplistic, but in the NBA it’s no mean feat. Many NBA athletes are millionaires with big egos, so keeping everyone on the same page and buying into the coach’s system can be tough.

The same thing is true in a business.

A business is only as good as its employees.

Peter Drucker, the management guru, believed that people were the secret to a business’ success and that one must “identify extraordinary people and place them into your most crucial leadership roles.”

You can’t hire all star players, but you can choose to keep only stars. Get rid of the weaker players and get more strong players on board.

And that’s precisely what Gregg Popovich has done.

The San Antonio Spurs might not be the flashiest team in the NBA, that title goes to the Miami Heat and their star Lebron James, but his results speak for themselves. Despite their three perennial stars (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili) aging, they added another 60 win season and have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. They came within a whisper of taking the title home last year, and yet they haven’t missed a beat this year.

They lost one of their three point specialists to free agency in the off season, and yet, they’re back, even better than last year. That’s no fluke.

That’s masterful coaching, teamwork and a unique understanding of both his team and the game itself.

A big part of our life is out of our hands; our bosses, the environment, our colleagues, taxes, the government, the weather, traffic. However, we do have a say in how things turn out. It’s that part we must learn to make the most of and Gregg Popovich is a master at it.

For CEOs, managers and entrepreneurs could learn from him is to invest in your team.

A company will only go as far as the people in it.

Is it any wonder Dreamworks has gone on to create a multi-billion dollar company? Take Steven SpielbergJeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen (all media moguls), and throw in $500 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and success is all but guaranteed.

Now nothing is set in stone, but the stronger your team is, the better chance you have at success.

Show your team you care about them and their lives. Reward achievements and be willing to invest time and money into those people that stand out. Then put them in a position in which they’ll thrive.

Despite the changes in his roster and his aging superstars, the Spurs camaraderie is obvious. They’re a no nonsense team, which simply plays hard day in and day out.

With the Spurs about to clash with the upcoming Blazers in the second round of the 2014 playoffs, you can be sure Popovich will have his team ready. Is yours?

Adrian Shepherd

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