Having worked the past 33 years for a business owned by Peter M Holt, Chairman of San Antonio Sports & Entertainment, I’ve had a unique perspective on the applicability and universal truths regarding leadership, culture, and character.
The recent NBA finals were particularly fascinating (and rewarding) to those of us who are sports (and Spurs) fans. For the first time in memory, the media had held a running dialogue on the Spurs “organization” as much as it did on the Spurs players themselves.
The evidence may be summed up in one simple observation: When it comes to organizational effectiveness, performance, achievement, and long-term success, culture trumps everything. That fact is a poorly kept secret here in South Texas- but one that has now resonated with anyone who has watched the end of the NBA season.
Leadership thinking and doing abound within the organization: The Spurs organization puts an extremely high price on assembling the best talent; investing in it; clarifying performance expectations; making difficult decisions in a timely and pro-active manner; delivering praise for success; holding one another accountable and modeling humility and concern for one another.
Oh, they win basketball games, too. More than any other NBA team over the past 15 years. And let’s not forget the pretty gold trophies.
A simple brand model I have used for the past several years applies to organizations, business units, departments, teams, and individuals: It’s all about your expertise, engagement, and execution. Once you have the right skill sets in place, engagement becomes paramount. And most of the leadership failure I have observed can be directly traced to ineffective engagement.
High performers who are aligned with the organization’s mission, vision, and culture provide and crave timely and honest feedback. They value the intellectual honesty required to take them- and their teams- to a higher level of performance. Often, however, our inability or reticence to deal with meaningful conversations (along with delivering appropriate outcomes) becomes the greatest hindrance to progress and success.
If you’ve ever watched a Spurs game, you’ll note that Coach Popovich doesn’t spare anyone from clarity, support, accountability, or loving praise. He’s a master at providing situational leadership and making it all about the team- and not about egos or superstardom. As a result, in the words of one sports commentator, “The Spurs execute you to death.”
Finally, the Spurs coach doesn’t pull each player aside and demand to know to know “how many points they’ll score in the 4th quarter.” He understands that a focus on execution and engagement create results. But how often in the business world do we ask “How’s the month?” versus what are you doing, how are you doing or what do you- or we- need to do more of, less of or do differently, in order to stand out in the marketplace?
If you can learn how to insist on a creates and maintaining a “winning culture” and execute in alignment with that vision, you’ll have a track record of winning and leading.