Category Archives: Sports

Zen Master

BasketballThis past week witnessed what was most likely the end of a Hall of Fame coaching career for Phil Jackson.  While he did coach some of the greatest players to ever play the game, often overlooked has been his ability to get the best out of his players.  After all, you can’t accomplish anything great by yourself.

In a recent article by Bill Simmons, the Zen Master finally gets some credit for being the master manager that he seemed to be.  The article is entitled “Appreciating the Zen Master in full.” It’s an interesting look into the coach, the challenges he’s navigated his teams through, and his management approach with the players.

It also provides a look into the 90’s Chicago Bulls and subtly hints at who Jackson thinks was the greatest player he’s ever coached.

Glue Guys

We’re now in the middle of the NBA Playoffs, and there hasn’t been a playoff in recent memory that has been as competitive or intriguing in quite awhile.  With all this excitement, the media coverage usually comes down to a discussion and analysis of superstar vs. superstar.  However, what the analysis overlooks is one of the most important assets that determines the team’s success.  That asset, is the glue guy.

So just what is a glue guy?  Glue guys are the teammates who know how to make a team better.  They’re unselfish players who always put their teammates in the best possible position, whether it’s with a pass for an open shot, taking a wide open jumper, blocking out on a rebound, sliding over to take a charge on help defense, or saying a few words of encouragement to help motivate a player.  They’re the guys you always want to have on your team, because you know they’re going to do the little things to help the team win.

Watching the Memphis Grizzlies in their series opening win over the Oklahoma City Thunder (aka Seattle Supersonics), I’m reminded again how valuable glue guys are.  Part of the reason for the Grizzlies’ success is that they have a glue guy, and that player is Shane Battier.  There was a great New York Times article entitled “The No-Stats All-Star,” which was about him and the impact he has on his team.  It was written by Michael Lewis, the author of the book “Moneyball.”

So just how do you measure Shane’s impact?  It’s not in the usual way we measure basketball success based on individual statistics.  In fact, it’s more along the lines of his impact on team success.

How many points a player scores, for example, is no true indication of how much he has helped his team. Another example: if you want to know a player’s value as a ­rebounder, you need to know not whether he got a rebound but the likelihood of the team getting the rebound when a missed shot enters that player’s zone.

….It is in basketball where the problems are most likely to be in the game — where the player, in his play, faces choices between maximizing his own perceived self-interest and winning. The choices are sufficiently complex that there is a fair chance he doesn’t fully grasp that he is making them.

Glue guys make the game easier for everyone on the team, and they help maximize the team’s potential.  They do all the little things to help the team.  They measure their success not by individual accomplishment, but by team accomplishment.  I always love playing with these glue guys, and regardless of whether you’re on a team in sports or in business . . . you need these glue guys to be successful.

Lessons in Leadership

I just read a great blog post about the book “Warfighting” and wanted to share a few of the leadership quotes from it that I thought were valuable:

“Errors by junior leaders stemming from overboldness are a necessary part of learning. We should deal with such errors leniently…Abolishing ‘zero defects’ means that we do not stifle boldness or initiative through the threat of punishment”

“Until a commander has reached and stated a decision, subordinates should consider it their duty to provide honest, professional opinions even though these may be in disagreement with the senior’s opinions. However, once the decision has been reached, juniors then must support it as if it were their own.”

“Because … no two situations … are the same, our critiques should focus not so much on the actions we took as on why we took those actions and why they brought the results they did.”

“Freedom for initiative that permits the high tempo of operations that we desire….mission tactics requires subordinates to act with “topsight” — a grasp of how their actions fit into the larger situation…..we cannot allow decentralized initiative without some means of providing unity, or focus to the various efforts…>we seek unity not principally trough imposed control, but through harmonious initiative and lateral coordination within the context [ed: frame!] provided by guidance from above.”

“A subordinate commander who is not given a clear purpose for the assigned mission should ask for one….It is often possible to capture intent in a simple “…in order to …” phrase….statement of intent should be brief and compelling–the more concise, the better…Subordinates must have a clear understanding of what their commander expects. Further, they should understand the intent of the commander at least two levels up.”

“[Maneuver warfare] requires a certain independence of mind, a willingness to act with initiative and boldness, an exploitive mindset that takes full advantage of every opportunity, and the moral courage to accept responsibility for this type of behavior. It is important that this last set of traits be guided by self-discipline and loyalty to the objectives of seniors.”

The post looks to be a summary of the book, which appears to be a very interesting read and applicable in many areas.  For more of the blog post written by Zachary Burt, see his post entitled Social Warfare.

For the book on Amazon, see Warfighting.