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Picking the Man Who'd Lead Basketball's Dream Team to Gold


Blog - Susan Lucas-Conwell - August 21, 2012



Response to recent Harvard Business Review article

Leading your Dream Team to Gold is not an easy task. As the USA Olympic Basketball team experienced in the past, poor coaching and lack of team spirit led to surprising losses. As Jeffrey Cohn counts in the Harvard Business Review article Picking the Man Who'd Lead Basketball's Dream Team to Gold, tables turned thanks to Jerry Colangelo and Coach Krzyzewski (Coach K), bringing the Gold twice to Team U.S.A - in 2008 in Beijing and again this year in London.  But this did not happen overnight; Colangelo carefully tended to every facet of team culture. From the moment he was appointed in 2005 he began changing a fragmented organization into a cohesive, striving team. To do so, Colangelo first focused on finding the right coach, with strong qualities and values that would change the existing team culture.

Taking a step back from the ball court, the story equally illustrates the necessary dynamics for successful workplaces. In fact, research shows that there is a direct correlation between a strong company culture and successful results.

Leadership qualities- To find the ideal candidate it was crucial for Colangelo to have a leader who upheld these key qualities: integrity, passion, transparency and understanding. Coach K fit the part. For any organization, these qualities stay true. Leaders must be able to understand and communicate with their employees in order to create a unified environment.  As crucial building blocks, these characteristics allow for trust and understanding across the board. While Team USA struggled with the superstar syndrome, companies might face a variety of other obstacles, from work ethic to varying personalities. Embracing the diversity and properly engaging and addressing differences creates the innate bond and consistency found in today’s Team USA.

Common Goals- Additionally, leaders set the goals and milestones key to an organization’s mission; a common meaning and purpose which strengthens the group. Beginning with engagement and communication, the way in which leaders assess various aspects of a situation will drive significance to employees. That is, ensuring adequate measurement and tracking of progress and achievements for the benefit of the team, not for individuals only.

Adaptation- Finally, while Coach K initially hesitated to take on Team USA a second time for the London Olympics, he took on the challenge despite forthcoming changes. His success speaks to his ability to adapt to changing team dynamics and continuously reassess organizational culture. Similarly, even during uncertain times companies with strong cultures are able to succeed.

In agreement with the story of Team USA’s development as an organization, I will be joined by Chris Van Gorder, President and CEO of Best Company Scripps Health this September at the Wharton Club to discuss these important dynamics in the workplace and the power of maintaining strong company cultures.

Please join us at this unique event on September 12th in Palo Alto, California to learn how to build a stronger company culture.

Susan Lucas-Conwell is Chief Executive Officer and Board Member at Great Place to Work®.  An accomplished business leader, Susan provides keen perspective on how building and maintaining great workplace culture drives business success.

Susan Lucas-Conwell

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