Being born and raised in Seattle and loving basketball, I was so excited when the Supersonics started in 1967. I saved my paper route money and attended games during the first season. My favorite player was Bob Rule and his hook shot. I was a fan even though it was not until 1979 the Supersonics won the NBA Championship with impressive team play.
The championship team was not just a collection of very talented players. When they played, they played as a team. I can only guess, as with any collection of people, there must have been some players who did not get along with others, some who thought they were more talented and several who were more driven to win. However, what we saw on the court was a strong and unified team.
As an observer it seems to me the players practiced characteristics found in high-performing teams.
1. There was a plan each player understood, trusted and implemented. I never heard any of the players speak poorly of their coach, Lenny Wilkins, or his strategy for winning. Instead, they made the plan work.
2. The players knew their parts in the winning strategy and performed their roles well. Freddy Brown would hit three point shots to spread the defense. Dennis Johnson would set up the play. Jake Sikma would shoot his unique step-back shot. Gus Williams would fly past his defender to the rim and Lonnie Shelton would grab rebounds.
They were so much fun to watch and each player made the other players better, going to their strengths. They had confidence in each other. If a player was not performing, the team knew Coach Wilkins would have one of his quiet, but firm, talks with the team member. The players continually made each other better on the court.
3. This team was focused on success. Though they had gone to the championship the season before and lost, they were not going to let that happen again. Instead, they won the series in 5 games without the home court advantage. The players looked past the personalities of their team mates and knew, as a group of 12, they could win and they did.
In our roles as leaders it is up to us to develop the big picture plan with our team. We can ensure each person understands and implements their part of the plan. By identifying and resolving issues, we can keep our team performing at a high level, engage individual personalities by working with their strengths and encourage team collaboration all while focusing on success.