Motivating Your Team : Further Lessons From the NBA

Updated: May 16, 2019


In a follow-up to last week's lessons from the NBA, we find another fine example of leadership in action, specifically a lesson in motivating your team.

During this past Monday's game between the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns, Warriors head Coach Steve Kerr decided to let a few of his players coach the team at various points of the action.


"I told them the other night after the last game that we were going to do it," Kerr said. "It's their team. I think that's one of the first things you have to consider as a coach. It's not your team, it's not Bob Myers' team, it's not Joe Lacob's team -- although I'm not going to tell Joe that."
"It's the players' team, and they have to take ownership of it. And as coaches, our job is to nudge them in the right direction, guide them, but we don't control them. They determine their own fate and I don't feel like we focused well at all the last month, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I thought they communicated really well together and drew up some nice plays, and it was a good night for the guys."

The Warriors have long been mentioned as a team that is bored with the competition during the regular season...even by their own admission. Kerr, in having his players coach, was looking for a spark to light a fire in a long season. This decision was not without its controversy and detractors yet Kerr was ever resolute in his decision. The players he chose to coach also are some of the most cerebral in the NBA (any Draymond Green debate notwithstanding) and might very well end up being coaches when their playing careers are over.


As a leader you should always be on the lookout for things that will motivate your team, even if the choices may seem unpopular to observers. Once you make those decisions, you should have the fortitude to remain resolute in your path BUT at the same time, if it becomes readily apparent that harm is being done or your set course is not working you should be flexible and agile enough to change course. Detractors that complain should not be enough to derail these decisions; it's a tough, and can oftentimes be, a very lonely road to travel.


As Kerr did, you may also come to a point where you are looking for leaders from within your organization. You can also take similar lessons from the military here, which prides itself on making leaders out of followers. One of the ways it does this is to put people’s feet to the fire; it’s a time tested and proven method to create leaders. Don’t be afraid to test the people you choose and see what they are made of when given leadership responsibility.


If you followed some of our previous advice such as advice on hiring your next star, you will undoubtedly have plenty of options to choose in your search for leaders and in motivating your team!