noun. An act of helping or giving support to. Help (someone) typically by doing a share of the work.
noun. An instance of one moving object or person striking against another. In physics: Bodies in which each exerts a force upon the other, causing the exchange of energy or moment.
Based on these definitions these two words – assist and collision – come from disparate places. Take a moment to step away from stale interpretations and discover that not only do these two words work well with one another but their point of convergence is the place where you want to take your organizational culture. This is the point where you begin to discover the untapped (and often unrecognized) wealth of potential.
The Golden State Warriors found this point of convergence on the basketball court.
Tony Hsieh of Zappos finds it in everyday life and seeks to do the same for his staff.
In sports, an assist references a player who makes a pass to another player who then scores. It’s a pretty simple concept and you see it play out in many team sports like basketball, hockey, soccer, and lacrosse.
Admittedly, I’m a lifelong hoops fan. Hours upon hours on back lot courts earned me some competency that was my ticket through high school and college. These days I’m a couch potato player, watching a game nearly every evening before signing off. When it comes to assists, I’ve picked up on a pretty remarkable trend with one team’s performance during the 2016-’17 season; the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors have taken the concept of assists to an extreme. They average 32 assists per game while the next closest team averages 23 per game. It’s not just the Warriors’ assists that make them stand out. The players are elegant with their in passing abilities. There are no single passes but rather a grace and fluidity of motion in sharing the ball. In fact, the ball rarely stops moving. It’s as if it has a mind and destination all its own — as if it wants to be touched by all hands on the team as much and as often as possible.
It’s worth pointing out that providing an assist is an unselfish act. The scorer always gets the bulk the short-term glory. But assists are tracked and valued. Because everyone knows those points would not have been realized without the assist.
The Warriors are a team excelling in the most generous of acts (the assist) in a sport that rewards individual accomplishment. So what does this style that contrasts with the norm do for the Warriors? For starters, they are the most winningest team in the league.
The Basketball Coach
In the recent basketball playoffs leading up to the Finals, an interesting thing happened to the Golden State Warriors. In the first game the their lead scorer was injured. Even though he was not available to play, they won due to their practiced habit of being generous with the ball. Then their head coach, Steve Kerr, became ill. That meant by Game Three, the Warriors had neither their lead scorer nor their head coach. For any other team that is a recipe for disaster. The Assistant Coach, Mike Brown stepped in. He did not step up, he stepped in. Be clear, he left his ego where it belonged…absolutely no where near the court. Despite the fact that Brown has coached twice as many games as Kerr, with an impressive track record of his own, he wanted to be as “Kerr-like as possible.”
What happened? In the first half, the Warriors trailed behind. Instead of giving the players a verbal lashing, Brown trusted that his players were talented enough to recognize where they were coming up short, figure out a strategy that worked with the moment at hand and let the glory unfold from there. That folks, is what being nimble and operating in real time is all about.
The Business Coach
Setting aside my disdain for the word “coach” in the world of business (guide is better), it’s my duty to ask those in leadership positions a question pertinent to their company. What would your organization look like if it established a culture of assists? How might your team members feel if each and every one gets their hands on the ball more in an authentic and meaningful way? How many more points might be scored in your organization’s game?
Stay tuned: The next installment of Assists and Collisions will explore the value of collisions and how important they are to improving your assists score.
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