Elevating Your Game

Elevating Your Game

I had the pleasure of watching Stephen Curry warm up before a recent game between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. For those of you who don’t know, Stephen Curry is the star point guard for the Warriors, the two-time MVP, and one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.

I was standing along the court with my son, watching Curry go through his warm-up drills. He started by dribbling two basketballs up and down the court, his right hand controlling one ball, his left hand dribbling the other. Next, Curry went to the half-court line and began shooting baskets. For perspective, the half court line is 47 feet from the basket. He did that 30 times. Even from there, Curry sank half his shots. Next, standing at the 3-point line (a mere 24 feet away) with his back to the basket, Curry caught the ball, spun 180 degrees and shot the ball through the net in a single graceful motion. He repeated that drill 30 times.

Each of these drills made Curry work hard. By forcing himself to do these things, he was forcing himself to elevate the level of his game. He was preparing himself so that the actual game – the one against the Celtics – would be much easier.

As I watched this incredible show of discipline and training, I asked myself, what’s my equivalent? What do I do that’s similar to dribbling two basketballs simultaneously? How am I elevating my game? More importantly, how can any leader elevate his or her organization’s “game?”

Here are some specific ideas I came up with:

  1. Develop 2-3 business scenarios with surprise twists and challenge your team to make decisions under pressure. Debrief afterward what you learned and what you could do to prepare.
  2. Mix up the team. Bring in a new face and ask them to be a part of the team for three months. Empower the new person to ask any question and offer any idea, no matter how dumb. Ask the team to reflect on their reactions. How do you react to suggestions from outsiders?
  3. Get out and be with your customers or end users. Ask questions. What do they like or dislike about your product or service? No matter what they say, acknowledge the value of their input and document it. Debrief with your team and resolve to make at least one change based on the input.
  4. Learn a new tool for team collaboration and communication. Have you tried Slack? Have you experimented with Facebook Workplace? Try something new and, again, make sure you debrief on the experience.
  5. Structure an experience for your team to work together in new, slightly uncomfortable ways – maybe a cooking school, or an outdoor training course, or a simulated space flight. Use the experience to learn something about yourselves and how to build trust together.

Back to basketball for a concluding thought. Phil Jackson, winner of three straight NBA titles as coach of the Lakers and the Bulls, used various tricks to elevate his players’ games and wake them up from the boredom of a long season. Once he had them practice in complete silence; another time, he made them scrimmage with the lights out. When they fell behind in a game, he wouldn’t call a timeout, forcing them to figure it out on the court.

So, keep asking yourself: What am I doing to elevate my game? What am I doing to elevate my team’s game? Please send me your thoughts and I’ll compile them for a future blog.