Josh Merkin|May 17, 2017

Even if you are not a fan of basketball, there is another reason why you should be paying attention to this year’s NBA Finals – the Golden State Warriors are giving a free lesson about the importance of corporate culture and leadership.

The Warriors have been rolling through the playoffs, easily dispatching the Portland Trail Blazers, the Utah Jazz and are now up two games on the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve won 10 straight games in the playoffs and are easily one of the most talent stacked teams in the NBA and successful franchises over the past several years. But what makes this year’s success such a marvel is that they are doing it without their head coach Steve Kerr, who has been battling an illness that has forced him to miss more than half of the playoffs.

That’s right, the Golden State Warriors are dominating despite not having their leader, which is a testament to the strong corporate culture and environment the team has created under Steve Kerr. Here are a few key ingredients that should be added to the playbook for any company interested in matching the Warriors’ success.

1. Have a clear vision

As a leader, whether it’s a coach, a CEO or even a manager of a team, it’s vital for leaders to create a clear vision for the culture of the company. What do you want to be known for? How do you want your employees and clients to feel about you?

At rbb, we are an employee-driven workplace which means that all employees can offer input in the way our company operates. For the Warriors, Steve Kerr is known as a player’s coach who allows his team to be comfortable with their own personalities as opposed to constricting them. This has helped build trust and respect among players and coaches.  Kerr has also created a very family-friendly atmosphere for the Warriors where player’s kids are welcome.

With a clear vision for your culture, it becomes much easier to get buy in from your employees because it helps them understand your expectations.

2. Hire the right people

With your clear vision of culture in place, another key takeaway from the Warriors is the importance of hiring the right people.

If you employ people who are not willing to buy into your corporate culture and carry out the vision you have created, then it becomes that much more difficult to be successful. With Steve Kerr away from the team because of his illness, he is relying on his assistant coaches to help steer the ship and carry out the messages.

This doesn’t mean that the way these are delivered will always be the same, but the underlying theme stays consistent.

3. Trust your staff to do their jobs

Part of being a strong leader is letting your staff do their jobs without fear of always looking over their shoulder. As a leader, you should trust that the training, messages and blueprint you provide to your employees are being carried out, because micro managing can be detrimental to achieving success.

While it’s to be expected that Steve Kerr is still having some input on the team while he is away, he is not known as a meddling coach. He has empowered his other coaches to run the team, and this model is proving successful as evidenced by the Warriors playoff run.

When I joined rbb several years ago, I was new to the idea of working in such a flexible work environment and not sure how it would work. But what I learned quickly was that when people aren’t doing their jobs, it becomes immediately apparent and the culture has its own checks and balances system.

Trusting your staff to do their jobs doesn’t mean you take a 100 percent hands off policy, but it means giving them space to operate within their own comfort zone while letting them know you are available as needed for support.

4. Know when your voice needs to be heard

This is an important follow up to trusting your employees. While you want to give space for your team to flourish, as a leader, it’s good to remember that your input is still invaluable.

Prior to one of their games against the Trailblazers and at a halftime against the San Antonio Spurs, Kerr made time to give a motivational speech to his players. As the coach of that team, he chose these two spots to go back in front of his team and have his voice heard because he knew that’s what was needed at that time.

Part of being a good leader is knowing when your employees should hear from you and it shouldn’t just be in times of crisis because then your presence automatically becomes associated with receiving unwelcome news.

Being a good leader and creating a solid corporate culture can be very challenging and certainly has its nuances, but following these simple lessons from Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors is a helpful guide.

Do you have other great ideas on leadership? Email them to me at [email protected] and follow me on twitter @joshmerkin.


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