Laidback Atmosphere a Lesson for Business
Ah, March Madness. As is the case this year, the upcoming Final Four weekend often runs into early April. Still, the NCAA championship will forever be linked with the month that births the tournament (and coincides with my birthday).
Yet, this year hoops hysteria will linger close to summer, thanks to the breakout performance of Stephen Curry. Come the NBA finals in June, basketball fans will experience the kind of frenzy usually reserved for March.
Sports aficionados wax poetic about Curry’s shooting skills and the Golden State Warriors’ quest for 73 wins that would outdo the 1995 Chicago Bulls’ record 72-10 mark. However, a recent Sports Illustrated profile of Curry contained another insight that caught my attention.
Fun at Work
It concerned the laidback atmosphere on the Warriors’ team. SI’s Rick Reilly (who deserves a championship trophy for superb writing) chronicled how they have skipped practice to play touch football, take batting practice with the Oakland Athletics, or head out to early dinners.
“They rent out entire restaurants and laugh for three hours while crowds press their noses to the windows,” Reilly wrote. “…(When) rookie Kevin Looney fell asleep on the team’s charter flight one night with his mouth open, (Draymond) Green swatted a dead fly into it.
“These guys are looser than secondhand socks. They’re playing with house money. They won the title last year when positively nobody saw it coming.”
Such colorful descriptions have more application than an NBA championship run during March Madness. Were more management experts to take to heart this lesson, I think the net result would be a more productive and fulfilled workforce. A development that could (in the words of one presidential candidate) make America great again.
Polls routinely show that less than 20 percent of American workers are “actively engaged” in their jobs. That strikes me as the exact opposite of the positive atmosphere that is fueling Golden State’s dazzling performance.
Having fun at work consists of more than goofing off and taking early dinners. One businessman I have worked with periodically the past three years has talked about the failure of many CEOs and managers to appreciate that their most valuable resource is the human resources on their payroll.
I believe people want to be appreciated and feel like they are making a difference as much as they want a decent salary. Too often, what they find are superiors who treat them like underlings to be ordered around. In other words, “bosses” rather than “leaders.”
I recently read some fascinating material about the differences between the two. Among the contrasts:
- Is impersonal
- Says “I”
- Uses people
- Inspires fear
- Focuses on process
- Is compassionate
- Says, “We”
- Develops people
- Earns respect
- Gives credit
- Focuses on people
Change of Attitude
None of this is to say that it’s easy to be a good CEO, manager or supervisor. If it were, there would be more of them.
However, I think the top-down, autocratic management style inherent to American business is a relic of the Industrial Age that turned craftsmen into highly-paid machine parts, less prized for their skills than their ability to follow orders. Good pay and handsome pension benefits supposedly made up for the mind-numbing, unfulfilling work of the assembly line.
Since old habits die hard, there are still many who think barking orders and keeping people in fear of losing their jobs is the way to produce profits. Instead, it creates an unengaged workforce full of resentment and literally dying for meaningful lives.
If Stephen Curry & Co. repeat as NBA champions this time during March Madness, I hope it produces a brighter spotlight on the teamwork and fun atmosphere behind their amazing run.