On July 4, 2017 Gordon Hayward broke millions of hearts when he announced that he would leave the Utah Jazz to sign with the Boston Celtics. The Jazz had spent seven seasons investing in, developing, and building a team around him, but he was ready for a change. Many Jazz fans felt betrayed and despaired over the loss of their star.
However, the Jazz had steadily gone about building a solid foundation: in 2013 they signed Rudy Gobert, in 2014 they hired Quin Snyder as the head coach, and in 2017 the Jazz made a draft night trade and acquired Donovan Mitchell. Because of the strong team they were building around Hayward, it turned out that not all hope was lost.
The start of the 2017-2018 season was rough, but with a late season surge, the Jazz surprised NBA fans and analysts by finishing fifth during the regular season in the Western Conference and making a run into the second round of the playoffs. With no apparent “star” how were the Jazz able to do this?
There were emerging leaders on the team, but as the season began no one had seen the success coming. To sum up the season, Coach Quin Snyder remarked, “The strength of the team is the team.”
So, what does this have to do with your business? Quite a bit, it turns out.
1Strategy is just over four years old. I’ve watched our team grow over the years; not only have we grown in size, but we’ve grown in strength. In large part, we’ve done so by adhering to our own version of Amazon’s Leadership Principles. In particular, where growth is concerned, we’ve focused on hiring and developing the best with our own family spin.
Hire and Develop the Best. Raise the bar. Recognize talent. Coach and mentor. Develop leaders. Foster choice. Promote personal growth. These are values we take seriously.
Raise the Bar
We have high expectations for our team and have never hired someone because we needed a body at a desk. We don’t compare applicants to each other, we compare them to our team and the standards we’ve set. This does not necessarily mean that the candidate is the most experienced applicant. Instead, we are looking at a person’s potential. We don’t need “all-stars.” We look for people who want to learn and grow.
We’ve never been afraid of hiring people who are smarter or better than we are. This makes our team stronger. We’ve been very fortunate to compile a team comprised of some of the smartest people I know, all having varied skillsets. Creating a team requires that not all members of the team fill the same role or have the same background. Some team members will be seasoned pros—sometimes in very different fields—and sometimes they’ll be rookies. Recognize intelligence, talents, and potential and then develop that potential.
Coach, Mentor, and Develop Leaders
Having a good coach, who expects the team members to develop skills they don’t already have —and knows how to help the players become their best—is key to developing potential. Having a front office who shares the same objectives and supports the coach and team is also key.
Our leaders support us and give us the tools we need to become better and gain skills and experience that will benefit not just the company, but us as individuals. They provide opportunities for us to take on new and challenging tasks and responsibilities. We are ever learning and always teaching. We each have a mentor and the entire team makes sure we are available to answer each other’s questions. We make each other better.
Foster Choice and Promote Personal Growth
We make people a priority. Our leadership has always seen us as people. We are not assets. We are human beings working together to accomplish some really hard things. I can personally attest to this. My career development has been important, but my outside interests (family and hobbies) have been essential, too. I feel supported by our leadership and it’s been made clear by example that this is how we as team members should treat each other.
Our leadership has done this by dedicating time for one-on-one conversations with each team member. In these chats (in-person when possible), they check to see how we feel about our workloads and projects, ask if there are any specific opportunities we are interested in, and support us in our goals. They ask how we are doing outside of work and encourage us. They care about our families and friends (and even our pets). Each of our team members would say the same.
Here are just a few examples (names withheld):
“I am immensely grateful to 1Strategy for the structure and support I have been provided to encourage work-life balance. I have been discouraged from working more than I need to, supported in taking time off, and truly cared for as a person rather than an asset. Happy and healthy employees have been proven to be most effective, and 1Strategy has put this in action very well for our team.”
“1Strategy has been absolutely incredible for my family. My manager has been 100% supportive of not only my career goals but also my goals for my family. The team has been understanding of how difficult it is to balance everything and I have felt extremely supported. I think this is such a special thing and something that I don’t take for granted.”
“As I was onboarding with 1Strategy, we were blessed with the birth of our first child. 1Strategy offered extra paternity time for me to ensure my family was taken care of. I was also transitioning to working from home (which had its challenges with a newborn), but I was given nothing but support through the process from people who had done the same thing. We even have a Slack channel to share photos of our kids (their cuteness, their stubbornness, their messes, and all) which continues to remind me how important family is to this company.”
When I hear “The strength of the team is the team,” I think of my team. Every member of our ever-growing team brings something to the table. Though the Jazz started the 2017-18 season with no apparent stars, they finished strong and continued to develop team leaders; Rudy Gobert was awarded back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors and Donovan Mitchell won the 2018 All-Star Slam Dunk Contest. They have become the backbone of this team.
For the Jazz—and for 1Strategy—team is everything. 1Strategy started with one man and his vision and has grown into a team, with some amazing emerging stars. For your business, creating a strong team who support each other, contribute, and are working to get better—where no player sees him/herself as more important than anyone else—will lead to success.
In addition, making your team the best it can be always includes off-the-court factors. If you work to develop a well-rounded team, respecting each person as a person and as a contributor, you’ll be setting your company up for long term success. This will not only create loyal and happy employees but will also create loyal and happy customers. Your customers will become your team’s biggest fans. Just ask Jazz fans.