What The San Antonio Spurs Can Teach us About Communications
The San Antonio Spurs are an organization of excellence. They’ve won 9 division titles and 4 championships since 1999, hold the record for the most 50+ win seasons at 13, and just fell short against a young and very talented Oklahoma City Thunder team to advance to this year’s championship. Let’s just say they’re good. Really good. While watching them a few nights ago it occurred to me that communications teams could also take some of the things that help the Spurs be so successful and use them in the 9-to-5 world. So I figured I’d take a shot (pun definitely intended) at highlighting what makes the Spurs so special, and what communications teams can learn from them.
Nail down the processes: In a recent podcast, an ESPN basketball analyst said the Spurs will “outwork you from a general management standpoint.” That is, they show up at every event, stay on top of every trend and no piece of information is too small for them to learn. Simply put, they have an insatiable thirst for information that can give them an edge. This knowledge has translated into years of successful strategy and implementation leaving the Spurs organization with a solid process that’s easy to replicate.
Key Takeaway: Every team, whether on the court or in the cubicle needs to constantly research, analyze and optimize in order to get the best processes in place and cut out any unnecessary steps. Simply put, keep what works, kick to the curb what doesn’t and never stop researching.
Bring in the right players and develop them: Most successful companies will attest to the importance of culture. The Spurs are no different; they draft rookies and sign free agents that are a good fit for the team and embody their culture of fundamentals, hard work, hustle and will to win. It’s stitched into the fabric of each Spurs jersey, and has become the expectation of all members of the organization. Then, once they get the players they want, they spend the time, money and resources to develop them internally.
Key Takeaway: Every team has superstars, whether they are at point guard or PR manager, but two things that resounds across both industries is the need to attract individuals that fit the culture and to keep a continued focus on maintaining and developing talent within the team.
Clearly communicate the strategy: Every successful organization charts a course for the company then tries their best to implement the strategy from top management down. The Spurs focus on the task at hand – winning the title – while always keeping an eye on the future. In fact, many years instead of drafting a ready-made player to fill a perceived void on the team they draft a player they can mold into a true “Spur,” creating lasting value and building loyalty to the organization.
Key Takeaway: In order to be successful, the team needs to clearly define short-term as well as long-term goals goals, develop strategies to achieve them and equip people with the tools to execute them.
Stay hungry: The Spurs have already won multiple championships, but it’s still their goal every year and it’s easy to understand why. They truly believe in each other and have developed the confidence that they can beat any team on any given night.
Key Takeaway: Whether a basketball player or a communications professional we have to take pride in the work we do and continually produce at the highest level possible. Only by staying motivated, communicating openly and working closely together as a team is award-winning work achievable.
As you can see, there are many parallels one can draw between a well-balanced basketball team and well-balanced communications team; both require solid leadership, team players and a clear strategy to be successful. With this in mind, what are some other teams we as communications professionals can learn from?