I’d like to say I was surprised when I read the article Brown Lays Down the Law in the Wisconsin State Journal sports section. The article described a situation involving three players from the U.S. Olympic basketball team who missed a team meting and were subsequently suspended from a pre-Olympic game.
Kinda foreshadowed events to come, eh?
Team coaches have routinely had to deal with players, including star players, who have missed practices, games and meetings since the inception of organized sports. The lesson to be learned has always revolved around what is best for the team. If the players on the team are acting more like individuals than teammates, the sum of the parts rarely equates to more than the collective talents of the whole. In my estimation, that is the single reason the team ended up with bronze rather than gold.
But what of the article Brown Lays Down the Law? I was absolutely amazed to read U.S. Olympic team co-captain Allen Iversons response to his nonattendance at the team meeting and subsequent suspension. He said, Im the captain of the team, and to be suspended just for being a couple minutes late just doesnt sit well with me. Im supposed to be one of the leaders of the team, and this is not a good look.
What astounds me is that the so-called bad look had nothing to do with Iverson missing a meeting. Rather, it referred to the coachs response to the poor example set by a co-captain.
I would have had a lot more respect for Iverson had he said, Im supposed to be one of the leaders of the team. My decision to arrive late for a team meeting was poor and sets a bad example, and as a co-captain of this team, is not a good look.
In their very next exhibition game against Italy, the U.S. team was handed its worst defeat since professionals began representing the U.S. Suddenly, and maybe not surprisingly, co-captain Iversons use of the word I was replaced with us and we. He said, This is a wake-up call for us. I think we need something like this to understand its not going to be easy.
It just seems too easy to go from I when the going is good to us and we when the chips are down. I think hes got it backwards. We win collectively. But when we take it on the chin and lose, we should ask ourselves what can I do differently going forward?
This is not too much different than delivering world-class customer service in automotive parts distribution. When its all going good we succeed. When things go awry we lose. Leaders stand up and say what can I do differently? Anybody can be a leader. We need more leaders at all levels of employment, management, sales, delivery, warehousing and office management. The opportunities exist for emerging leadership everywhere.
Now the smart money would have probably been on the U.S. team to take home the gold in Athens – individually they are the best in the world. But in fact, they never really got beyond their individuality, and because of that, they stunk.
In the end, every team that faced the Americans in the Olympics knew that their best bet to beat the superior individual talent of the U.S. squad was through a greater collective effort – teamwork.
The same holds true in auto parts. Accept the leadership responsibility of your role. Work on improving the I and celebrate the victories of the we.