The Difference Between How and Why

Shawn Temple
The Difference Between How and Why

The Brooklyn Nets were a heavy favorite to win it all in the NBA playoffs this year. Emphasis on “were.” They’re currently sitting at home and have been since they lost to the Boston Celtics during the first playoff round in late April.

On the surface, it looked like the Nets were destined for greatness:

  • Two superstars to anchor the team: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving
  • A third superstar to add to the mix (James Harden; who was subsequently traded)
  • A first-time head coach who would bring fresh energy to the team

In reality, the head coach was brought in after Durant and Irving said they really didn’t need a coach . They claimed they could fill the role themselves. Irving himself played only 29 games this season. When he did return, he was out of sorts, the team didn’t look like a team and ultimately their season ended in disappointment.

What makes winning people losing teammates?

Sports radio host and writer Colin Cowherd had an interesting take. He likened the Nets’ losing season to the business world, noting that there is a difference between how a successful company operates and why it is successful. Both Durant and Irving have been part of NBA championship teams. They know ‘how’ to play and win—after all, they are two of the greatest individual players ever. But Cowherd’s point is they don’t know “why.”

They came together as two talented players and friends, decided to sign contracts in Brooklyn, run the show their way, no need for coaches, no structure, no accountability and no sacrifice for the team.

The (incorrect) theory is the talent will be enough

Incredibly, in the press conference immediately following the loss which led to their team’s playoff elimination, Irving noted that next season he envisioned himself and Durant more as partners to “manage the franchise along with (the owner) and (general manager).” Remember, Irving had only played 29 games for this team.

It’s nice to have talent, whether you are on an NBA team, running a school, directing a church, or leading a financial institution. Talent is always welcome. But great teams sacrifice for one another.

Success takes sacrifice

Successful teams have a shared vision, buy-in, true commitment that comes from healthy conflict, and accountability at every level.

When a team has all these things, they can focus 100% on results. That’s not to say that those teams won’t stumble or execute poorly now and again, but more times than not, it will be a result of external factors or a team member being human and dropping the ball. But s/he will immediately pick it back up because there is vision, commitment, accountability and a focus on results.

Do you have that kind of vision? Does your staff?

Shawn Temple
Strategy Director