Pivoting & “the art of accountability”

Anyone who’s ever played basketball knows the term “pivoting”. Basically, pivoting is the point at which a player stops dribbling and limits their subsequent movements & choices. The pivot foot (see embedded image to the right) is the one foot which must remain on the floor when a player has possession of the ball and is not dribbling. This is also the stage where the player must make up their mind as to the next definitive action, having one of two choices:

  1. pass the ball to another colleague
  2. shoot toward the basket and try to score

If the player makes a mistake whilst pivoting, one of the possible consequences is a “traveling” violation, and subsequent loss of the ball to the opposing team.

This also means that as the players are coming down the court, the offensive team in possession of the ball (in command of the strategy) are hypothetically following a pre-designed & practiced play (strategy). Can you see where I’m going with this?

These images came to me the other day as I went for a walk through the park and thoughts of team work and how it applied to some of the more effective clients I’ve worked with. In particular, I was thinking of some “team members” who take on more responsibility than they should, typically over-exerting themselves and/or taking risks that they’re not equipped (experienced) to take, and subsequently taking a bad shot, resulting in failing to score. Sound familiar?

Pivoting is also a “change in direction”. When a player makes a decision to stop dribbling, they will have to use their pivot foot to either find a better position to pass the ball to a colleague who can score, or they must take the responsibility of scoring on their own shoulders. In actuality, this is a great deal of responsibility and the entire team is counting on the right decisions to be made by the right players. Knowing what to do, when, where & how is a key part of accountability, which in turn means that someone is also willing to “be held accountable” to their actions. Interestingly enough, knowing what NOT to do, when & where can be equally important. Sound like a challenge you’ve faced recently?

On a basketball team, just like in a department within your company, every player has a unique set of skills and talents. There are the “go-to” players that you know have the higher probability of scoring & winning the game for you, just as there are the supporting players, less likely to be able to score & win on a consistent basis, but with their own purpose in defending and bringing the ball up the court, maneuvering it into a position for someone else to score. To secure success, every player on a team must know their roles, as well as their weaknesses & strengths so that they can make the most appropriate decisions for the relevant circumstances they find themselves in.

The coaches’ role is to transmit to the team how to play, thus giving the players a framework to work with, but still autonomy to “get the job done” on the court (where it counts). To do this effectively, the coach must communicate by articulating his vision. The team as whole must comprehend this vision, whilst understanding their mission. The players live by a set of values, which has them act accordingly, and they must execute with precision if they are to score & win the game.  In order to do this day-in day-out, in order to execute & win on a consistent basis, they must also practice repeatedly. Are you doing this on a consistent basis? Are you sure? Ask your team!

Remember seeing a coach call a time-out and huddle his players for a few seconds of critical instructions that will lead them to victory? The coach typically draws the play on an A4 sized clipboard, with every player focused on “the same page”. My version of this are 15 minute Daily Huddles or Pulse Checks and One-Page Strategic Plans.

They must train the bodies & minds to be strong and resilient. They must pace themselves during the game, ensuring they spread the ball around allowing everyone to contribute in a fashion that will have everyone still fresh enough toward the final minutes to not falter. Periodic performance reviews & adjustments? How “periodic” is your periodic? have you ever asked your team if they feel informed & empowered in regards to what it takes to get the job done right?

Obviously I’ve boiled down this example to it’s simplest format, and I’m hoping you’re getting the message about the importance of all of the “little steps” it takes to win. More importantly, how important it is that every team member (player) understand their role, limitations and takes accountability for their actions.

And when a team loses? They don’t bury their head in the sand, they watch the game film and learn from their mistakes or seek opportunities to improve their game so that they increase their probability of succeeding next time. All of these things pulled together represent accountability at every level, from the coach down to his players, and we could extend it to the back-office who need to contract new players, but I think you get the message. How often are you conducting formal “postmortems”? how do you expect to learn from your mistakes?

Any valuable lessons here that you might quickly apply to your business? Can you see how you could help your team become more accountable, or create he conditions that would have them step-up & shoot with more accuracy?

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