Brad Stevens, the head coach of the Boston Celtics professional basketball team, missed a game earlier this month. He was not sick, nor were any of his family members. His wife did not give birth to a child. These are typically the only times a professional coach would even think about missing a game. And most of them would coach around these very personal and significant events.
Stevens missed his team’s game so that he could visit one of his former college players, Andrew Smith. Smith, who played for Stevens at Butler University in Indiana, was battling cancer and his condition worsened earlier this month. Stevens asked the Celtics ownership for permission to miss a game to visit his former player. The Celtics granted permission and Stevens made this important visit. Andrew Smith passed away a week later at the age of 25.
Back in 2013, I wrote about Brad Stevens when he was first hired by the Celtics (Celtics Head Coach Teaches us about Building Relationships). As a new coach, Stevens was focused on building relationships with his new team members, and he emphasized how these relationships are a critical foundation for future success. Stevens showed us this month that he “walks the talk” when it comes to leadership. His relationship with Andrew Smith was so strong that he was committed to seeing Smith even several years after the player had been on his team. Stevens builds strong relationships with his team members and those relationships remain long after the players move on to other pursuits. Stevens, choking back tears,said this when asked about Andrew Smith last week: “When you coach somebody, you get a lot more out of coaching them, than they do from you.”
This difficult story teaches us a number of lessons. As leaders, we need to have balance and perspective in our lives. There are things that are more important than the job. Stevens reminds us of this. And kudos to the Celtics for being an organization that understands and supports this. Also, we can be more effective leaders if we develop positive relationships with our team members. So invest the time that is necessary to build strong, trusting relationships. Don’t just talk about being committed to your team; show them; walk the talk.
Brad Stevens had a special relationship with Andrew Smith. Brad Stevens has special relationships with the players on his teams. This is why he is such a successful leader at a relatively young age. You can be a great leader as well. Focus this week on building or improving the individual relationships with the members of your team. Be a championship leader like Brad Stevens.
Thanks for reading,
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