A recent Google search of the words "business teamwork" returned 41.3 million results.
It's one thing for business professionals to advocate working as a team. It's another to gain perspective from someone who has led a "team" in its more traditional format.
Inspired by his lifelong mentor, legendary basketball coach Jack Ramsay, Jack McKinney would ultimately come to symbolize leadership and teamwork — notably as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Indiana Pacers. In addition to being named NBA Coach of the Year in 1981, McKinney is the recipient of two NBA championship rings as a member of the coaching staffs of the Portland Trail Blazers (1977) and the Lakers (1980).
Compare the hardwood to the boardroom and you will discover an element of immediacy in sports that the business world typically can't emulate. After all, basketball is a face-to-face endeavor.
However, with technology actively chipping away at one-to-one communication, a business email haphazardly forwarded without clear instruction is the basketball equivalent of a careless pass landing out of bounds.
No team can exist without decisive leadership, clear communication, defined expectations, individual respect, and shared goals. Plus, according to McKinney, "Teamwork has to have mental focus."
As a leader, McKinney often proactively met with new team members on their home turf, a process enabling him to make his expectations clear while beginning to understand each player's unique needs.
"I wanted to start in the right vein — 'you are important to me and I am important to you,' " he explains.
Furthermore, he suggests his subsequent "open door" coaching style helped build players' confidence in his ability to lead.
McKinney also endorses a positive environment enabling leaders to emerge from within his teams. His distinguished protégés include household names such as Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Bill Walton. According to Johnson, "He was a master at practice. Great leaders prepare their staffs to lead."
For his part, Walton uses words such as "upbeat," brilliant and "genius" when describing his former coach.
"He has all the qualities of the greatest of leaders in the world. Jack McKinney was kind and compassionate in an often unkind and brutal world."
In addition, McKinney's proclivity for clear, measured speech tracks back to Jack Ramsay's early influence. In Johnson's words, "He spoke slow, but firm and gentle at the same time. He had a feel for how to talk to everyone as an individual."
McKinney's time-honored belief system is also a strong indication that successful teamwork produces great loyalty. Over 30 years later, Johnson is living proof.
"He was an amazing man and an amazing coach — and notice I said 'amazing man' first," Johnson said.
Walton added: "Jack McKinney made me. How lucky am I that I got to play for Jack. I'm a better man for that. We are so privileged to have him in our world."
Above all, as a team leader and coach, McKinney was present when it mattered the most. For all you managers keeping score, being "present" isn't the same as a text message.
Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of professional-courtesy initiative, RediscoverCourtesy.org, and the President of MindZoo, a marketing communications agency headquartered in Naples, FL. He can be reached at Randy@mindzoo.com or 239-304-9611.