You don’t need to follow basketball to admire how the Toronto Raptors are turning heads in the NBA. The Raptors first took the court in 1995, but this season is the first time in history they managed to make it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals. They finished the regular season with the fourth-best win percentage in the league, won their first ever conference final game against an undefeated playoff team, and point guard Kyle Lowry is amongst the top twenty in Player Efficiency Ratings in the NBA. In short, the only Canadian professional basketball team accomplished a masterful turnaround from where they were just four seasons ago.
Even though the Raptors lost against the Cavillers, their accomplishments this season were undeniable. What are the keys to the Raptor’s success and how do you apply them to your work as a B2B professional? Below, find out why this scrappy tight-knit team can serve as an inspiration to any B2B company looking to alley-oop over the competition:
Have each other’s backs
One of the most fascinating aspects of basketball is how successful teams never go for their own glory but instead back each other like soldiers on a battlefield. If an opponent blows by one of the Raptors, there’s Bismack Biyombo holding court with his hands up and forcing a tough shot. Or Lowry will take a charge and force a turnover. The Raptors constantly talk to each other on the court. Almost every possession includes a selfless pass to the open man.
In Game 3 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat, Raps starting center Jonas Valanciunas sprained his ankle and was unable to play during that vital series. The team didn’t pity themselves and crumble; instead, they continued to turn heads by winning the series against Miami and moving onto the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bismack Biyombo stepped up in Valanciunas’ absence and achieved a franchise post-season record of 26 rebounds in a game 3 win over the Cavs.
Do you do the same? Do you pass the ball to the right teammate or do you pass the buck? Well-oiled companies recognize the importance of helping each other to achieve a common mission, even if that means shouldering more work. Remember, if one team member fails, the team is hurt as a whole. Sure, that means you might be resentful someone dropped, er, the ball, but you’re not working in a silo. Building confidence in your company means every staffer knowing they can be supported by others.
Adversity is inevitable
When faced with adversity you have two choices: to respond or react. The Raptors showed that the better choice is to respond. Toronto is known for having some of the greatest fans in the NBA, but when your biggest supporters are doubting your playoff performance, it is difficult not to do the same. After losing their first game against Miami, Lowry opened up about his vulnerability by discussing his poor performance and how much he was hurting the team. ESPN awarded Lowry with the worst shooting playoff player ever. However, he worked on his shot and came back to help lead his time to a series win over the Heat.
If you have a great team that may be facing a few hiccups right now, don’t boot someone out too quickly. Instead, find out what is bruising the relationship and learn about any grievance causing the rift. The Raptors are excelling because they’re a family and there’s no reason to think your company can’t follow suit. You just need patience and focus.
Value your bench players
The starting five for the Raps are filled with all-star material, but what about those bench players who play fewer minutes but are sorely needed when the starters need to rest? We’ve already mentioned, Biyombo, but what about the rest of the lineup? Toronto’s bench ranked second in aggregate bench plus-minus in the Eastern Conference this season. Often, opponents carve up bench players, seeing them as second-rate ballers who may not be as talented as the core team. And don’t discount the skillset of a Raptors bench player –Raptors guard Norman Powell won the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for April, and paced the team in scoring four times.
Who are your bench players and are you valuing what they bring to your firm? They might not be staff you see every day, but maybe they’re freelance copy writers or part-time salespeople or an external PR team attracting great press. How are you showing your appreciation to these role players? Do they feel part of the family at the office when they visit? Remember to respect what part-timers and freelancers offer your business, especially if they are surpassing expectations on a monthly basis.
Play a full 48
In basketball terms, playing a full 48 means you’re working hard for the entire 48 minutes of the game, not just the last quarter, or the first few minutes of the second. Every player is on the same playbook page. No one is slacking. Focus is on the win and the win only. Sometimes, playing the full 48 is exhausting. Every sports team or business has quarters that are nothing to write home about, and this is no different for the Raps. However, the Raptors always manage to get back up. In the playoffs, the Raptors played the full 48 almost every game, proving their worth on defense and especially on offence.
Look at your company and determine if you and your team are playing the full 48. Do you have weeks where laziness creeps into the corporate culture? Are projects taking longer than expected to be completed? Is someone not pulling their weight? Assessing your company’s focus is a valuable exercise to recognize any deficiencies hampering your road to profitability. It might not take a week to uncover the problem. It might take a month or even longer. But you shouldn’t let your team just play one impressive financial quarter and allow them to squander the rest of the game.
Photo credit: Raptors.com
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