Shining On Empty

What are you drawing your team’s attention to?

During lunch today I was watching the first episode of the Netflix documentary series The Playbook: A Coach’s Rules For Life. One scene stopped me mid-chew.

This episode is about NBA basketball coach Doc Rivers, a well respected veteran coach who is currently with the Philadelphia 76ers. In 2007 he was coaching the Boston Celtics.

At that time the marquee franchise had been struggling for several years but the addition of some excellent new players had brought new optimism, and ratcheted up the pressure on the relatively inexperienced head coach. In an effort to set the standard for performance he did something subtle but remarkable.

Doc had a spotlight installed in the practice gym, not to illuminate the many championship banners hanging on the walls, but to shine on the empty space at the end of the row. The place where the next banner would hang.

Most impressively, he didn’t announce it. He had the light shining constantly but didn’t mention it until a player noticed it. Then Doc explained that the team’s mission was to fulfill the responsibility of winning that next banner and extending the success of the storied Celtics.

Brilliant! (literally).

One of my favourite sessions with leaders is a discussion about how we allocate our energy. Using imagery of a Searchlight, a Spotlight, and a Laser we consider the different productive ways to focus. The searchlight scans the horizon for things that may be relevant. The spotlight is used to draw attention to something in particular we want ourselves and our teams to see clearly. The laser is the highly focussed activity we take to make things happen.

For that entire season, whenever the Celtics were in the gym they were silently, but powerfully, reminded of what they were setting out to accomplish. (And yes, they did win the title that season).

Where do you want your team to be giving their attention? How can you spotlight it?