The Golden State Warriors have won two NBA Championship Finals in the past 2 years, and have been in the Final Championship game for the past three years. Along with recently setting the record for the longest playoff winning streak in professional sports history, with 15 consecutive wins, it’s safe to say the Golden State Warriors have solidified their legacy as NBA heavyweights.
But the team hasn’t always the mega-giants they are today.
Before their championship win in 2015, he Warriors experienced a 40-year championship drought. In 2010, when Peter Guber and Joe Lacob acquired the team, “there was nothing golden about them,” writes Peter.
The franchise was beset by problems with a record of 22 wins and 60 losses. We were publicly ridiculed for paying a record-shattering price of over $400 million for a team whose claim to fame was consistency – at losing!
But during the 2014-2015 season things really began to turn around for The Warriors. The team was named “Sports Team of the Year” by the Sports Business Journal. Warriors GM, Bob Myers, was named NBA Basketball Executive of the Year, and two-time NBA All-Star, Steph Curry, was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. In May, the Warriors won the Western Conference Finals. In June, the Warriors won the NBA Championship.
It wasn’t long until people across all industries–not just sports–began to ask, “What is the secret sauce behind The Warriors remarkable transformation?”
Guber cites a strategic change in the team’s culture, “We instilled a culture that supported risk, embraced uncertainty, and accepted failure as an inevitable part of the process.” These three ingredients created the secret sauce and he assures, “it can be your secret sauce too, regardless of your business, profession, or position.”
Here are Peter Guber’s 3 ingredients to building a winning and risk-tolerant culture:
We knew there was great risk when the management decided to change Mark Jackson, who as coach, led the Golden State Warriors to both 51 wins and to reaching the playoffs for two consecutive years, a goal the team hadn’t achieved in over 20 years. We felt we needed a different set of resources and resourcefulness to drive us to even higher levels. Surprisingly, at least on the face of it, we hired a person who never coached before, and like Jackson, had been a TV personality.
Despite the passionate and vocal disappointment in this coaching decision by our fans and the media, we felt, and our culture supported, taking this risk for the greater good of the team. Steve Kerr, our new untried, untested coach, embraced our culture’s attitude of risk, bringing a new voice, new perspective and out of the box strategies that led the team to the pinnacle of victory and the organization to economic and cultural success.
We knew we needed capital to provide a better product so we made the decision to raise the price of tickets to drive this additional revenue. It was the classic chicken and egg dilemma…
We were playing in a 50-year-old arena with a team that in decades hadn’t even won our Pacific Division. We knew we couldn’t provide the better product without the capital, yet, with the potential of the team more of an aspiration than a reality, would anyone pay a premium for a product whose value had yet to be realized?
Accomplishing our goal required projecting the image that our product was going to be more competitive and that our fans would have a higher quality experience than they’ve had at any time before. By raising the price of tickets we were projecting a vision of our future.
The higher ticket price became a call to action for the believers to get on-board. If we didn’t win, what might we face? Talk about uncertainty!
Certainty is an illusion. The only thing certain is if you wait for certainty you will fail, which brings me to the final ingredient to create the culture of a winning team.
Embracing failure is key to propelling a future culture of winners. In the case of the Golden State Warriors, our failures weren’t contained to drama, pain, and humiliation behind the scenes. They were front and center for all to see and opine about.
One perceived failure was our decision to trade a very appreciated player, Monta Ellis, for Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks. The fans did not like this. After the trade when my business partner, Joe Lacob, spoke at a ceremony to retire the jersey of former Warriors star, Chris Mullin, he was unceremoniously booed by the entire crowd who were reacting and expressing their displeasure over the Ellis/Bogut trade, which they perceived to be a failure in the making. Standing in the fire as a target for all of us in management, he bravely absorbed the barbs of our audience, customers, and fans, understanding they were projecting a failure without having all the facts.
There are no guarantees in sports, entertainment, manufacturing, technology, education, fashion, advertising, philanthropy or whatever your business is. A random event can derail anyone’s success at any time. Yet, despite factors outside of your control, what I do know is that your organization’s culture is the foundation upon which your team’s future success rests.
The Warriors’ slogan “Strength In Numbers” truly speaks to the culture of the organization. From the owners to the last man on the bench, they know that no one can do anything worthwhile alone. When asked about the tremendous achievement, Guber did not cite the efforts of any particular coach, player, or play leading up to the championship, rather Guber notes the hard work both on and off the court from all parties involved, and the phenomenal culture which leads the organization to achieve greatness:
I can be appreciative of everybody’s success and everybody’s participation in it and recognize that this isn’t an individual, it’s a team. It’s not a collection of players, it’s a team, it’s an organization, it’s a culture. Businesses that have culture have winning records, and they aspire–not just perspire–to greatness. I really think this organization, this team, these players, they bonded, and they made that magic happen. I was along for the ride. I love it.
As a keynote speaker, Peter speaks on the topics of winning, risk/failure, leadership, execution, innovation, and marketing.
Portions of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
The content writers at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau are Experts on the Experts. They hold doctoral, masters, and bachelors’ degrees in business, writing, literature, and education. Their business thought pieces are published regularly in leading business publications. Working in close association with the top business, entrepreneur, and motivational speakers, BigSpeak content writers are at the forefront of industry trends and research.