I was speaking to our employees at US Airways Center recently, and mentioned a book I had read called “Fearless Leadership” that I felt everybody working for the organization could benefit from. It’s written by Loretta Malandro and is a great read for anybody trying to improve the company they own, or climb the ladder of the company they work for.
I don’t have a lot of free time to read during the season, of course, but I like to read biographies from time to time and I’ve read a lot of John Grisham’s books. Former ASU football player Tranell Morant recommended “Fearless Leadership” to me and, you know how it is when somebody gives you a book, you usually just throw it to the side. But I felt like I had to at least read some of it before I saw him again. When I started reading it, though, I couldn’t put it down.
It’s a book about behavior that applies to how you can improve as a corporation and as a team. I don’t know if it was intended to apply to athletics at all, but it had such a great message for coaches, not just in the NBA, but in any sport. I don’t ever believe we can say “we’re good enough,” and whether as a coach or the CEO of a large company, I feel there is always another level you can climb to.
Early in the book, the author discusses the importance of recognizing “blind spots,” and from that point on, I was hooked. There are 10 of these blind spots, or things that lead to unproductive behavior that undermine your effectiveness. A lot of the points Malandro makes here really seemed to apply to me, with the most glaring one being what is referred to as “going it alone.”
“Going it alone” means that when things are going tough, you try and handle it all by yourself. You shut everybody off and say, “I’ll do this, because I know exactly the way I want it done.” What happens when you do that is you derail morale, because you take either the other coaches or managers or vice presidents out of the mix. It’s something that you don’t really see yourself doing until someone makes you aware of it.
I could identify with some of the other blind spots, too, like avoiding difficult conversations that you feel may be confrontational. You need to understand that sometimes confrontation can be good, because it sparks thoughts and processes that could be very positive. There’s another good part where she discusses that fact that if you’re tolerating something, it’s because you’re either unaware of it, or you have accepted subpar behavior. That was another thing that was really interesting to me and forced me to think a little bit.
After reading the book, I actually had a chance to meet with Loretta and we had a great conversation. She came down here to Phoenix and met with some of our other executives. The thing to keep in mind when you are working your way towards becoming a great organization – or what she calls a “high-performance organization” – is that it doesn’t just happen overnight.
You need to work towards becoming a high-performance organization. An example of how to do that is something that I’ve discussed with our coaching staff. We need to worry about how our team executes during games more than we worry about the referees. When you blame the referees, it can seep into the back of your mind that you’re being wronged, and it gives the players an out. I honestly think we have the best referees in all of professional sports. I think these guys train harder, study harder and do the best jobs. But I still think we as coaches sometimes use the referees as a crutch when things are not going well. Looking at how we can improve ourselves, in every aspect, is a way we can climb to that next level.
Unless you’re the World Champions, you can always improve. The toughest part in becoming a better team or corporation is figuring out how to do that. “Fearless Leadership” not only gives you that information, but does what’s even tougher – shows you how to apply it.