The Cleveland Cavaliers recently fired Head Coach David Blatt.
You may be thinking…
You aren’t an NBA coach.
LeBrone James isn’t your direct report.
In fact, you may dislike basketball or sports in general.
I invite you to stick with me to see how this situation might inform you and other leaders in your organization.
This firing is different…
Under Blatt’s leadership, the Cavaliers went to last year’s NBA finals. He is only the third coach in 40 years to be fired the season after taking his team to the finals.
At the time of his firing, the Cavaliers had a season record of 30 wins and 11 loses. The nearest competitor was seven games behind them.
Blatt was set to coach the Eastern Conference Team in the NBA All-Star Game next month.
The story has created a media frenzy, emotions are high, and many people associated with the game have shared their thoughts on the decision.
There is a fair amount of speculation that the team’s stars, LeBrone James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving (pictured above) played sizable roles in Blatt’s firing. In particular, James has been reported to have issues with Blatt and wanted to see Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue take the leadership role.
What Does All of This Have to Do With You and Your Career?
Perhaps you are familiar with this well-known Peter Drucker quote about the power of culture.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Blatt’s situation suggests that culture has a fairly robust appetite.
Culture apparently devours leaders as well.
Consider three observations about Blatt’s firing and invest a few minutes examining your current situation.
1. Playing Favorites
Many speculate that Blatt played favorites. According to Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com, “Blatt tried too hard to get in the good graces of his top talent. He held back from criticizing members of his Big Three — James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.”
From a distance, it’s easy to see how this could happen. The so called ‘Big Three’ are the stars of the team. Blatt wanted to keep them happy and engaged. Perhaps he could afford to replace the others; however, he needed to keep his best talent.
Do you give the best opportunities and biggest praise to your favorites?
Does your behavior isolate some team members?
Are you so fearful that a key team member might leave that you ignore issues you should address?
2. Failing to Adapt to Team Needs
Some point to the changing dynamics of the team and how the team’s evolving needs caused Blatt’s demise.
ESPN reported that an unidentified team source said that, “David was hired to coach a developmental team and young players who would’ve wanted to please him. He ended up coaching a finished product where the players expected him to please them.”
No team is static. People join and leave. Requirements ebb and flow. A leader must be nimble and adjust to meet team needs.
Are you providing what your team needs from you as a leader?
Do you pine for days gone by or engage in the moment?
What should you start/stop doing to help your team win?
3. Losing the Confidence of Others
Prior to Blatt’s dismissal, the Golden State Warriors beat the Cavaliers by 34 points. That was a high visibility loss for the team and served as the catalyst for his firing.
Cavaliers General Manager, David Griffin, discussed his decision to release Blatt. “I’m measuring more than wins and losses. Are we building a championship culture?”
He further explained that the team lacked a collective spirit and felt compelled to fix things mid-season. Blast had lost Griffin’s confidence.
Should people be confident in you as a leader? Are they?
Are you confident in yourself? Are you too confident?
Who gives you honest and open feedback about your performance before something gets out-of-hand?
Author: Patrick Leddin, Ph.D., PMP
Professor, Vanderbilt University Global ConsultantEnabling Leaders & Teams to Achieve Extraordinary Results