The Ingredients of a High-Performance Unit

I was recently given the privilege of working with the Executive Board (The Board) of the National Basketball Referee’s Association (NBRA). Basketball is among the world’s most popular sports with the National Basketball Association as its standard bearer. Generally acknowledged as one of the most difficult sports to referee, the men and women of the NBRA take on this task under the enormous spotlight of a daily national audience. With this scrutiny comes criticism, second guessing, and in some instances outright hostility from all corners of the viewing spectrum.

The NBRA is undoubtedly a high-performance unit. To the critic this may seem like a far-fetched observation. As a former Navy SEAL, I know what high-performance units looks like. I don’t make this assessment because the referees don’t make mistakes. They do make mistakes. We all make mistakes. One of the many reasons I consider the NBRA a high-performance unit is how they address mistakes and short falls.

The NBRA exhibits the qualities that translate to sustained high performance:humility and action. The humility to seek assistance and the courage to act are but two of the most basic qualities any high-performance unit exhibits.

Humility. The Board engaged in a thorough self-assessment and identified several areas for improvement both as individuals and as a cohesive unit. This engagement, in which The Board quite literally refereed themselves — assessing the way that they operate as a unit, the way they make decisions, and the way they interact with others — is a form of humility to the highest degree. But then, The Board took it a step further; they sought out assistance. It sounds like common sense, and it is. But how many struggling, or even failing, organizations fail to take these steps? Let alone one, like the NBRA, that is already achieving success at a high level?

Action. In the fall of 2016, The Board demonstrated the courage to act in order to address their needs and maintain their stature as a high-performing unit. Together, we embarked on a three-day leadership training exercise followed by three months of one on one follow-up with each Board member. Using practical exercises designed to reinforce core leadership competencies, the training highlighted areas where immediate change could be made. The Board adopted these recommendations and immediately acted on them with great success.

Watching a high-performance unit like NBRA continue to grow was an awesome experience. It pushes me to continue to focus on those basics within myself; on the very basic ingredients of humility and action in my own life.

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