Plenty of companies claim that they can help managers build teamwork by having employees climb ropes, raft troubled waters, etc. But, what about running up a large food and wine tab? This article argues that it is part of the success of Greg Popovich, the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The piece describes various incidents where Popovich brings his team together over some very good food and wine to build camaraderie. His players have often come from all over the world, so you can imagine how rare the conversations can be, especially among people in a singularly focused profession. Of those anecdotes, my favorite is one where he alters the notoriously brutal NBA travel schedule so that the team can dine and have time together outside of their work environment. However, I think that alone misses the point of how the practice is one that every leader can emulate.
What Popovich is really doing is being authentic. He is sharing his passion with his team and staff and showing what it really means to be all in on something, besides basketball. It’s sexy that his Popovich’s passion is something expensive, but it would not be any different than if he shared a love of model trains or cross-stitching.
The other interesting point is that he uses his passion to connect, rather than separate himself, from others. He introduces others to wine more than using his knowledge of it to show off. The meals also provide a welcome break from his intense coaching persona for the team. It is a less stressful environment for him to teach, which is the essence of coaching.
Popovich’s leadership secret isn’t that he knows a lot about food and wine. It is that he is willing to share part of himself in order to build teamwork. So, when building your team, think about what it is about you that you can share with them.