I heard Steve Kerr, the vaunted coach of the Golden State Warriors, talk recently about a new player just promoted onto the team. “He is someone you want to go to war with,” Kerr said.
Now, I love the Warriors and often use them as an example of how teams can achieve consistent excellence, daunting their competitors and delighting themselves and those who follow them. But I was surprised to see Kerr use this metaphor for his team. The Warriors, despite their name, aren't fighters; they are lovers. And that's why they win.
Sure, war metaphors are so common as to be a cliché in business and in sports. But I don’t think the Warriors excellence derives from conflict. Nor do I believe most startups win because they are girded to destroy their enemies (though many seem to think they are).
Battle and war are metaphors for stress and dislocation. I think team success—as clearly seen by the Warriors on the court—derives from joy and is expressed through love.
Why, you might even say that the roots of success can bring one to TEARS:
TRUST. When team members trust one another, they relax. They focus on their jobs and don’t poach because they believe their colleagues will do the same. They develop a common sense of mission and of their group as a happy tribe.
ENERGY. Team trust unlocks energy. My partner Bill Lohse notes often that productivity isn’t a function of time, but of energy. Positive energy expands time. When teams trust, the group energy is palpable. The team can feel it. Customers can feel it. Competitors can feel it, too, and it bums them out.
ACTION. Energy generates action. An individual who is “up” accomplishes more than a depressed person. A team that is “up” can do geometrically more than one riven by tension and conflict. Happy teams get more done and they do things more efficiently and excellently.
RESULTS. And, naturally, the greater the team energy and action, the better results are likely to be. And the better the results, the more the energy. In this sense, results don’t grow from conflict or pressure or compulsion. Results grow from love.
SUCCESS. And what do results produce? Success.
The warriors win because they demonstrate TEARS nearly perfectly. They trust. They play with energy their competitors cannot match. They move more and better than other teams. And that smooth action produces a level of play other teams can’t match. They simply play with more joy than other teams.
Study war no more, entrepreneur! Drop your Sun Tzu and his art of war. Study Lao Tzu instead, and his Tao Te Ching. Go for the love. Seek TEARS and you will have many reasons to smile.
By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart