In game two of the western conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Golden State Warriors trailed by 17 points. The Warriors would go on to win 114-111. Many headlines the next day gave Draymond Green the credit for a halftime ajustement that lead to this victory. Undoubtedly, Draymonds willingness to speak up in the locker room combined with his ferocious defense and competitive spirit helped key this victory.
Less known, and more hidden, are the leadership skills of the coach that set this in motion. Warriors coach Steve Kerr asked questions and listened at halftime. I know, you are probably thinking what type of coach does that at halftime? Aren’t coaches supposed to yell and scream while drawing manically on a whiteboard?
Well, apparently not in the defending champion Warriors halftime locker room. Instead, Coach Kerr asked questions and listened to his players. In our research, we identified open communication and active listening as a key to creating engagement, the critical first element of meaning-centered leadership. The participants surveyed in our research identified active listening as a key leadership skill. It was certainly key in the Warriors victory.
Of course, active listening is useless unless someone is willing to speak up. Fortunately for the Warriors, that someone was Draymond Green. When Coach Kerr asked if they should continue their defensive blitz against the Trail Blazers, Draymond responded, “Yes, and we should blitz harder.” The Warriors did just that in route to a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
Coach Kerr also demonstrated another element of meaning-centered leadership that helped key this victory, humility. A leader must be able to listen to the expertise of his followers. By asking questions and listening, Coach Kerr allowed his players to dictate the defensive adjustment that lead to this victory. It is possible that Coach Kerr was thinking ‘we need to execute our defensive game plan with more energy.’ But think how that message versus allowing a team leader to voice that message sounded to the rest of the team. In this simple halftime meeting Coach Kerr exhibited engagement, empowerment, and expertise, the three elements of meaning-centered leadership and an important key to this victory.
For more on Meaning-Centered Leadership look for our soon to be published book, Meaning-Centered Leadership: Why Meaning Matters to Your Organization.