NBA Hall of Fame basketball player turned successful entrepreneur, David Robinson teaches how to cast a vision, build team and inspire your workplace team.Sign Up to Watch
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-My name is Clay Clark and I happen to be the CEO of Thrive15.com. And today, I am joined with the NBA hall-of-famer, David Robinson. Now a lot of people know David for his success on the court, but a little Google search will show that he's been more successful off the court than he was on the court.
Today in this management training we're going to be teaching a little bit about team building. He's going to be teaching me and you about how to build a team, specifically how to go from me to we. The whole idea that you can build a team of people who are inspired and focused to help your team achieve your vision and your mission.
Remember, at Thrive15.com, we believe that knowledge without application is meaningless. So as you're watching today's management training video, you have to ask yourself, what can you do to apply these principles in your own life and business? If not, today's episode may just be more meaningless than that DVD commentary that you added to your kid's birthday party video.
David Robinson, how are you, sir?
-Hey Clay, how are you? Good to see you.
-Doing well, doing well. I will tell you, I am enjoying San Antonio. Great people here.
-[LAUGHS] Yeah. A great city. Underrated. It flies a little under the radar on the national scale, but it is a great city.
-Now we're here talking about team building, specifically how to create a winning team.
Now David, most of the top business leaders I've ever met, they tend to look at the business as being almost like a great sports team. Where they'll say, I've got to get good players.
DAVID ROBINSON: Right.
-They use sports terminology.
DAVID ROBINSON: Absolutely.
-I gotta get key players. I want someone to quarterback this position. I want somebody to be our center. I don't know if anybody talks about needing a guy in the low post who can kneel.
-But they carry the sports analogy pretty far.
-For example, the Spurs drafted you as the number one draft pick in 1987-- NBA draft-- because you were very good and they thought you had a lot of potential and they wanted you to be a key player on their team.
DAVID ROBINSON: Right.
-Now they also decided not to draft Jack Haley as the number one overall pick, and I don't understand why. Jack was drafted in the fourth round by the Chicago Bulls as the 79th player overall. And although Jack is probably a great American, he wasn't as good as you on the court for the position they needed.
DAVID ROBINSON: Right.
-And I think you ended up playing with Jack later in the career.
-I did. Jack came to San Antonio.
-And we got to be friends. [INAUDIBLE].
-Yeah. And he's a great guy. And you see, you had a relationship with him. But I guess what I'm getting at is that sometimes when you're building a franchise or you're building a company, you have to go after the right players there.
So in your mind, as you've tried to build the Admiral Capital Fund here, what kind of players are you looking for now? Specifically in your business, what kind of players are you looking for?
-Well, I mean, it's like building the team. You have to fit pieces together, right? You need stars. You need people who want the ball at the last few minutes who will take the big shots.
CLAY CLARK: Yeah.
-And you have people who will facilitate. And so I look for people that will fit into the pieces of the puzzle.
-One of my philosophies is always put the people in position where they can be successful. If they're great, they can be out front. If they have certain talents, you slide them into that right slot. It's your responsibility as a leader to make sure that they can operate in their talent.
-So you want to put people in the right position to be successful. Gregg Popovich was interviewed recently talking about the formula of success that you guys as the Spurs organization have had.
DAVID ROBINSON: Yeah.
-And he's super funny on his interviews and he has that dry sense of humor. But he said, well what you do is you draft the best player in the league once every 10 years. And that's how you-- you know, he was kind of joking about that.
But do you go after a superstar? When you started Carver Academy, the school that you and your wife founded there--
-Did you go after a superstar right away? Do you have to get a superstar to build around? If I'm someone watching this and I'm trying to build a company, do I need to get a superstar first?
-I think you either need to be a superstar or get one. [LAUGHS] Absolutely.
CLAY CLARK: OK.
-There's no question. Especially if your team is small.
CLAY CLARK: Yeah.
-People have to be multi-talented. They have to be able to fill a couple of different roles competently at least. And you have to have some people who can make you great.
And so yes, when I started Carver, I looked for a head of school that could help us build something from the ground up. And she really had to be a star.
-Now as you're growing the Admiral Fund or as you're growing Carver, you look around your landscape and you start looking for a-- 'cause a lot of business owners are just hiring people.
DAVID ROBINSON: Mm.
-And not looking for a specific kind of person.
DAVID ROBINSON: Mm.
-'Cause you said you're a big believer of putting people in a situation to be successful.
DAVID ROBINSON: Right.
-Are you looking? I mean, do you even write down on a sheet of paper I'm looking for somebody who fits this particular job description? Or I mean, are you very specific about what you're looking for as you're hiring?
-I think you have to be. You need to know exactly what you're looking for. If it's a head of school, you're looking for someone who has taught in the past but who has management experience, someone who understands exactly what you're trying to build. I was trying to build a family-like environment, a nurturing family-like environment, so they had to have that personality as well.
-And some people are very administrative, but not very family-like. [LAUGHS] So yeah, you have to be very specific in understanding what you're looking for. And once you have your star, or your stars, then you can build the team around that group of people.
-Is it possible to build a winning team without occasionally having to cut somebody? And I want to ask this from a sports perspective. Every year the Spurs-- you start off the season with how many players when you go to the summer camps and stuff?
-Yeah, you might take 12 players.
-Eventually though, the Spurs are going to draft people. There's going to be some free agents that might come on to the team and they work out together. But somebody has to be cut.
DAVID ROBINSON: Right.
-Is it possible to have a successful business without ever pruning the tree or cutting?
-Is it possible? Yes.
CLAY CLARK: Yeah.
-Is it a wise practice? No.
CLAY CLARK: OK.
-[LAUGHS] I would say you have to build that into your business.
CLAY CLARK: Mm.
-You have to understand that there is going to be transition. I mean, as a school, we had to think about teachers who would come in for a couple of years and wanted the experience, maybe move on. Maybe some of the teachers weren't going to be cut out to be teachers.
We took in a lot of new teachers. So you have to expect that some of those new teachers are not going to be as successful.
-A lot of business owners I meet, they really struggle with this idea of ever cutting. I know it had to be-- I know your heart after being around you a little bit. I know that, firing is a last resort. You do not want to fire anybody. Was it so hard for you when you're building Carver? I mean, you're passionate about helping these kids. You're putting your money into it, your time, your energy. You and your wife are working there, talking about it at the dinner table. You're thinking about when you're taking a shower. It becomes a big thing. And when you have to cut somebody, is that hard?
-It's not hard if you think you're doing the best for that person. Because sometimes it's not a fit. They're not going to prosper in that situation. You're not going to prosper as an organization. So, you're not doing them any favors by letting them linger on in a situation where they're not making themselves look good.
-And you don't have-- this isn't just you being like Dave Robinson mentor-- you literally have no dissonance about this. It's a black and white thing for you.
-It really is. I feel like I'm trying to give them the best opportunity to be successful. That's my job as a leader. I bring them in because I think they can be successful in my organization. And if they can't, it doesn't do them any good.
-I felt so guilty so often, Dave.
-I would feel like, gosh, I remember specifically, Dave, I was like this guy, and he's working for us. And he just the worked so hard.
-Well, there are many situations where a person's situation, where they don't have other options. This is their one chance to do something. Or at least in their opinion, it's their one chance to make some money. It's very difficult. It can be very, very difficult. But, in the long run, you have to know that it's the best thing for them and for you.
-What if they're family?
-Then it's even more important.
-I mean, I think that's one of the biggest issues. We get blinded by family. We tend to think that some things are OK for family that aren't OK for other people. We don't do we always do that intentionally, but it's an inherent thing. We give them more leeway. And that's why most businesses have a nepotism rule because they didn't really feel like it's not productive for the company.
-If I'm watching this, and I maybe don't know what the word nepotism is. Could you just explain that really quick? So I don't want to lose anybody there.
-Wow. A test. I didn't expect a test.
-Nepotism is family members that hire other family members and give them preferential treatment because they are related and have an unfair advantage over the competition. It hurts real competition, when you have a bunch of qualified people out there, and you choose someone from your family, it hurts real competition. And it hurts the organization because you're not hiring, necessarily, the best person.
-Now I'm somebody who doesn't have a no nepotism rule. I don't have that in my companies. But one thing that I do is I'm just brutal to family. I have a higher standard that's so ridiculous. I remember recently I hired when my cousins. And he came on, and he says, what time do we get to work tomorrow? I said, five. He says, five? Why? Well, I get to work at five. I want you to be a five. You be there, you meet me at 4:45 because I'm going to be there at five. So you meet me a 4:45. And I did that because I didn't want there to be the perception that he was getting a free pass. I keep giving him crazy hours and crazy tasks to do. So, it's almost like it's-- But if you're not careful-- because I know years ago I did this. I could bring on a family member and sort of give them a hall pass. And so this is big. So we can cut even family sometimes.
-Absolutely. I mean, it's necessary to at times. And we have to understand that the life of the business, the mission of the business, it comes first. It always comes first. If we're in business, we have to build it.
-Let's take the Spurs for example. Were there times where a player had been very successful in a given role, and because of the makeup of the team, Coach Popovich would sit down with maybe the player and say, hey, we're going to move you to this new role on our team. Or we're going to trade you. Did that ever happen?
-All the time. Absolutely. Guys would come out of college with certain skills and certain abilities, and they would come to our team, and we don't need those abilities. Because you were a scorer in college doesn't mean you're going to be a scorer with our team. If we've got David and Tim and Tony Parker, we don't need you to score. We may need you to rebound and defend. And so, yes, there are many times when you bring somebody in, and you're not necessarily putting them in their strength. But you're putting them in a situation where they can help your organization. Now, eventually, you would like to have them in their strength, but we all have to adapt.
-Can we talk specifically about Manu Ginobili? Because I feel like he's an example of-- he's an all world scorer. I think the guy probably could've been in the top four or five players the league in terms of scoring. If he was on a team where he was given sort of an Allen Iverson approach where you can just fill it up. But yet his role that you guys gave him was very different.
-Manu Ginobili is a two guard small forward for us. And he was just a terrifically talented guy in every area of the game, every facet. Manu could fill up a stat sheet. He could put the assists up, the rebounds. He could do everything you ask him to do. And so, we asked him to come off the bench and provide energy and provide some scoring off the bench. And he did a phenomenal job at that, and he's made a career out of that. And possibly a Hall of Fame career. Especially as an international player, he's contributed to the success of some tremendous teams. So, what I think is a Hall of Fame career, it is possible to be put in a role and maybe not a role that features all of your strengths and still do a phenomenal job.
-So, I'm absolute Manu Ginobili Kool-Aid drinker. So, I just want to know, when you say he has Hall of Fame level skills? Do you believe he's going to get in the Hall of Fame?
-I do. I do. I believe he's going to get in the Hall of Fame because there are different categories. And there's an international category. And certainly out of the international players and international contributors, he's right at the top of the list.
-So, you, as a rule, though-- as we follow that team analogy, that sports analogy back into business-- really, the last thing you want to do is cut somebody. You might have to put them on a different role in your team. Find a position for them to be successful that helps the team first.
-Yeah. I mean, that's really important. And if you watch-- the San Antonio Spurs are a great example of a team that is not afraid to cut of guy and to send them to the development league, or send him to another team. And then maybe wait a couple years and get him back when he's a little bit more seasoned and a little more prepared to play in the system. So, I think you have to be willing to let some people go. As talented as they might be, as much potential as you might think they have, send them to another organization. Go ahead and let them learn. Let them grow. Eventually, if it's right, they'll come back.
-Now, as far as this whole concept of team building, the next thing we have to do-- first you have to create a winning team. You have to go out there and get those right players and find the right positions. But the second is we have to have team learning. The team that can't just-- we can't just stay at the current level of knowledge we have and expect to be more productive or to win more often. And in business, just like in basketball, it seems like you have to be constantly improving. So, you won-- what was the first year you won the championship?
-1999 was the first year we won.
-So, the first year you won was 1999. And then you won again, what, three years later?
-2003. So, four years later you won. But you had to do different things. You had to make some upgrades, make some changes, change some personnel. How do you recommend that companies should create a culture of constant improvement? How would you recommend we do that?
-And that's key. And I think that comes from leadership. You always show that the leadership is committed to the growth. And leadership is committed to becoming better and stronger at every turn. If you've had a little bit of success, it's very hard to duplicate that success. Say even improve upon that success. So, things have to constantly change. If you look at the top organizations in this country, they have a great turnover rate. And in some of them have a mandatory turnover rate.
-A mandatory turnover rate.
-Some of them have a mandatory turnover rate, and say, well, every year we're going to cull the bottom 10%. We're just going to cut them, and we're going to move forward. And it is a good practice to continually evaluate where you are and to build your strength.
-Do you like Jack Welch's philosophy on management?
-He's been very successful. It would be silly for me not to like what he's done. Absolutely. Do I agree with every turn? Not necessarily, but yes, I like what he's done.
-This is a fabulous learning opportunity. I love that you referenced the bottom 10%. Because Jack Welch has a system called differentiation where he take the A players, the B players, the C players-- he basically rates everyone. Gives them a letter grade. So, let's just say that you and I we went to work for him, and you're an A player-- well, he makes 10% of the people get a C grade. Somebody has to be cut, mandatory.
-Let's just say that I got at the bottom 10%. For whatever reason I'm at the bottom 10%. And he tells me. He says, hey, you're at the bottom 10%, and if you don't improve by this quarter, we're going to move on. And I love the idea of the mandatory turnover rate. You were talking about a great turnover rate. The point is we're not going to get stuck because we're willing to change personnel.
-Absolutely. Changing personnel is not a bad thing. We look at firing people and we think that we're bringing the hatchet down on their neck. We're not bringing the hatchet down on their neck. We're giving them an opportunity to grow and to expand. And if we've done our job, we've helped them along the way. We've taught them. We've put them in a situation where, hopefully, our organization has taken them to another level. They've seen excellence. Hopefully. They can move on and grow, and then maybe they'll come back when they're ready.
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