SAN ANTONIO – As business professionals, we all have our own ideas when it comes to describing success. We measure our success by the number of sales we have in a given month. We measure our success by raises, promotions and scores on management evaluations. We have even been known to measure our success by the title we place before our name.

Now, while all of these things are great and many of them needed to stay afloat in this competitive business world are they really the bench marks of a successful life or career? Or maybe, just maybe, could it be that true success is built on qualities that can only be acquired and measured in a more profound manner… internally? One professional sports franchise seems to capture the essence of true success based on qualities that don’t always make the papers or the highlight reel. As professionals, their example could “Spur” us on to measure ourselves by these same qualities. And if we are fortunate enough, we may even find the success they have enjoyed along the way.

I have the privilege of living in a city that is known for celebrating almost anything. We spend two weeks every year just celebrating an event simply called “FIESTA”. We have more river parades than we have traffic jams. If there is a holiday, there is also a party and if we want another party, we just create another holiday. But of all the things we celebrate, none compare to how we celebrate our SPURS. And the reason is simple… they are worth celebrating!

The San Antonio Spurs are the most successful sports franchise of the last 20 years. Since 1999, they have won 4 NBA titles and just recently barely missed winning their fifth as they lost to the Miami Heat in game seven of the 2013 NBA Finals. In their 37 NBA seasons since 1976-1977, the Spurs have captured 19 division titles. They have made the playoffs in 23 of the last 24 seasons (since 1989-1990), and have not missed the playoffs in the 16 seasons since Tim Duncan was drafted by the Spurs in 1997. With their 50th win in the 2012-2013 season the Spurs extended their record for most consecutive 50+ win seasons to 14. Their record of success speaks for itself… undisputed and unmatched in every respect.

So what is the root cause of such great success? Has this organization just been lucky or do they practice and promote certain qualities that lead them to enjoy what other teams only dream about? And what can individuals and organizations in other areas of business learn from the Spurs organizational model? I argue that this level of success isn’t a product of happenstance or coincidence or luck or chance. On the contrary, it is a product of the following principles, and yes… we can all learn from it.

The first quality and possibly the most evident is that of humility. In a sport where the popularity of a player is elevated by the number of dunks he has in a single season, or whether he has a shoe named after him or how many expensive cars he can accumulate, you won’t hear a Spurs player’s name mentioned in the conversation. Heck, emerging superstar Kawhi Leonard drove a Chevy Malibu his entire rookie season. He finally purchased a Porsche but stated he prefers the Malibu because it gets better gas mileage.

Although they have been seen on rare occasions in national commercials, most Spurs player camera time takes place at the local level where they promote local businesses and often at the expense of their own ego as they downgrade their own celebrity and come off as just “regular guys”. You won’t see the popular trend of chest bumping or taunting one’s opponent but you will see an occasional “high five” or “pat on the back”, something we could all use from time to time. You never hear of a Spurs player complaining about his salary or lack of playing time. And if a new player brings this type of “drama queen” baggage to the team, he is usually shown the door faster than you can say “giddyup”. Just ask the infamous Dennis Rodman.

No, the guys in silver and black exemplify the quality of humility like no other team in professional sports. It’s not popular… but it darn sure is refreshing.

Another quality that is evident in the San Antonio Spurs organization is that of teamwork. As you might expect, that quality starts with the man leading the team from the sideline, Coach Gregg Popovich. “Coach Pop”, as he is commonly referred, is a graduate of the Air Force Academy where he played basketball and even served as team captain his senior year. He directs the team with the skill and determination of a fighter pilot and has the respect of all who are flying with him.

“Coach Pop” has the unique skill of drafting players, not based on their media reputation, but on his perception of how they can fill a role currently needed by the Spurs. In the past he has signed players that most of the basketball world had never heard of and he is not opposed to finding these players in other countries if necessary. Players like Danny Green, Gary Neal, Patty Mills and Tiago Splitter were unknowns and cast-offs that have now found a home and a purpose in San Antonio. Even players like Tony Parker, who arguably could have won league Most Valuable Player honors in past seasons, and Manu Ginobili were practically unknowns until they put on the silver and black uniform.

And each player knows and fills his particular role on the team. Sometimes that means sitting out a game or even a series if their particular skill set is not advantageous against the team’s current opponent. But once again, you don’t hear about players complaining or wining about their lack of playing time. They seem to realize the privilege they have to earn a living in such a blessed fashion and they understand the importance of putting the team first.

By yanam49

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