When great players accept coaching, they demonstrate mental toughness, that they’ll do what’s right for the team even when it might not seem right for them.
“Your best player has to set a tone of intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning.” -Jeff Van Gundy, TV analyst and former NBA Coach
When you listen to Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo discuss his mentality, you can appreciate Van Gundy’s quote more and understand why the Bucks are one win away from an NBA title. Giannis explains in this video how he keeps his ego in check because he knows it can easily be the No. 1 cause of team dysfunction.
“When you focus on your past, it’s all ego,” Giannis says.
So, he forces himself to reach for the next goal and not reminisce about past accomplishments. The leader removes his ego, so others follow suit, which allows for elite team chemistry. When a great player demonstrates selfless behavior, when winning is more important than numbers, great players become even greater. When great players accept coaching, even if it rubs them the wrong way, they demonstrate mental toughness, that they’ll do what’s right for the team even when it might not seem right for them. Giannis is not only physically gifted. He’s also extremely mentally tough — which is why the battle-tested Bucks have been able to win three straight Finals games.
Great players want hard coaching. Great players are willing to be the example that then allows others to accept it. It’s not just relevant for Giannis, though. It applies to just about all top athletes. Had Tom Brady resisted coaching, the Patriots wouldn’t have won six Super Bowls. Brady’s greatest achievement was never on the field; it was off when he allowed the entire Patriots staff to coach him as if he were not a superstar. His selfless behavior and mental toughness to look bad in front of his peers allowed the Patriots’ staff to coach everyone — which ultimately made the team better.
The most important job of any leader is not to appease the best player, best salesman or key executive, but to show them the benefits of accepting coaching. When the leader can convince the great player to embrace coaching, to not allow his/her ego to interfere, the effects are incredible. If the leader cannot make this transition with the star, then it is time to look for a different one. Ego on any team will always create problems. Absence of it will avoid them.
Giannis is a rare talent and a rarer person. Not every star is like him. Most need to be taught the benefits of ego removal. But once that occurs, then the process toward winning becomes easier.