Steph it up: How to be the Steph Curry of your team at work

If you haven’t heard of Steph Curry, you might be living under a rock. He’s the transcendent star point guard of the Golden State Warriors—the NBA team that broke the record for most wins during the regular season.

Curry is also having one of his best weeks ever. He was named MVP for the second year in a row, he’s the first player to win the award unanimously, and the Warriors (affectionately dubbed by fans as the “Dubs”) just advanced to the Western Conference Finals in their quest for a second straight NBA championship.

So what makes Steph Curry so great? (Hint: It’s more than just his shooting game.) And what can we learn from him about leadership and teamwork? Here are some lessons we’ve learned by watching Curry and our beloved Dubs play (Editor’s note: We live in the Bay Area, so yes, we’re biased :wink:)  

Up your passing game

Great passing is critical to success in basketball. If you’re throwing bad passes or hogging the ball, you’re setting yourself up for turnovers and likely missing more efficient scoring opportunities. Steph Curry leads the NBA in “secondary assists”—passes that lead to an assist. He also has a remarkable record setting up high-quality shot opportunities for his teammates, Steph-ortlessly. In other words, although Curry is unanimously the best player (and shooter) in the league, he knows when his teammates are better positioned to get the ball through the hoop.

You can up your passing game at work, too. Delegating responsibilities and empowering others is one of the most challenging things as a team lead, especially when you have more expertise or experience in a particular area. But if you don’t delegate responsibilities, teammates never get the opportunity to learn or improve and, ultimately, you’ll achieve less as a team. When you’re assigning tasks or handing off work, be sure to set your teammate up for success. Give them all the context and direction they need, and empower them to drive towards a great outcome.

Achieve your #squadgoals

In interviews, Curry constantly credits his teammates for his success. And really, he’s right. No one, no matter how good a player, can win a championship alone. In fact, the Warriors are one of the deepest teams in the NBA. This is reflected in their team motto (“Strength in Numbers”), and it’s a big reason why they’re so phenomenal. The Dubs’ management, coaches, and owners have made smart, strategic hiring choices, and it has paid off. But Curry plays his role in recruiting, too. By sharing the spotlight with his team, Curry makes the Warriors jersey an appealing option for talented players. Everyone wants to be on a team where individual contributions are celebrated.

As you think about building out a winning team, do what the Warriors management did and plan ahead. Think about your long-term goals and how you can hire a uniquely qualified and skilled team to execute on them. And as you hire people, hold yourself to a high standard. Have ambitious #squadgoals and stick to them. Don’t settle.

And be sure to give your teammates credit for the successes you all achieve. Your egolessness will make you known as a great person to work with, which will be a draw for potential hires down the road. In the words of John Wooden, “It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.”

Find a great coach

They say that behind every good player is a great coach, and this is definitely true for Curry. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr sets the strategy for the team and has often been credited with making the Warriors the best team in the NBA. Kerr is a great coach for many reasons, but foremost among them is that he knows it’s about the players, not about him. He’s also known for being a great communicator, and (as noted above) he hires extremely well.

Great mentorship makes people great. Mentorship helps team members grow beyond their capabilities and turn them into superstars. Find people to mentor on your team and coach them on how to grow professionally, but don’t forget to find a mentor for yourself as well. Even if you’re one of the best like Curry, you can always get better. Set stretch goals, and go for them.

Bounce back from setbacks

Steph Curry wasn’t always a superstar. Though he was a strong player in high school, he was overlooked by college recruiters. Despite the blow to his confidence, Curry made the most of his college career at Davidson (a small school near his hometown), leading the NCAA in scoring and setting himself up for a number-7 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. But his rocky road to stardom wasn’t over yet. Plagued by ankle injuries in the 2011–2012 season, Curry’s scoring average plummeted. The Warriors renewed his contract to much public skepticism. And yet, here we are, two MVP trophies later :trophy:. Needless to say, Curry didn’t give up easily.

Hopefully your job challenges don’t involve ankle injuries, but overcoming setbacks is something we all have to do at work. That’s why believing in yourself, and your team, is just as important in the workplace as it is on the court. And when times get tough or the stress starts to get to you, channel your resilience to help get you through.

Play (or work) with joy

This is perhaps the least intuitive and yet the most important lesson we can learn from Steph Curry and the Warriors. The team is known for having fun, or “playing with joy.” Curry, Kerr, and the team recognize that basketball is, in fact, a game (in addition to being a big business, of course) that’s meant to be fun. The team is encouraged to enjoy themselves, and they’re often seen cheering each other on and doing celebratory dances on the sidelines.

At work, it’s important to make sure your team is not just hitting milestones and driving results, but that they’re having a good time while they’re at it. Make room for team bonding through offsites, happy hours, and other fun activities. Bring a sense of humor to your work day, and try not to take yourself too seriously. Finally, make sure your team has balance in their lives. After all, a superstar like Steph Curry needs some off-court time to spend with his daughters.   

The net-net

At work, the best way to sink a crossover, step back three-pointer like Steph Curry—day in and day out—is to lead with quiet confidence. Curry is a team captain of the Warriors, but he’s hardly the loudest player on (or off) the court. Instead, he leads by example, selflessly celebrates his teammates, and lets their collective results speak for themselves. Let’s go, Warriors.

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