To Neil and Terry: Expectations and Achievement

As a successful manager of people, I would like to offer the Blazer's GM and Head Coach my greatest insights into creating an environment of excellence and achievement through personnel development.

  • Law #1: All new employees want to succeed in order to gain more of whatever they want. They come pre-primed to succeed.

  • Law #2: Trainers must understand and follow the 7 S's of Expectations.

  • Law #3: Inability to follow Law #2 means you need to replace a trainer.

Rather than go into a textbook-like manual on how to develop personnel in the abstract, let me take an example of one of our new rookies, Meyers Leonard.

Meyers is a tall, athletically gifted player that needs a role on the team. That is a job for the coach to define, but I'll cover that and say Meyers needs to: rebound, set solid picks (rolling when necessary), hit free throws, defend the pick and roll. As a first year player, trying to do more will only overload him. Getting the maximum benefit from a few core areas will allow him to positively contribute to the team's success.

Meyers has already demonstrated he is following Law#1 with his play at Summer League and his statements to the press. The next step is for the trainers to take a motivated player and develop him properly.

The 7 S's of Expectations:

  1. Simple- Describe any task in its simplest terms and say it is easy. For example, "Meyers, I want you to rebound the ball, it is really easy since you're taller and faster than anyone else.

  2. See- Demonstrate, in an uninterrupted fashion, how easy it is. For example, have a fundamentally sound rebounder demonstrate how simple and easy it is to box out a defender when a shot attempt is made. Do NOT make this complicated or too difficult. The objective is to build a solid foundation of experience and confidence, not teach advanced technique. Shot, box out, rebound.

  3. Support- Have Meyers demonstrate the task. Applaud, clap, cheer, reinforce the knowledge that he's taller, faster, and a more skilled rebounder than anyone else. He's a monster on the boards and is going to get even better.

  4. SMART- Goals are a necessity for success. Nobody achieves greatness by accident. This is where the trainer describes the goals for this task.

    1. Specific- You will defend against a post player trying to establish position in the paint. If the player is denied, a perimeter shot will be attempted. Once the ball is shot, you will immediately locate the nearest defender and box him out using proper technique. You will then rebound the missed shot with aggression, securing it properly.
    2. Measurable- You will deny post position or deny the entry pass on 9 of 10 attempts. You will properly box out the defender on 10 of 10 shot attempts. You will secure the rebound on 9 of 10 opportunities.

    3. Attainable- These numbers can be tweaked as needed, but they must force Meyers to work hard to achieve them.

    4. Relevant- Meyers needs to know that possession of the ball is the key to the team's success, and his success in rebounding is crucial to victory.

    5. Trackable- For this task, assign someone to track the results. If the trainer is tracking, he should not interrupt or comment while the task is being performed unless it is to cheer.

  5. Success- With the goal in place, reinforce again that he has the ability and skills to succeed. Tell him explicitly that you expect him to succeed in this task and to improve beyond it. Then turn him loose to deliver.
  6. Self-critique- Once the task has been completed, ask Meyers to evaluate his performance. Ask him what he thought he did well and what he needs to work on. This is the hardest part of being a trainer because they are taught to teach young people the skills they need to learn. The fact is that people learn more when they see the need to know more. Forcing unsolicited information on someone is wasted effort, even if they are eager to learn in the abstract. When the student seeks the knowledge that will increase his power, he is a sponge. Otherwise, he is a rock and the knowledge is seldom absorbed. With the proper questions a good trainer can get a person to realize they need to learn whatever the trainer wants them to.
  7. Set the bar higher- Expectations should always rise in personnel development. By making the goals harder to attain, adding additional steps, or changing the way the goal is measured gives new emphasis on growth. Meyers will point out areas he needs to focus on himself, and those should be targets for future expectation increases. Maybe his foot placement needs work. Maybe his lower body needs more strength to hold position better. Regardless, the focus here is to highlight the new standard and possible ways in which that can be attained whether through additional training in other areas or simply a greater dedication to fundamentals and execution.

Good trainers can be made, but it is better and easier to get them from somewhere they're unappreciated. Everywhere I've been there are positive people that carry the weight of the business. I refer to them as Key Cogs because they're hidden in the structure of the great machine, and loosing them creates havoc and stress for those around them. From what I've been able to glean from the media, Kaleb Canales is one of those few trainers, but do we have others?

Good trainers share similar traits, whether innate or self taught. The first is a positive attitude and a knowledge (or instinct) about how their attitude and words effect those around them. When difficulty strikes, most people complain about the problem. These people see the challenge as an opportunity to shine and promote a teamwork atmosphere. They're easy to spot since they will be working while the others are complaining.

The second trait is they believe in cause & effect rather than random chaos. That basic belief tells them they can influence their environment through their action or inaction. That may seem insignificant, but it is the basis for other traits. These are typically organized people with a "system".

The third trait follows from the second; being a tester. These people are always seeking to improve how something is done, testing new ways to see if there is a way to increase efficiency. These people also have a "system", but they're always looking to improve and adapt it somehow.

The fourth trait is being a goal-setter. This trait has many degrees because some people aren't conscious about their goals even though they are there subconsciously. The greater the level of conscious goal setting, the more confidence they have in their ultimate success. They can be identified by their lists.

The fifth trait I've identified is a strong professional competence and confidence. They know their craft and know they know it. In addition, they're always learning new things, growing their base and depth of knowledge. They're accustomed to having people seek out their advice or being asked to produce on a tight deadline. They are the Key Cogs.

You will notice that these traits are desirable in players as well. History is replete with examples of students assuming the traits of their teachers. So, by holding the teacher to a high standard of character, you transfer that standard onto the student. A positive feedback loop of achievement and success can be generated.

My final key addition would be to pull all weeds as soon as possible. A negative personality in an otherwise positive environment cannot be allowed. Whether a coach, trainer, or player if that person can't or won't behave positively, that person needs to be removed quickly. Like any weed, it will choke the life out of the plants around it without any remorse. The corollary of course is that the greatest care must be taken when acquiring a "head case" player. It's possible that the thought of being desired will buy you the time to indoctrinate him properly into the healthy environment you've created, but the underlying cause of prior issues must have been resolved lest they re-emerge once the honeymoon phase is over. Finding a trainer capable of reprogramming "head-case" or under-performing players can be valuable, but each case should be risk-assessed beforehand.

In true "80/20 Rule" fashion, this is my 20% to you. Following these steps in training and identifying trainers has enabled me to create success everywhere I've gone, and I know it will help you succeed as well.

Neil. Terry. You are two of the elite basketball minds in the NBA today, and you have seen what it takes to win a championship. You have the knowledge and experience to evaluate talent and turn potential into consistent performance. As a Blazer fan, I expect you to use that exceptional ability to develop a strategic plan for the franchise that culminates with a championship within the next five years. You will be given free rein in personnel matters as well as maximum financial support from the owner. You will be expected to demonstrate the courage of your convictions as well as the diplomatic tact to convince your critics. There will be a two-stage progress evaluation. Stage one will be a return to the playoffs within the next three years. Stage two will be an NBA Championship within the next five years. I am confident in your ability to not only meet but to exceed these expectations. I know you won't let me down.