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Effective Team Relationships
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving - team relationships
“I've just got to let my teammates know in practice, without even telling them, that I don't think I'm ahead of anybody.”
Kevin Durant, 2017 NBA Champion & Finals MVP

How best to manage a significat breakdown in communications among team members? Prevent a breakdown in communications - the project goals of the team should come before egos and individual objectives. When vigilance and communications slip, serious team rifts can occur, as we are witnessing between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving was a high school and college basketball prodigy. He was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, and had a stellar first season (being voted Rookie of The Year). He has also been voted to the NBA All-Star team four times, and he won an NBA championship with the Cavaliers in 2016.

The championship win was an extraordinary triumph - the Cavaliers recovering from a 3 - 1 game deficit against the Golden State Warriors (who had compiled the most wins in a regular season in the history of the NBA). Kyrie and LeBron James were the most pivotal characters for the triumphant Cavaliers team.

LeBron James was also a high school prodigy - so much so, that he bypassed university and entered the professional ranks of the NBA straight from his senior High School year. LeBron was labelled 'The Chosen One' as a teenager - the greatest high school talent ever, and the most likely talent to reach even the foothills of achievement of 'His Airness' Michael Jordan.

Two transcendant talents in one team sounds great right? A recipe for success? In theory, yes. However, James re-joined the Cavaliers in 2014, days after Irving signed a contract extension with the team to be 'the face of the franchise'. James being the NBAs most marketable star, and universally regarded as the world's best player, it was an easy decision for the Cavs to welcome James back to his first and hometown team. James was forced on Irving in effect.

Irving wanting to be the leader of his own team as he came in to his prime years clashed with the reality that at the present time, whichever team LeBron James was on, he was the defacto and recognised leader.

Irving has suppressed his leadership desires and natural ego to successfully co-exist with James and the results have been excellent: 3 consecutive trips to the NBA championship series and one win (all against the juggernaut from Golden State). With the team results has come a boost in the statistics that Irving has generated with his own play: improved scoring numbers and improved assists per game, playing alongside James.

“...my only ultimate goal is to win an NBA championship. It's all that matters.
    When you have that respect from your teammates, it makes it a lot more comfortable.”

LeBron James

That LeBron James is a demanding teammate is common locker room currency in the NBA. He has lofty standards and his sole focus is making the right play, playing at optimum levels and winning. Sporting greats commonly have a hard streak shaped by the desire for victory, the sacrifice, and a little empathy blindness that struggles to have sympathy and understanding with players of lesser talent or wisdom.

Soon after losing in the NBA Finals (to the Warriors again), Irving has submitted a trade request and all indicators are that he no longer wishes to:

- play with LeBron
- be a non leader of a team
- be captive to LeBron's whim and fancy for team personnel and general operations of the team

It's too simplistic to say he just does not like James and his dislike has reached a high he cannot move forward from. For the greater good of the team and the chance to get back to the NBA Finals in 2018, Irving and James could have continued to have what seemed to be an effective working relationship - as managed and maintained by themselves and Cleveland Cavaliers management and coaching staff.

That the Cavs released their General Manager - David Griffin - in June seems to be a key factor. Vigilance of this very important relationship slipped and now the relationship seems irreparable. Keeping the team together would have resulted in the near certainty of success (likely returning to the 2018 finals) but even such an alluring goal can fall in priority when the complexities (or simplicity) of human nature comes in to play.

Gorilla Theory is different to other project management methodologies because the chief focus is the human element.

Consistent monitoring of the dynamics of a team are required to keep a team balanced - or at the very least, not tipping out of control.

I cannot emphasise enough how important people skills are. They enable you to get the best out of your team and deliver the project more efficiently. I am not stating that you must be everyone's friend, as that is not realistic in any walk of life.

Common courtesy and respect go a very long way, and if you remember to keep tabs on your moods and any issues or personality clashes with the Emotional Intelligence checklist, you will have the advantage of not allowing personal issues and behaviours - of your own or of your team members - to get in the way of delivering the project.

The Gorilla Theory People Skills Action List:
  1. Write a list of project situations that bring out the worst in you and throw you off your game.
  2. Write a list of personality types that bring out the worst in and throw you off your game.
  3. Keep a tab on how you are feeling each day.
  4. Make a note of any existing issues between project team members. Are these issues affecting the project delivery?
  5. Keep a mental note to be courteous and professional with your team.
  6. Keep a mental note to be empathetic with any struggles of your team members (REMEMBER: to empathise is good, but do not be too soft. If personal or personality issues are putting the delivery of the project at risk, then this needs to be flagged to the key stakeholders; make sure you have first discussed - or made very clear with the person(s) with the issues - your concerns. Giving them the heads-up on your concerns builds trust)
  7. Listening: Learn to cultivate your listening skills as a way to get people to listen to you. Inform your project team that you are very keen on understanding their viewpoints and in listening to them. It goes a long way.
Get a helping hand to be more vigilant and aware with your projects. Check out the Gorilla Theory checklists here >

How to spot a Baby Gorilla
Baby gorillas are projects that are deemed small and straightforward, and it is assumed that enough information is known of what needs to be done (the full requirements and delivery specifications) to get the project delivered, but these details are either not gathered, defined and approved, and (usually) not enough time is given for the delivery. Baby gorillas tend to be media campaign, HTML newsletter, microsite, site/page update-style projects.
Got a great case study or question?
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All the Gorilla Theory project scenario solutions are supported by a checklist mechanism. The checklist mechanism supports the core principles of:

And don't forget to use your checklists!
We have tailored the Gorilla Theory checklists for each of the three problem scenarios. You can buy the project checklist pack or the full checklist pack: click here >

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