Roger Vozar: To create your own championship legacy, take talent and mix it with trust

Sports analogies are common in the business world, many of them centering on the importance of teamwork. So it’s no surprise that cover story subject Pat Riley, president of the Miami Heat, was one of the speakers at the EY Strategic Growth Forum®.

A popular motivational speaker, Riley talked about leadership, trust and other essential qualities necessary for success on the court or in the boardroom.

Finding the right mix

At first glance, the path to the Heat’s back-to-back championships seems simple — sign three free agents who are perennial all-stars and build a team around them. But, as Riley says, it isn’t always easy to convince someone who is used to being “the guy” to defer to other people.

That’s something that occurs to me every time I read or hear an executive extolling the importance of hiring only “A players.” Of course, it depends on what your definition of an “A player” is, but certainly not everyone on a sports team or management team can be “the guy” (or “the woman,” as the case may be).

It seems obvious to hire the most talented employees, yet they still have to be willing to share the spotlight in order to maximize everyone’s potential. Everyone has heard stories about workplaces where colleagues have engaged in questionable tactics in the quest for raises and promotions.

Riley says you hope to get the right fit and find the hardest-working, most professional players who understand your philosophy.

“But the No. 1 thing for all of you who are leaders is to have talent,” Riley says. “If you don’t have talent, you’re not going to win.”

With the Miami Heat, the desire for championships has provided enough incentive to keep egos in check. Executive compensation experts have told me that it’s important in the corporate world to provide incentives based on both individual and company goals to achieve the best results and reward appropriate behavior.

Earning trust

In any form of leadership, you must earn people’s trust, Riley says. One way he’s done that is to get away from the emails, texts and electronic distractions and make time for personal contact.

“We’ve gotten away from the old times. As a coach and a player, any time I had an issue I walked into the coach’s office, and we talked about it,” he says.

Despite his busy schedule, Riley says that he made a commitment as a coach and now as a president to spend an hour a week alone with a player.

“I don’t care if it’s 1 a.m. or 10 p.m., it doesn’t make a difference,” he says. “We’ve gotten away from the old times when somebody would come in and sit down at our desk. Why did you think they came in? They would sit down and the right words or a pat on the back would light up their face.”

Riley says that approach goes a long way to earning the trust that people need to have in their leaders.

“When it comes to trust, when it comes to letting people know they’re special, you have to be there,” Riley says. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Roger Vozar is Associate Editor of Smart Business Florida. Roger is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Florida. Reach him at (800) 988-4726, ext. 380 or [email protected].