Chuckers Don't Win

When someone is honest enough to admit he needs help and improvement, he will improve.

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In the third season of the hit show Seinfeld, George, Jerry and Kramer are playing basketball at the local YMCA. Afterwards, they discuss the game in the locker room. 

Jerry complains to George that he is a “a chucker,” taking unnecessary shots and hogging the ball. George doesn’t agree, as he believes his game is perfect even though his shooting percentage was God-awful and their team lost. Jerry asks Kramer for his opinion on the matter.

“Oh, yeah. He is a chucker,” Kramer says.  

The “chucker”problem isn’t limited to sports. In business, we have people who love to hear themselves talk, who want to be the smartest person in the room, who believe their talents far exceed their role. 

There are “chuckers” all over in the world, from business, to sports to our personal life. But that word or behavior doesn’t exist in the Boston Celtics, as they have a “anti-chucker” rule. 

When the Celtics won their 18th NBA title earlier this week, their passionate fans witnessed a tantalizing display of skill coming from their star players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. 

The team dominated the regular season, then won 16 games in the postseason, losing only three. As is often the case with championship-winning teams, everyone wants to know the magic formula, the reason for such domination. What is the secret sauce? 

Celtics President Brad Stevens sat on the desk of the NBA TV crew with his hat backwards enjoying a moment that is hard to accomplish in professional sports.

Stevens was the Celtics’ former head coach, but two years ago, moved into the front office to oversee the entire operation and reconstruction of the team.

Before the move into the front office, Stevens was a lifetime coach, from high school to college to the professional level. He also understood roster construction from his college days as the head man at Butler University. 

When the crew asked Stevens why he made two significant trades in the off-season, he replied without hesitation that he wanted to improve his team’s self-awareness. Yes, that’s right, “SELF-AWARENESS.” Stevens didn’t mention talent, rebounding, defense or shooting. His main criteria for the construction of the team was centered around one simple question: Was the player self-aware? “NO CHUCKERS!” George Costanza need not apply.

What does self-aware mean? Well for Stevens, it means the player understands his weaknesses and is willing to work to improve. In essence, the player is coachable. But more than being coachable, the player doesn’t play outside his limits. He knows his range, his strength and weaknesses, which then allow his contributions toward the team to make a difference. 

He works hard to improve his weaknesses and strengthen his strengths. This attitude is contagious, creating a sense of team and avoiding the conversation Jerry and Kramer had with the ultimate chucker, George. When a person is self-aware, he/she becomes the ultimate team player. 

Stevens understands being self-aware is more important than elite unaware talent. No team has ever won with a bunch of chuckers, regardless of the talent level. For any team to improve, awareness is the first criteria toward doing the necessary work. 

Regardless of the field, when searching for talent, make sure people are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to ask them to list the positives and negatives and remind them that being aware of negatives is the first step toward improvement. When someone is honest enough to admit he needs help and improvement, he will improve.

We all know a team full of George’s will never win. Just ask Jerry, Kramer, or Brad. 

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