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I found myself wedged between Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry and former GM Rick Sund. We were observing a practice at the opening training camp of the 2013-2014 season. Mike Budenholzer, the Hawks new head coach, was running the team through a series of drills and strategic exercises.

After a few minutes of quiet observation, I was curious, so I asked "What are you guys seeing?" Rick turned to me and said "We don't observe the same things as coaches." Rick knows I study coaches as my day job. In fact, he and I have enjoyed several good conversations about the shared qualities of the best coaches in the NBA. He went on "coaches are looking for who is executing on this drill or on this play. We are looking for who will be executing six months from now; six years from now. Our decisions about contracts are based on who we see as executing in the future, not so much on executing today." Danny reinforced the point by getting very specific about who he was observing and why. He pointed at a player and asked "Is this veteran buying into the new system? Is he part of our future?"

I had never heard this before. But it did, however, make sense. General managers are responsible for assembling the team, and ensuring the long-term success of the organization. Business leaders face the same challenge. Consider the decisions you make: are they based on who is executing at the moment, or who will execute in the future? The long-term success of any organization is predicated on decisions made today that will impact tomorrow. We need to identify, not only those who are executing today, but those who will execute tomorrow.

Contributed by Paul Schempp, author of 5 Steps to Expert


Larry Hart

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