Kevin EastmanMES Spring 2019 keynote speaker Kevin Eastman shares how decades of experience as a coach on championship-winning teams have taught him that it takes a team for organizations to succeed.

Kevin Eastman has spent more than 40 years in basketball, coaching at all levels, including 13 years as an assistant coach in the NBA. He served as top assistant coach to Glenn “Doc” Rivers on the 2008 NBA World Champion Boston Celtics and most recently served as an assistant coach and vice president of basketball operations with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Eastman is a keynote speaker at the Midsize Enterprise Summit Spring 2019 conference in Orlando, where he will discuss how teams create a feeling of togetherness, including how teams are put together, how teams stay together, and how the understanding of teammate, teamwork and team are linked.

Kevin was nice enough to answer some questions via email that will serve as a preview of the session he will lead in Orlando.

Kevin, you have vast experience as a coach at both the college and NBA levels. I know your talk at our MES event is about the power of teamwork. Without giving away the store, so to speak, what’s the difference between teams that exist and teams that win?  

It’s a common bond that they have with each other that compels them to play and work “for” each other. Teams that just “exist” are not teams. They are people who may work in the same building or wear the same uniform or work in the same department. But just because you are in close proximity doesn’t make you a team. You become a team when you are willing to sacrifice, care and help those who are your teammates. That is why players on a great team understand they don’t play “with” someone else – they play “for” someone else!

How can leaders identify the key ingredients on their team?

They must first actually hire the key ingredients. They cannot hope for them or wait to identify them. You must work hard to hire whatever your definition of a “teammate” is, just like I believe you have to hire culture every bit as much as have a culture. You have to hire great teammates. Thus, you must know what you’re looking for in a hire.

How do leaders know when they are missing key ingredients?

One of the most important parts of leadership is to keep a pulse on the vibe, the production, and the “team-ness” of the group they are in charge of. This should allow a leader to recognize that “missing piece.” The other thing that is so important is that you have to “start before you start.” You have to know exactly what you want and need from each position you will fill. Role identification is crucial to success of the individual and the company. I will talk about how important it is for a leader to have “big eyes, big ears, and a small mouth” when leading. This will allow the leader to feel the vibe of the company.

Where do leaders often fall short in putting teams together?

In my mind, it’s that they don’t truly identify what they want in each position they fill from the skill that’s needed and the “teammate” mentality that they will demand. Who you bring into the company often determines the problems you will have or not have. Put the time in on the from end with extensive research on potential hires as that often saves time on the back end for you to actually lead and not just react to problems.

How much of a team’s success is on the team members themselves, as opposed to the leader(s)?

Leaders set the tone by being a great teammate first. It’s not just what you say or what you want—it’s what those you lead see from you every day. That’s how they make their decisions on whether to follow you or not. And, in turn, each individual member has an equal amount of responsibility to be a good teammate. And there must be an accountability system in place where – if you are not – then you will be called out.

What’s the best way to not just identify missing ingredients, but add them to their team?

It gets back to having clear definitions and priorities in each position on the team that you need to fill. Put the work and deep thought in before you hire --- then you will have less worries once they are on the team.

When a team isn’t working at peak performance, what’s the first step a leader should take? What’s the most important step a leader should take?

The first step is to find out the real problem. I talk about the “Iceberg Principle” with our leaders where they have to understand that it’s not just the 20% of the problem that shows itself above water and so easily that is the real problem; it’s the 80% that is under water – that we don’t see – that is where great leaders must look. To solve the problem, you have to go deeper and find out what the problem is and what the reason is.

What message(s) do you hope will resonate with the MES Spring 2019 conference attendees?

The key message is that we believe all leaders must understand that leadership is not about them – it’s about the people you lead. And there’s a lot that goes into that and that is what I hope to provide for those in attendance. They will get clear examples and strategies about what championship teams in another profession than their own do to create a true team.

What’s the first thing attendees should do after the presentation and event?

After any event where you are listening to others and will take notes in their own way – either mental notes or actual physical notes – it’s the next step that will help you separate yourself as a leader. If taking notes is all they do, then the event will not pay dividends for them. We are all on a “seek and find” mission. We are seeking new ways and new ideas so we can grow and develop. If all we do is seek them out and then find them at the event, and then we go home and stick the notes in a file cabinet never to be looked at again – we simply stay the same. To truly grow, we must be on the “seek and find” mission but we then separate ourselves by executing the key separating step: we must then go home and “think and apply”. We must put sustained thought to what we heard and what we learned and then apply those things that we truly believe will help us become a better leader.