“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
― Phil Jackson
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… to be a basketball fan. After a record-breaking regular season, our very own Golden State Warriors are trying to repeat their 2015 playoff run and win a second straight NBA Championship.
I look at Salesforce as the “Golden State Warriors of CRM” — we are the team to beat. The playoffs inspired me to reflect on my life as a (former) basketball player, and how playing team sports since I was a young girl has had an impact on both my personal and professional growth in one of the world’s most innovative technology companies.
Research shows that women who played a sport as a child or teen tend to go further in both their education and career. A whopping 82% of women in executive positions have played an organized sport after elementary school, and 50% of women who make $75,000 or more identify themselves as an athlete.
As for me, basketball has taught me much more than one blog post could cover, so here are the top four lessons I’ve learned that have helped me in my professional career:
It may be a cliché, but there really is no “I” in “team.” Being part of a team early on in life taught me how to collaborate with others and navigate through challenges together to achieve a common goal.
One of the advantages of being on a team is that someone’s weakness is likely someone else’s strength, and together you form a stronger unit. You learn to trust your teammates to support you and back you up, and offer them the same in return. During my basketball years, we went through a lot as a team, spending nearly every day together: We practiced, competed, traveled, had fun, won, lost, and were there for each other. Not much is different in the workplace.
My team, the web experience team at Salesforce, is the “hub” of all our digital work. We connect the dots between different groups and tie it all together, and our daily grind would be extremely difficult without collaboration and good teamwork. To stay ahead of competition, we have to be aligned and hold each other accountable.
In a healthy, collaborative environment, you learn to strike a good balance between being a self-reliant, responsible teammate, and relying on others.
When the Warriors won their first championship in 40 years, some people said “they got lucky.” If you’ve ever played sports, you’ll know that “luck” is actually a result of a lot of hard work, dedication, discipline, grit, and determination.
Success in the workplace doesn’t just magically fall into the laps of the “lucky ones” — it comes to those who consistently work hard every single day and commit to excellence in everything they do. Everyone on my team has to keep abreast of the latest technologies and work together seamlessly to support the business, drive quality lead generation and ACV objectives, and help our customers succeed.
Hard work does pay off.
In sports and business, you will fail more often than you’d like. What you do after is key.
Failure is never easy and might hurt your ego, but it’s also an invaluable source of experience and knowledge. It teaches you resilience and helps you grow. If you push yourself to get up, learn from your mistakes and stay patient, confident and focused, you will succeed. Sports taught me that at a young age, and when that happens at work, I’m able to take the long view and not let momentary setbacks break me.
Much like any team, we make mistakes here at Salesforce, too. But the nature of the web and our analytical approach to everything we do allow us to course-correct quickly, analyze our findings, and do better next time.
No matter what you do, always have fun. This is especially important in stressful situations. Positive attitude is contagious. Having fun and keeping the mood light doesn’t mean you’re not focused or not taking your work seriously. But it will likely help you get you to your goal faster, or at least make you feel like you’re getting there more quickly — all because you and the people around you are happier and having fun.
My team’s work has high visibility, as our website is our customers’ portal to our product. As such, we are on the hook to hit specific goals and numbers, like driving lead generation, demand generation, and creating innovative online experiences for our customers and prospects. This can result in a lot of pressure and occasional long hours, but we always try to have fun in the process.
Phil Jackson, one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, said: “The sign of a great player is how much he elevates his colleagues' performance.” I recently took a class where one of my key takeaways was that our role as people managers — or the way I see it, as coaches — is to help people do their best work and achieve everyday greatness. In sports and in the workplace, whatever your role, every day and every situation is a mutual opportunity to coach and learn.