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Raptors fever has spread across the country and to the Canadian diaspora all over the world. The energy in Toronto is palpable as hundreds of thousands of fans gather in Jurassic Park and other viewing areas.

How can we apply learnings from the court to our organizations, to meet the needs of today’s modern businesses?

1. A common purpose unites all stakeholders

The Raptors’ common purpose is clear: We the North, Canada versus everyone. And it unites us all – fans and customers, players and employees, and sponsors and advertisers. In this new world of work, purpose is more important than ever because of the blurred lines among these stakeholders and because, with the diverse and dispersed worker ecosystem in many organizations, purpose is the anchor that connects workers to the company, regardless of employment relationship. In turn, connection to a common purpose enables workers to feel more engaged and thus deliver a consistent experience to customers.

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“Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment [MLSE] mobilizes over 1,000 employees per game to deliver our common purpose of creating extraordinary moments for our fans and each other,” says Kim Carter, senior vice-president, human resources, at the company, which owns the Raptors. “It’s not lost on any employee – at any level across the entire organization – that our inspiration comes from working every day to deliver championships for our fans, our city and our country.”

2. Integrate and assimilate disruptive talent

Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol were both brought in to the Raptors franchise for deliberate reasons. They each have unique skills believed to improve the odds of the team going all the way. And it’s working so far. However, bringing in disruptive talent – whether giggers or full-time/permanent – comes with risk. For talent to thrive – and not experience “organ rejection” – thoughtful on-boarding, including cultural assimilation and a commitment to inclusion, is a must. Otherwise, seemingly star “athletes,” hired into organizations to spark innovation, cannot do so because of the environment they are brought into, or not adequately prepared for.

3. Implement agile teaming

It is important to have your “starting lineup” play their positions, to best leverage their strengths. But it is equally critical to build a team that is flexible, that works together toward a common goal and that is able to pivot depending on changing competitive landscapes and customer needs. The first step in creating cross-functional, agile teams is defining goals and desired outcomes according to the needs of customers, which everyone then works toward meeting.

4. Anyone can be your fiercest competitor

Most did not expect the Raptors to end up in the NBA Finals, based on historical data – it had never happened before. But we now need to think very differently about competition: New startups suddenly compete with well-established businesses, and organizations enter industries and markets no one would have thought possible. It is therefore critical to assume that our organizations have infinite valiant competitors and to strategically plan accordingly.

5. Operate with ‘growth mindset’ when evaluating talent

Fred VanVleet was not drafted. People doubted him – and he emerged as one of the Raptors’ most powerful secret weapons. In this new world of work, we need to think differently about talent – the most pedigreed individuals do not always shine brightest. Leadership traits such as grit, perseverance, agility and creativity can be more valuable than past experience and education (which are, in fact, poor predictors of future performance).

“This holds very true at MLSE. We believe a winning spirit is within every employee and if they are given the right tools and set up for success, they have the ability to shine and do their best work,” Ms. Carter says. “And, in turn, we recognize them for the contribution they make to the larger team.”

6. Redefine leadership

While the coaching staff and management team have done a stellar job creating the environment and conditions for this team to thrive, leadership comes equally as importantly from within the team (the players coaching, motivating and encouraging each other) and within themselves (self-motivation, self-discipline and self-awareness). This demonstrates a shift from authoritative and hierarchical to vulnerable and democratized. A great leader in this new world of work assembles and/or collaborates with the right team and inspires every individual to find authentic leadership within themselves.

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