This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
For Leadership Lab, Dan MacKenzie, vice-president and general manager of NBA Canada, will be interviewing key players for their insights on leadership from the basketball court.
Every year, a new class of National Basketball Association rookies gathers for a four-day orientation called the Rookie Transition Program, designed to provide resources, life skills and decision-making models to prepare rookies for a career in professional basketball.
This year's class had a distinctly Canadian flavour with three Canadians in attendance – Andrew Wiggins (#1 pick, Cleveland Cavaliers but recently traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves), Nik Stauskas (#8 pick, Sacramento Kings) and Tyler Ennis (#18 pick, Phoenix Suns). Many lessons from the Rookie Transition Program are applicable to other young Canadians starting their careers.
Anyone starting a career faces challenges and pressures that are new to them. Dealing with these challenges in a professional manner is the key to building a solid reputation and launching a successful career.
Greg Taylor, the senior vice-president of player development for the NBA, manages programs to promote the personal, professional and social development of players. Here are four key points he hopes young players take away from the Rookie Transition Program in order to help them succeed not only as athletes, but businessmen and role models as well.
How to be a professional:
"Things as simple as the importance of being on time, dressing in proper business attire, actively engaging in a conversation – we want players to understand what it is to be a professional so they can show up in a room ready to go, ready to learn, ready to contribute," says Mr. Taylor.
This professionalism is important for basketball players and it is essential for young employees in more traditional vocations. To establish themselves as professionals, young employees need to look and dress the part. Even as many office cultures are becoming more casual, young employees should remember that in a business environment it is better to be overdressed or too formal in communications, than to go the opposite way and risk looking too casual or as if they are not taking their work seriously.
How to make the most of every opportunity through preparation:
Each year the NBA invites retired players to the Rookie Transition Program to share lessons from their experience in the league. These retired players drive home the importance of proper diet and sleep to perform on the court, and the benefits of learning about the business side of the league to prepare for life off the court. "NBA players who had long, successful careers talk over and over again about educating themselves about the team they were on and the city they were in; and how the efforts to learn about their trade paid off," says Mr. Taylor.
Applying this to business, there is a very good lesson about the importance of preparation. In the short-term, preparation means things like getting a good night's rest before a big presentation; longer term, it's about things like building your networks, developing your technical skills and consistently staying informed about industry news and trends.
How to manage your reputation:
The Rookie Transition Program emphasizes to players that everything they do or say will affect how they are perceived. "Particularly with the popularity of social media, players need to understand that everything they put out there is being assessed – whether it be by fans, teams or management – to understand and create judgment about their character. We want players to understand how to use social media in a way that positively promotes what they're trying to do and who they want to be," says Mr. Taylor.
This lesson resonated with Nik Stauskas. "Every decision we make – whether it's on or off the court – affects the image of the NBA either in a positive way or a negative way," says Mr. Stauskas. "It's important to realize that so we're always conscious of the decisions we make."
Most young employees are not under the same intense scrutiny as NBA players; however they need to remember that employers, colleagues, clients – anyone they connect with on a professional level – could see what they post on social media. If they want to build a reputation as a professional, the image they present through their social media channels needs to reflect that.
How to manage your money:
Mr. Taylor adds that financial management is an important focus of the orientation: "Just like any young professional coming into their first job, players need to learn how to make financial decisions: how to budget, how to save and responsible use of credit."
It's a good idea for all young employees – even those not on million dollar contracts – to learn something about financial management when they start to earn a paycheque. It helps ensure their career success translates to financial success.
The advice, which is designed for NBA rookies, is in fact a great playbook for any young employee about to launch their career.
Dan MacKenzie is the vice-president and general manager of NBA Canada (@nbacanada).