Court­side coach­ing HR lessons from Canada’s top bas­ket­ball coach

Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Hindsight -

By Court­ney Sy­mons

Like most peo­ple, Car­leton Ravens bas­ket­ball coach Dave Smart finds los­ing an­noy­ing. Less com­mon is the fear Mr. Smart once said he feels when win­ning.

Sev­eral years ago, Mr. Smart – who be­came the win­ningest coach in Cana­dian In­teruni­ver­sity Sports bas­ket­ball his­tory this spring – told an in­ter­viewer that suc­cess makes it more dif­fi­cult to change di­rec­tion as help­ful in­no­va­tion can eas­ily turn into de­struc­tive tin­ker­ing.

It’s a fine line Mr. Smart has suc­cess­fully walked in re­cent years, lead­ing his team to nine cham­pi­onships in 11 years and rack­ing up an 88-game win­ning streak be­tween 2002-05.

Along the way, Mr. Smart de­vel­oped some of the same skills com­mon to many suc­cess­ful hu­man re­sources pro­fes­sion­als, such as in­te­grat­ing new play­ers onto an es­tab­lished team, pro­vid­ing feed­back and man­ag­ing turnover.

With the Ravens pre­par­ing to play host next spring for the 2013-14 CIS Fi­nal 8, Mr. Smart re­flected on some of the HR lessons he’s learned over the years. TAC­TICS FOR IN­TE­GRAT­ING NEW TEAM MEM­BERS: “A lot of it is based on the vet­eran guys mak­ing them com­fort­able and hav­ing them feel like there is some­one look­ing out for them be­yond the coach. A lot of it is in­te­grat­ing them with folks that have been through it. We have a men­tor­ship pro­gram with our alumni who help the younger kids.” IDEN­TI­FY­ING TAL­ENT: “See­ing tal­ent isn’t that dif­fi­cult. See­ing char­ac­ter within that tal­ent and a drive within that tal­ent is a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult. The ad­van­tage we have is that we can take as long as we want re­cruit­ing them, so we get to know them, we get to know their back­ground and get a good idea about whether that tal­ent is go­ing to get to where its po­ten­tial al­lows it to.” PRO­VID­ING CRIT­I­CAL FEED­BACK: “It de­pends on the per­son­al­ity, on the sit­u­a­tion, on the talks you’ve had with the in­di­vid­ual be­fore­hand and what their ex­pec­ta­tions for them­selves are. I think ev­ery­body has to be treated dif­fer­ently.” DEAL­ING WITH TURNOVER: “I don’t know if we re­ally try to min­i­mize turnover. I think some turnover is good. We don’t want turnover, but if you try so hard to avoid turnover you tend not to be push­ing peo­ple to the lim­its they need to be pushed to. I think the key is to make them set their stan­dards higher than you’ve got for them, and then turnover doesn’t hap­pen. But if you limit your stan­dards in or­der to avoid turnover, well, you keep peo­ple in the pro­gram that re­ally aren’t help­ing.” MOV­ING ON: “I don’t re­ally look at any­thing out­side. I’ve got a young fam­ily, we like the city, and the univer­sity treats me well. I like where I’m at. I’ve had of­fers, but I never let them go any­where. The bot­tom line is I’d have to leave my play­ers. You’ve re­cruited those play­ers, you’ve gone through a lot with them, you’ve asked them to go through a lot with you ... It gets to a point where you can talk all you want, but is it re­ally just an ego thing where you want to hear how good peo­ple think you are? For me, I know it’s not go­ing any­where (job of­fers), I don’t need to hear how good other peo­ple think I might be when I know I’m go­ing to say no at the end of the day.”

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