The Power of the "No Look Pass"
Updated: Aug 19, 2019
One of my all-time favourite personalities is the retired LA Lakers basketball player and top urban entrepreneur Magic Johnson. I have admired him since he played as a rookie and lead the Lakers to a 6th game victory in the NBA finals in 1980. Apart from his sheer athletic ability, drive and discipline, what I admired most about Magic was his ability to lead with confidence. By this I don't mean confidence in himself but in his team, the other four players on the court with him during the high paced encounters. It is no accident that today while many sports people seem to have faded with time, Magic is a hugely successful business mogul who continues to inspire those around him. There are many lessons to be learnt about leadership from watching Magic play. I think the phenomenon which can be used to most eminently sum up his style is “The No Look Pass". Magic was one of the main proponents of this intricate, risky but devastatingly effective way of passing the ball.
This is Leadership
The No-Look-Pass is performed when a player looks in one direction but passes the ball to his target in another direction.
Let’s take a look at the pass itself and then we can analyse its relevance in building effective teams today. Here is a video of the top 10 No Look Passes of Magic’s career
1. To execute this pass, it requires 100% trust in the ability of the other player to be able to receive the pass and score a point -This is the same level of trust a leader needs in their teams to effectively execute instructions and close projects. This trust takes time to build and can only be done by sharing authentic experiences and working on tough challenges with your teammates.
2. The passer needs to master the art of passing - It sounds obvious, but how many of us have witnessed leaders who just don't know how to lead? If you are working in a fast-paced team there is an expectation of competence for each member of the team. Many teams fail because the disparity between skill level and expectation is so high that it becomes impossible to communicate effectively.
3. The players must anticipate each other’s next move - In team dynamics terms, this is empathetic leadership, a real leader must learn to anticipate the needs of her team so that she can provide all of the resources needed to achieve the task successfully
4. Pass the ball to where they going, not where they are - You will notice than when Magic passes the ball into an open space, he has an expectation that his team mates will be there. All teams need to have clarity about the objectives and the vision, they rely on the leaders to be able to share that vision with conviction. When the best leaders share their visions, the team members just show up and do what is expected when expected.
5. The passer reads the eyes of the defender - This is very, very important, Magic can anticipate the reaction of the defender because he can read the defender´s intentions. Top leaders are always reading, researching and looking to gain more knowledge on the industry, competition and the market. This trait helps them make the right decisions and reduces the risk of throwing the ball into an empty space.
6. Accept responsibility - Magic knows that if he executes a pass that his team mate does not pick up on, it is his responsibility, there is no blame to be heaped on another player. A trait of a good leader is that they just step up and accept responsibility without looking to blame anyone if anything goes wrong.
7. Always be ready - The no look pass can go to anyone in the team so everyone should be prepared - As a leader your role is to make sure that your teams are ready to take on a task, role or project at any time. This means that you must provide an environment of investing in their skills and knowledge. In today´s fast paced market rather like a basketball game, if you blink you miss it. Top leaders make it a habit to train with their teams to be able to react to industry trends and changes.
8. Celebrate success - Upon successful completion of a pass and the corresponding 2 or 3 points, the team celebrate. This is one of my favourite tips for good leadership, celebrate successes with the whole team not just those on the field but those on the bench also.
When Earl "Magic" Marvin Johnson retired from the game in 1991 people thought he would simply disappear into the annals of sporting history. 20 years later this hulk of a man and has turned his formidable leadership skills to building a business empire that today employs over 50,000 people and continues to lead and create value for others.
Not everyone has the formidable skill set that Magic has to play basketball, but as leaders we can work tirelessly to build these values into our teams, there is nothing better than being part of a team that has learnt how to execute the "no look pass"