THE REASONS OF A FAILURE

Last summer the Los Angeles Lakers signed the superstar LeBron James a four-year, $153.3 million contract. The basic assumption was that the team would be participating to playoffs in 2019. But it didn’t happen. Why?

The easiest thing would be to point out the amount of injuries the Lakers suffered throughout the season. It’s true: several key players missed at least 20 games in the regular season. However, injuries are part of the game and the Lakers aren’t the only team that had to battle through them in 2018-2019.

Another factor is that the team’s results were bad because of the way the roster (the team) was constructed over the summer: an eccentric cast of characters. They were coached by Luke Walton, who was on the “hot seat” (at risk) since the season’s start. Walton didn’t do himself any favors with the decisions he made with his personnel, but probably he also wasn’t put in the best position to succeed.

But the key point for me is another one, and is dated Feb 2019: when Anthony Davis was supposed to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers.

THE DAVIS SAGA & ITS NEGATIVE EFFECTS TO TEAM

Anthony Davis is undoubtedly a superstar in the NBA. In February he told his team, the New Orleans Pelicans, that he wanted to join The Lakers. So the “trade saga” (named “The Davis saga”) started: the Lakers made several trade proposals to the Pelicans, but all were knocked back. Young Lakers talents Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and the more senior Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley were offered to New Orleans. Five players in total. Despite all the advantages coming from this trade, the Pelicans refused to let Davis leave.

Since the trade deadline passed, this situation destroyed the Lakers team’s chemistry:  it’s clear that when five players are supposed to be traded, the trust inside the team is definitely broken. Rest of season was a basketball tragedy: very negative track record and no playoff contention, that was the minimum goal set at the beginning of the year.

IS THERE A LESSON HERE FOR CORPORATE BUSINESS?

In their lifecycle, all companies live different challenges. Especially in the start-up phase, or in the recovery phase, their brand could be not appealing for the “best-in-class professionals” in the sector. Let’s rephrase it as following: only some of best-in-class could “see” exciting the opportunity to be the pillars of a turn-around phase, inside companies that aim to reinvent – almost from scratch – a new successful story. This transition can be painful and requiring time, energy, hard work, stress. Frustrations and difficulties as rules. It’s definitely something not for everybody.

For all this said, it can happen that before (re)gaining appeal, those kind of companies hire young talents available to take risk and (or) qualified professionals “in the market average” seeking for new opportunities to enhance their level. Only the ones that believe in the project accept the challenge. If they really do, a team composed of “average professional” can end up achieving outstanding results. Well, results always make noise in the market. The brand could emerge and curiosity now could arise in some best-in-class. The company could be ready for the next step: having the chance to hire them.

Now, if you are leading such a situation, you should be careful. This is a crucial step: if not well managed, a wrong hire of a best-in-class could impact negatively on the team’s morale – with negative consequences in the next future. Actually, it’s true the opposite, as well: when the process of onboarding such good professionals is well managed, most of the other team members could develop into the best version of themselves in terms of abilities and self-confidence.

In any case, it’s a very delicate situation: as every bet, it can lead to a terrific improvement of the team or to its damage, or even destruction.

With the Anthony Davis saga, the Lakers unfortunately fall into this last case. Even worst, actually, because at the end Anthony Davis did neither move from New Orleans. The final result for the Lakers was a disaster: Davis, the best-in-class player did not join the team, and this one collapsed in mistrust.

@ Business people: pay attention to similar situations. When an opportunity to onboard best-in-class people shows up, it’s important to analyze deeply what could happen to the existing team. Eventually, let’s involve them in this kind of decisions: transparency always pays off, and similar situation could even reinforce the team spirit. It’s important to be careful and grateful to the ones that believed – and believe – in your project. Since the beginning, your dream became their dream. No hiring process of best-in-class should change this. If care and respect for the team are there, eventual new great hires could make the company fly to the next level of growth path.

Any experience to share about this?

Giancarlo Pozzoli