I’m a bit of a podcast junkie. Sometime soon I’ll share a list of my favorite podcasts and look forward to hearing about some of your favorites as well.
In the meantime, I want to share with you my favorite podcast episode I’ve listened to in a long time. I know most readers on this site are followers of Christ—this podcast is not a Christian podcast, but the topic is as “Christian” as it comes—humility.
The podcast is the TED WorkLife Podcast with Adam Grant, and the specific episode is called The Problem with All-Stars (click here for a desktop version with transcript). Grant is an organizational psychologist and the podcast “takes you inside some of the world’s most unusual workplaces to discover the keys to better work.”
In The Problem with All-Stars, Grant looks at humility, which he says is the hidden ingredient in great teams. The truths of this short podcast episode apply to all team contexts—workplace, sports teams, church staffs, and so much more.
He starts off with an interview with retired NBA player, Shane Battier. Here’s a little bit of a bio on Battier:
- He’s the only basketball player to win both the high school and college national player of the year awards.
- He’s a graduate of
- He won two championship rings with the Miami Heat (and also played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets).
- His career stats won’t “wow” anyone, but low stats can be deceiving (which is largely the point of this episode).
Battier was the best of the best in high school and college. But, when he got drafted into the NBA, he realized everyone was much more talented than him. He was no longer the best. As a result, many focused more on his deficits than his strengths.
But Battier overcame the criticisms and became a central part of the Miami Heat when they won 2 NBA Championships in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
The reason why he was a central part of the team’s success is because he asked himself this question:
How can I make my team better when I’m not the biggest star?
A little backstory will help. In 2010, the Miami Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They joined Dwayne Wade (who was already on the Heat) to become the NBA’s first Super Team. In the press conference when James and Bosh announced their signings, James claimed the Heat would win as many as seven NBA Championships starting with the 2010-11 season.
To everyone’s surprise, the Heat didn’t win in 2010-11. When everyone wants to be the alpha dog, you have a problem.
That all changed when the Heat signed Battier. His goal was not to the best small forward in the NBA but to be the best small forward for his team and it made all the difference. He made everyone around him better and became known as the “No-Stats All-Star.” Battier made others on his team more efficient and opponents less effective. He did it by setting picks, diving for loose balls, playing lockdown defense, and embodying a whole lot of enthusiasm and hustle. None of that shows up on the personal stat sheet but it does show up in the win column!
In sports, we define star by the statistics on the court, says Michael Lewis, author of the book Moneyball and Blind Side. He goes on to say that you need other people to play a role other than the one who takes the shots all the time. Stars are overrated, and role players are underrated.
Grant goes on to talk about the idea of humility—being grounded and from the earth. When I think of humility, I think of the following:
- John 3:30: He must become greater; I must become less (said by John the Baptist about Jesus).
- Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Keep reading through verse 11—Jesus provides the perfect and ultimate picture of humility).
- James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.
Grant and Battier go on to say that people who are humble demonstrate the following three actions:
- They recognize their own shortcomings and limitations and behave differently in response.
- They appreciate the strengths of others, give credit where it’s due, and highlight the team’s success over their individual achievements.
- And, they show openness to learning from others.
Humility is contagious. When we spend time with others who embody humility, it rubs off on us. This makes everything and everyone around us better.
What would it be like if you and I practiced a humility that celebrated others over ourselves? What if we appreciated the strengths of others and gave credit away instead of trying to steal it and hog it for ourselves?
For me, this looks like celebrating the amazing speaking gifts of others on our church staff instead of coveting their talents and opportunities. Or, it might be me affirming the efforts of others on the team instead of craving the praise of man.
What is it for you? How can you better celebrate those around you and demonstrate humility?
This is what I want to do in ministry—make the team better and others better. Hopefully this is what you desire on your teams as well.
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