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Standing tall as a teammate

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

At 7 feet, 4 inches tall, Mark Eaton never has to look up to anyone. But he admires skilled performers who strengthen their team.

A former National Basketball Association All-Star for the Utah Jazz, Eaton appreciates the power of teamwork. Today, he serves as a speaker and corporate trainer.

Managing People at Work spoke to Eaton:

MPAW: What motivated you to become an NBA star?

Eaton: When I was at UCLA, I met Wilt Chamberlain. After watching me run up and down the court chasing little guys around, he saw I wasn't effective. He positioned me in front of the basket and said, "This is your job—to guard the basket." He helped me focus on the one thing I could be excellent at.

MPAW: How can managers identify that "one thing"?

Eaton: They can talk to their peers or a mentor and ask, "What's my greatest strength?" Then they know where to focus. If everyone on a team is contributing their greatest strength, the team will do well and individual accolades will follow.

MPAW: You urge managers to build trust with employees and serve as their protector. Is there a danger workers will grow complacent with a protective boss?

Eaton: Good managers don't just say, "I've got your back." They also empower their staff to do their jobs. Employees think, "If I do what my manager says, I'll succeed."

MPAW: Did you let your emotions show on the court?

Eaton: A certain degree of emotion is good to show that you care. In basketball, when you've lost three games in a row, fans are booing you and the team owner is standing there with his arms folded across his chest, you go back to your role on the team and become your own cheerleader.

MPAW: You played in the NBA for 12 years. That's quite a ca-reer.

Eaton: I asked my old junior college coach what was it that made me last so long. He said, "Mark, you always helped out your teammates."


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