Steve Nash: how to boost your teams performance

Phoenix Suns had won 29 basketball games and lost 53 in a season. Then they got Steve Nash on their team. The next year, they won 62 games and lost just 20! And while they lost the conference finals, Nash was deemed the MVP!

Nash has one of the best 3 point shooting averages the game has ever seen. He plunks in over 42% of the three pointers. But it wasn’t his shooting skills that made his team win.

It was what Nash did to people around him. Nash is magic. His numbers are prolific, but people who play with him improve by a whole standard deviation.

Amar’e Stoudemire, who used to average 13.5 points per game, suddenly started averaging 26 points! He scored an insane 50 points in a game too! And that’s not an anomaly. Seven of Nash’s team mates attained career highs in their season’s scoring!

Nash improves the game of everyone around him. But how? 

The mystery of the Bell Labs patents

During World War 2, Bell Labs took on nearly a 1000 projects to help the military. They worked on everything from communication devices to machines that encrypted messages to oxygen masks in airplanes.

9000 people worked on various problems. The number of patents they were churning out was insane. Someone in their legal department sought out to find patterns – was there any common principle that explained why certain individuals were more prolific and created more breakthroughs than others?

At first, they didn’t find any common patterns. Except that everyone had been hired by Bell Labs. But soon, they stumbled on a weird fact. Most of their top 10 patent creators often shared breakfast or lunch with the same electrical engineer. 

Bill Nyquist.

Nyquist was to Bell Labs what Steve Nash was to the Phoenix Suns. Nyquist himself didn’t have a lot of innovations and patents to his name. But what he did was he improved the game of everyone around him.

But how? 

What does Nyquist actually do?

Bell Labs asked all the scientists and engineers on how Nyquist helped them. It wasn’t that Nyquist gave them specific ideas or direction. But somehow conversing with him just made their thinking more clear.

After speaking to a lot of engineers who knew Nyquist, they learnt two things that he did differently:

  1. Nyquist drew people out. He had a very gentle personality and made people feel secure. People felt safe to share their ideas.
  2. Nyquist asked good questions. And had a back and forth flow of conversations even on topics he wasn’t an expert on. These questions improved the clarity.

That’s it. And it’s the same two things Steve Nash does on the basketball court with his team mates.

  1. Everyone loves playing with Nash. Because he makes them feel confident and secure. He makes shooting safer for them. People shared the ball more.
  2. Nash himself passes the ball with extreme efficiency. The ball goes back and forth till it is in the hands of the person who is standing clear and has the best opportunity to score.

It’s not surprising at all that Steve Nash led the whole NBA in assists for 5 years! He averaged 11.5 assists per game!

Safety + Clarity

Those are the two ingredients. Safety improves sharing. The back and forth process of sharing creates clarity. And clarity improves hitting the goal more often.

But it requires a particular type of mindset to create safety and improve the clarity for everyone around you. Either with asking questions or by playmaking and passing with higher efficiency. You’ve got to become:


You have to throttle back on your urge to be noticed. To be the centre of attention. And instead, shine the light on others. As John Maxwell says: “Be impressed with others instead of trying to make an impression.”

That’s the key to elevating everyone around you. To make them perform at their best. 

Maxwell’s strategy of being unselfish

John Maxwell is a small town pastor who became one of the biggest corporate coaches and leadership experts in the world. People pay him to teach them how to improve their teams.

He teaches them the 30 second rule. Challenge yourself so that within 30 seconds of every conversation, you shift the focus away from you to others. How? By following the triple A treatment.

  • Attention. Pay attention to others.
  • Affirmation. Acknowledge their expertise. Be agreeable to them.
  • Appreciation. Find one thing to praise them for.

This triple A treatment empowers others. It makes them feel heard. It makes them feel safe and come out of their shells. So that they share more. And score more.

Action Summary:

  • Drop your ego. Be unselfish. Show more interest in others than yourself. Provide more attention and appreciation. And you’ll be surprised as to how productive they become.