Steve Kerr’s 30-Second Master Class on Building Relationships

We all know that great groups are powered by strong relationships. But here’s a question: How are great relationships really built?

For a behind-the-scenes look on how to do that, check out this video. It captures a series of interactions between Warriors coach Steve Kerr and all-star guard Steph Curry.

At first glance, this is a bit over the top. Curry already knows he’s good. Shouldn’t Kerr be challenging him? Pushing him to new heights?

The key is to realize that Kerr isn’t coaching; he’s building a bond. Let’s look more closely at how Kerr does it. Here’s what he says in one of the exchanges:

Love it. One of the things I love about you is you’re two for 11, and you have no hesitation about shooting a sixty footer… nobody in the league does that… You have so much confidence in yourself, and within games like this, you turn it on like that. That’s awesome. Amazing. I wish I had your confidence.

The first to notice here is the timing. Kerr delivers this signal in a moment of tension, just after Curry attempts an insane sixty-foot shot when he is having a bad game.  It’s a moment when a lot of coaches might be questioning that decision, or perhaps joking about it — Come on, sixty feet, are you crazy? Kerr does the opposite, because he understands that these moments of tension are exactly when the bonds are built, not in the easy moments of victory.

The other thing to notice is how specifically and personally Kerr shows his appreciation. He describes Curry’s impact in detail while signaling his own vulnerability. Nobody in the league does that… I could never do that. I wish I had your confidence. He also delivers one of the most powerful signals a leader can deliver, a burst of pure delight. (And it connects: check out at the expression on Curry’s face at the 27-second mark.) 

The final thing to notice is the repetition. Kerr knows it’s not enough to say these things once and presume Curry gets it. Kerr sends this relational message all the time, over and over and over, because that’s how bonds are sustained. Over-thanking and over-appreciating is not accidental — it’s required.   

And here’s the cool thing: None of this is complex, or dependent on technical knowledge of any kind. It requires only an alertness for the opportunity, and the ability to deliver simple signals — we are connected. I see you. I care