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Help the Helper: Building a Culture of Extreme Teamwork

Help the Helper: Building a Culture of Extreme Teamwork

by Kevin Pritchard, John Eliot

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 “The real lessons of teamwork don’t happen on camera. They happen behind the closed doors of locker rooms and team meetings and practice facilities. Kevin and John open those closed doors. All you need to do is get reading!”  —Larry Bird

“Help the helper” is a basketball motto preached by some of the


 “The real lessons of teamwork don’t happen on camera. They happen behind the closed doors of locker rooms and team meetings and practice facilities. Kevin and John open those closed doors. All you need to do is get reading!”  —Larry Bird

“Help the helper” is a basketball motto preached by some of the sport’s legendary coaches, including Dean Smith and Phil Jackson. All good players know they should support a teammate who’s under pressure. But the true greats know how to take it one step further. They fill the gaps left behind when one teammate goes to help another—gaps that are often far from the bas­ket and out of the spotlight. The true greats step up in quiet ways to make sure no subtle holes develop on defense and no opportunities are missed on offense.


Help the Helper will show you how to put this level of teamwork to work in your business, to build a cul­ture that recognizes and rewards those who help the helper—even when they don’t have sexy statistics. In the process, it will teach you how to de-emphasize the CEO/quarterback/superstar and effectively redefine leadership. You’ll learn, for instance, how to:

  • Create a dynasty of unselfishness.
  • Manage energy, not people.
  • Eat obstacles for breakfast.
  • Act like an “unleader.”

Consider how it works in the hospitality industry. In a great restaurant you don’t have to wait for your server to check on you; your needs are taken care of instantaneously, sometimes before you notice them. Everyone from the busboy to the maître d’ has one goal: the success of the team. Such coordination seems complicated for a small eatery, nearly impossible for a large organization. But it’s easier than you think.

For a combined forty years, Pritchard and Eliot have focused on building high-performing groups. They’ve crushed Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule, logging upward of 50,000 hours studying the factors that create champions and dynasties, from the NBA and Major League Baseball to the Fortune 500. Exhaustive testing, scouting, and evaluating have taught them that truly special teams in all fields have one common denominator: a willingness to do what­ever it takes to help the helper.

Drawing on true and inspirational stories from sports to medicine to business, Help the Helper shows what’s behind the curtain that fuels great team performance.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Pritchard, a former NBA player and former general manager for the Portland Trail Blazers (and current director of personnel for the Indiana Pacers), and Eliot, cofounder of a Stanford University leadership initiative and former performance consultant for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, show how outstanding teams build a culture that recognizes and rewards those who help the helper. “Helping the helper,” a term coined by basketball coach Dean Smith, is what Pritchard and Eliot term “a willingness to do whatever it takes to help others succeed”—the pinnacle of teamwork. Their unique perspective and insight into the turnaround of once ailing basketball teams offer a fresh set of sports examples that business leaders will find relevant. Throughout, the authors showcase the types of behavior great teams demonstrate, from possessing a desire to be part of something bigger than oneself to boasting about others rather than themselves and valuing the identity of the organization over their own. Pritchard and Eliot show how to identify and turn around those who aren’t on board and explain why assessing a “good fit” is pointless when making new hires. Readers looking for new approaches to effective leadership will be able to use the book’s valuable lessons. Agent: James A. Levine, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Business-advice book emphasizing the importance of selfless teamwork. Indiana Pacers general manager Pritchard and leadership professor Eliot (Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance, 2004) approach their "help the helper" theme from a wide variety of angles, some of them barely distinguishable from the others. Though the near-repetition gives the book a tired feeling at points, the authors offer interesting, instructive anecdotes. Sports fans--especially basketball, baseball and football--will quite likely relate to the dozens of illustrative examples from the realm of athletics, especially when the authors recount their firsthand experiences. Readers unfamiliar with the players or coaches may become bored or confused or both. Those readers, however, should be able to relate to the examples drawn from various business sectors, such as restaurants. Pritchard and Eliot explain that a restaurant adopting the most effective teamwork approach would hire servers and managers who place customers above all else. If a customer sitting at a table in the sector of server A asks for a clean fork from server B, server B will bring the fork immediately--although server A might benefit from a slightly larger tip later in the evening. In addition to pithy lessons about leadership, the book is salted with brief quotations from significant leaders, including Gandhi: "Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men." A welcome relief from business books filled with dog-eat-dog advice.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Kevin Pritchard is the general manager for the Indiana Pacers and a former general manager for the Portland Trail Blazers. He was a member of the Kansas Jayhawks NCAA champi­onship team in 1988 and played for five NBA teams.

John Eliot, Ph.D., is a decorated university pro­fessor and a consultant to professional athletes and coaches, Fortune 500 com­panies, and medical cen­ters worldwide. In twenty years of practice, 100 per­cent of his clients have won pennants, championships, or gold medals.

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