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Five Leadership Lessons I Learned Teaching Steve Kerr Yoga

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

“You must be a really great yoga teacher. You’ve got the entire Warriors staff here,” a student at the front desk told me as I checked others into my Saturday class.


I scanned the list of students. Despite my two years in SF, I could only recall one Warrior’s name: Steph Curry. (Perhaps, because my name is Steph, too.) That one wasn’t on the list.


I got better at spotting the Warriors branded gym bags on the shoulders of these public figures as they walked into my yoga studio. Then, I read that Coach Kerr was the influence behind their attendance. 


This spoke to me: A coach investing in his staff and team holistically.


I took note. And after having Coach Kerr in my yoga class every game day, I identified five things that made him an exceptionally great leader.


Here are the five leadership takeaways I learned from Coach Kerr – applicable for anyone leading a team:


1. Get their head in the game


Success is, perhaps exclusively, mental. When Coach Kerr gave his team yoga, he gave them mental clarity to navigate the game gracefully.


Have a direct report who underperforms under stress? Consider what you can do to elevate his or her mental state.


Introduce your team to empowerment poses or deep breathing techniques that will level their head.


Too “woo woo” for your management style?


If you have the seniority, champion a cleaner or calmer office environment for your team. (Preferably, with natural light.) Last and often overlooked, some thoughtful and personalized encouragement before or after an important meeting can go a long way toward getting their head in the game.


2. Invest in your team holistically


Often, we grind. Increasingly, companies offer benefits like catered lunches, nap pods, even overnight beds, intended to keep employees on site and working longer.

Like Kerr, consider nurturing your team holistically, with time away from the office, balance, and rest.


Support them in personal development. Let them know that it’s encouraged to be out of the office at a reasonable hour. Build rapport by allowing for personal conversation detours in your 1:1s.


Every yoga class ends with a pose called Savasana (corpse pose) where you literally lay on the ground like you’re dead and do nothing. Sometimes, holistic wellness means empowering your team to not do anything.


3. Lead by example


Coach Kerr didn’t make yoga class mandatory just to sit it out himself. He participated and sweat with his staff and team.


“Lead by example” should go without saying. If you want your team to work hard, get sweaty along with them.


4. Combat their fight or flight response with healthy routines


Cortisol, the stress hormone associated with your “fight or flight” response, triggers every time you receive an email. On average, it takes a full minute for your body to recover from each new email that hits your inbox.


Wellness coach, Julien Elizabeth, advocates that routine is the ultimate fight or flight anecdote. This is because daily routines, like having your morning smoothie or taking an afternoon walk, make you feel like today is just like every other day, no matter what stressful situation arises that would suggest otherwise.


By making yoga his staff’s game day tradition, Coach Kerr gave them a grounding routine and fight or flight deactivator to support level-headedness when it mattered most – court side. 


Offer your team similar anchors. Be on time to meetings. Avoid surprise deadlines. Protect their daily routines outside the workplace and cultivate positive habits, routines, and traditions at work. They will combat stress more effortlessly.



5. Gratitude, above all


Because my class averages 40 or 50 students, it’s understandable that many leave without connecting. But I look forward to every post-class connection, and I keep track. (10+ “thank yous” after a class usually means I did something right.)


“Thank you. Great class,” was common feedback from Coach Kerr and his group.


To be a great leader, use the words “thank you” liberally and often.



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