If you’ve followed the world of sports this past year, you’ll know that the industry on a whole was not exempt from the effects of 2020. Back in March, the NBA faced a four-month shut down amidst COVID-19 concerns before eventually making its safe return to a new facility in Orlando, FL that became known as “The Bubble.” The teams that participated in the season restart in July were challenged in unimaginable ways on multiple occasions. However, teams like our partners at the Miami HEAT, weathered every storm—even making an extraordinary run to reach the NBA Finals.
So, how does a sports team and the organization behind them come together during challenging times to not just survive, but thrive? To answer that question, we spoke to Eric Woolworth, President of Business Operations and Michael McCullough, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer of the Miami HEAT.
How do you empower new teammates to do their best work and how has that onboarding process evolved during this time?
“Make no mistake, these are uncharted waters for sports franchises around the world. And while the onboarding process in a global pandemic requires us to be creative in getting new employees up to speed on our processes and expectations, we lean on Pat Riley’s mantra that “the main thing is the main thing.” We have great confidence in the people we employ and we feed off of our diversity in backgrounds as well as the skills each and every one of us brings to the franchise. Getting out of the way and letting those skills shine at a time when creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness are necessary for success is the most prudent thing we do.”Eric Woolworth, President of Business Operations
How does your organization manage being a part of the changing world without losing focus of your goals?
“Our goals as an organization are unchanged by the pandemic. We are South Florida’s team and, with that, we take pride in being a good steward in the community. Before and during this pandemic, one of our goals has been to be available and consistent when it comes to the needs of our community away from basketball and away from the arena. From our stance in fighting for social justice to our food distribution drives to our school supply giveaways to our partnership with UKG in which we provided Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade, Inc. Healthy Home kits to retired military veterans, we are very much a part of the changing world and completely focused on our goals of serving the community.”Michael McCullough, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer
Did the definition of leadership change this year? If so, how will it change in the future?
“The definition of leadership hasn’t changed this year. If anything, the tenets that make up good leadership are reinforced. We don’t have a manual to navigate a pandemic, but we have our way of leading that has served us well for many years. Being listeners, showing empathy, and providing communication even when we may not have all of the answers are foundational elements to leadership that are not always talked about when these discussions arise. That mindset served as our guiding light before and during the pandemic and will be a key to helping us thrive afterward.”Eric Woolworth, President of Business Operations
Teamwork on and off the court shares many similarities. Successful teams empower one another to do their best and remain focused on their goals. Even during challenging times, teams who rally together and “keep the main thing the main thing” will ultimately thrive under any circumstances.
In all our roles, we have stakeholders whom we support, whether they are professional athletes or professional sales teams. If there’s anything we can take away from the success of the Miami HEAT this year, it’s that trying times don’t always require radical change. Sometimes, finding new ways to do the same great things you’ve always done is all it takes.
To learn more about the athletes who partner with UKG, be sure to visit the UKG Athlete’s page.