Teamwork

Coaching a Successful Team

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

-John Wooden

In 1948, Wooden became the coach of the UCLA Bruins—one of the weakest teams in the Pacific Conference. Setting records that still stand today, his UCLA teams went on an 88 game winning streak, securing 10 NCAA Championships in just 12 years, 7 of them in a row, and amassing 885 victories with just 203 losses. No coach had ever been so successful. But Coach Wooden didn’t count awards, medals, and championships. For him, success was not about winning. To paraphrase his words, success was the peace of mind found when you know you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

Coach Wooden developed a success system called the Pyramid of Success to teach his players on how to not only win on the court, but to win in life. The blocks of Wooden’s pyramid were important attributes that a person must exemplify to “win” or achieve their highest goals. The foundational bottom row included industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation and enthusiasm. Stacked above these basics were upper-tier qualities such as self-control, initiative, skill, confidence and poise.

Wooden told his players to adopt each quality into their characters as they worked toward competitive greatness, which is the top block of the pyramid. In Coach Wooden’s mind, competitive greatness was reached when you were able to “be at your best when your best is needed.” He believed that to arrive at the “top” you had to work through the blocks of the pyramid—and do so consistently.

I believe that it’s not just enough to arrive at the top. I agree with Coach Wooden that you must consistently work your way through the blocks. You can’t “rest on your laurels” once you’ve arrived and expect to stay there. As a team leader, the best thing that you can do for your team is to model success principles for them to follow, by not only being an example, but also being their coach. You must do these things in tandem. You can’t develop yourself then focus all your efforts on developing your team. Consistently striving to be your best and help others on your team be their best is the way to build a strong and successful team.

Question: What are you doing to be a better coach?

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