Tag Archives: John Wooden

From Roger Staubach to Title IX Babies – Athletic Endeavor Really Can Lead to Business Success

Roger Staubach: Super Bowl Winner in Football -- Super Bowl winner in Business (Real Estate)

Legendary is not a strong enough word.  Here in Dallas, whatever punch the word “legendary” carries, it is not enough to describe the name Roger Staubach.  The winner of two Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach is simply the man.  And his success on the field carried over into a vast Real Estate success.  When I moved to Dallas in 1987, it seemed that the name Roger Staubach was always staring at me from one corner or another.

We have always known that athletic contests build some kind of inner something that carries over into life in ways that are almost too numerous to mention, or even fully grasp.  Now researchers are trying to find those ways.

And it is true for women as well as men.  In a fascinating article on the Daily Beast, Female Jocks Rule the World by Danielle Friedman, we learn quite a bit about this.  Here are a number of excerpts.  (I will follow with a few observations of my own).

Athletic women make more money and hold more upper-management positions than those who shun sports—and their numbers are growing. Danielle Friedman on why it pays to play.

But the young entrepreneurs have undoubtedly carried lessons from their days as varsity athletes into the boardroom, attributing many of their managerial skills to their sporty pasts.

“Our coach always had us write our goals on the back of our hands to be constantly reminded of them, to give one example,” says Jenny Carter Fleiss, who was captain of her track team in Riverdale, New York. “Today, I still keep a list of my personal goals posted right in front of me—and encourage everyone else at Rent the Runway to do this—as a constant reminder of the bigger-picture things we’re working on.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Carter Fleiss and Hyman are in good company. Former high school and college athletes of all abilities hold positions of power in an array of arenas, from Sarah Palin (basketball) to Ellen DeGeneres (tennis). Eight-two percent of executive businesswomen played organized sports after elementary school, according to a 2002 study by mutual fund company Oppenheimer, and evidence suggests that figure will likely rise over the next few decades, as more post-Title IX babies enter the workforce.

“There’s a whole lot of anecdotal evidence that disparities between women and men in the workplace are caused by a lack of athletic training and experience,” says Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. “We’d now like to do the research to prove it.”

In addition to gaining valuable skills, women who played (or passionately follow, for that matter) sports gain unique access to “boys” networks that they’d otherwise be excluded from, experts say. Also compelling: The Oppenheimer study found that one in six adult women identify themselves as athletic—but the figure rises to almost half of women who make more than $75,000.

Stevenson found that ramping up girls’ participation in sports had a direct effect on their education and employment, explaining about 20 percent of the increase in education and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for women ages 25 to 34,

“It’s not just that the people who are going to do well in life play sports, but that sports help people do better in life,” Stevenson told Parker-Pope. “While I only show this for girls, it’s reasonable to believe it’s true for boys as well.”

…evidence suggests that participating in an organized sport can benefit nearly all women, deeply instilling lessons from the value of practice to teamwork, says Kolbert. It provides participants with a peer group, and a feeling of inclusion. And perhaps most importantly, it helps cultivate resilience.

My observations:
I was a tennis player.  (The operative word is “was”).  I was ranked fairly high in Texas my Senior year in high school, had a great, great experience on my tennis teams, both in high school and in college, and my college degree was substantially paid for by my tennis scholarship.  I was good – not anywhere near great (I could not challenge the best – and in my years, the best was Trinity University), but good.

To this day, when I run into an old tennis buddy or opponent, my heart beats faster, and the conversation just starts flying.

In my years studying business success, the wisdom of a good coach or athlete seems to lift the level of the thought and conversation.  On this blog, the single most viewed article we’ve ever had (fueled somewhat by his death) was about John Wooden – simply the greatest coach who ever lived.  (Here’s the article: Wisdom from Coach Wooden: “A coach is someone who can give correction without creating resentment”).  And blog posts about Peyton Manning, Coach Bear Bryant, Tony Dungy, John Madden, all have brought more than the average number of page views than articles about the other mere mortals in business seem to generate.

And in one area of business endeavor, the illustrations just seem to come in an avalanche:  the 10,000 hour rule, and the need for deliberate practice, is simply best explained by athletic discipline success stories (though music stories, dance stories, and many others, could certainly make the point in powerful ways also).  Though Malcolm Gladwell includes stories of Bill Gates and the Beatles in his discussion of the 10,000 hour rule in Outliers, he begins it with stories of Canadian Junior Hockey and international junior soccer competition.

And if you want to understand the impact of, the power of, work ethic and discipline and the need for constant improvement, you may as well just bow down to the legendary practices of such athletes as Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice and Peyton Manning and Nolan Ryan and…

And if you want the best cautionary tales, just check into stories of athletes who could have been great, but lacked those qualities that could have kept them on the path to such greatness.  (For one such cautionary tale, just consider the tale of one-game-wonder Clint Longley, the “mad bomber.”  A great quarterback that never was…)

The article I quoted above offers a lot to help us understand the power of such athletic undergirdings to business success.  But here’s something else to throw in the mix.  When I read about deliberate practice, the place/role of a good coach, the 10,000 hour rule, I do look back on my athletic successes, but my athletic failures and disappointments are what I really remember.  And in remembering those, I feel somewhat driven to do better at this chapter of my life.  Maybe the challenge of athletic disappointment drives us to do better at doing better later in life.

I guess all of this is my way of saying that I am not surprised at the evidence that athletic endeavor — practice, teamwork, competition, the role of a good coach — all help lead to success later in life.

And for women to rise as fast as they have after the adoption of Title IX — well, let’s just say we shouldn’t be surprised.

Coaching Anyone? – Some Practical Ideas You Can Use Right Now

Recently, I delivered my synopsis on the now classic Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner.

From the book, here are the seven essentials of encouraging:

1.              Set clear standards
2.              Expect the best
3.              Pay attention
4.              Personalize recognition
5.              Tell the story
6.              Celebrate together
7.              Set the example

Side comment:  in Susan Scott’s excellent book, Fierce Leadership, she encourages every leader to intentionally plan, and then initiate, those important conversations they need to have.  She suggests that every leader prepare, carry around, and use this sheet of paper:

Conversations I Need To Have:

Name:  _____________________________   Topic: _____________________________

Name:  _____________________________   Topic: _____________________________

Name:  _____________________________   Topic: _____________________________

In the midst of the presentation of the Kouzes and Posner book, I shared this idea.  Take a sheet of paper.  Turn it sideways.  Draw four boxes – one box for each of the four people that you most need to coach/mentor/encourage.  (If you have more than four, then use two sides of the sheet of paper).

Assign one of the four names to each of the boxes.  Divide each box into two halves.  And, constantly update, and use your notes to have those crucial, improant conversations.

Each box will look something like this:

A couple of observations.  If you actually want to help people get “better,” and get the best out of people, it is important to do more praising than correcting.  A lot more praising.

Second observation:  a retired military sergeant told me that the boxes look very similar to an initiative that he followed in the military.  The point was the same, but the wording was different.  Instead of praise/teach & correct, they used:  sustain/improve.

I think this is a practical way to help a coach serve more effectively, and especially more intentionally.

(One footnote:  John Wooden used to plan all of his practice sessions, to the minute, on 3×5 cards. And he was very intentional and direct, calling players by name, praising them, and teaching/correcting them).

John Wooden – Exemplar of Intrinsic Motivation

I have always deeply admired John Wooden.  I wrote this post about him last October, and this brief tribute after his death.  But now, after a couple of days of reading/hearing a lot more about him, I want to add, or at least reinforce, a couple of observations.

#1  John Wooden was an exemplar of intrinsic motivation.

In Drive by Daniel Pink, Pink writes this:

If someone’s baseline rewards aren’t adequate, or equitable, her focus will be on the unfairness of her situation and the anxiety of her circumstance.  You’ll get neither the predictability of extrinsic motivation nor the weirdness of intrinsic motivation.  You’ll get very little motivation at all.  But once we’re past that threshold, carrots and sticks can achieve precisely the opposite of their intended aims.

What he says is simple, and makes sense.  If there is enough money to take care of the “baseline,” then money is “off the table,” and one can concentrate on what is important to that individual.

John Wooden was motivated by this:  he wanted to teach.

From Wikipedia: “He never made more than $35,000 a year salary (not including camps and speaking engagements), including 1975, the year he won his 10th national championship, and never asked for a raise,” wrote Rick Reilly of ESPN.

So, yes, Coach Wooden was paid adequately, but he clearly was not motivated by money.  He was motivated by his hunger and drive to teach.  In his own words:

What am I?  Just a teacher – a member of one of the great professions in the world.

In the Los Angeles Times article by Mike Penner, written on the 99th birthday of Coach Wooden (which I quoted in my blog post), he reported that Wooden turned down an offer to coach the Lakers from owner Jack Kent Cooke that may have been 10 times what UCLA was paying him.

Why did he do that?  How could he do that?  Was he crazy?  Quick – name another person who would have turned down such a massive amount of money.  Actually, there are others.  Pat Tillman left his NFL salary to serve his country.  But, admittedly, the list is short.

Wooden turned it down because he viewed himself as a teacher, and he simply was not in it for the money.  His motivation came from within, from something that came close to a sense of calling.  He was the exemplar of intrinsic motivation.

#2 – Coach Wooden was a great teacher.

As I read about his life after his death, here is a message that is being repeated often:  he grew closer to his former players after his wife’s death.  What kept them so close to him?  For most of them, he was only around them for one chapter of their life – the college chapter.  They had other coaches, other teachers.  Why so close to him?

I think this. They remembered the impact he had made on them, and they wanted to recapture just a little more of it.  Or, at least, to remember it a little better.  He was a truly sincere, utterly memorable teacher.  Listen to his players.  They all seem to remember individual practice session, individual comments, and of course the lesson on how to put on your socks.

He loved to teach.  And it has been oft reported that what he missed most after leaving coaching was the practice sessions.  Not the games; not the championships; the practice sessions (the teaching sessions).

Those are just 2 observations.  I could go on and on.  There seems so much to learn from Coach Wooden.  I hope you are reading a few of the articles out there.

The list of lessons is long – as it should be.  We have lost a remarkable human being.

John Wooden: Coach, Author, Role Model, and so much more: 1910-2010

There are good men and women who coach sports teams.  There are good coaches who may not be such good people.  And every now and then, there is a great coach and an even better person wrapped up in one human being.

John Wooden was one such person.  I don’t know that the list of others would be very long.  He was, after all, the greatest basketball coach in history.

Yesterday, my blog post Wisdom from Coach Wooden: “A coach is someone who can give correction without creating resentment,” which I wrote last October, spiked up dramatically in page views.  But I was swamped, and had missed the news that Coach Wooden was gravely ill.  Then Bob Morris sent me a moving e-mail.  Bob used to do a little coaching on his own, and he once met John Wooden, and kept Wooden’s pyramid of success up in the locker room.  (See my earlier post for a good look at the pyramid – and a recap of his phenomenal record as a coach).

And tonight, Coach Wooden is dead.  He died at the age 99, having outlived his wife of 53 years, Nellie, by more than two decades.

I’ve read three obituaries so far.  The best one is from the New York Times.  (Read it here – it is worth reading).

I share just a couple of excerpts from the Times:

Wooden was a dignified, scholarly man who spoke with the precise language of the English teacher he once was. He always carried a piece of paper with a message from his father that read:
“Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day.”

Wooden said he lived by that creed.  Apparently every one who knew him, especially everyone who played for him, would affirm that he did exactly that.

He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings, that we earned our degrees, that we learned to make the right choices as adults and as parents.
“In essence,” Abdul-Jabbar concluded, “he was preparing us for life.”

Reinforcement for that 10,000 hour rule and the Power of Deliberate Practice (from Coach Wooden, Gladwell, Colvin, and Levitt & Dubner)

I first learned of the 10,000 hour rule — it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at/to truly master any skill –from reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Then I learned more about how to spend the 10,000 hours in “deliberate practice” from Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.

Here’s more.  In Superfreakonomics, Levitt and Dubner refer back to the “father” of the 10,000 hour rule, K. Anders Ericsson.  And yesterday, at a lunch gathering, I presented my synopsis of Wooden on Leadership, by the great, legendary, best-ever-coach John Wooden.  Though he does not refer to the concept directly, he provided the true “deliberate practice” model, with each session of his practices planned to the minute…

So — here are a few reminders from each of these authors, with brief comment a time or two:

From Wooden:
Have a definite practice plan – and follow it.
The coach must never forget that he is, first of all, a teacher.  He must come (be present), see (diagnose), and conquer (correct).  He must continuously be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others and welcome every person and everything that may be helpful to him.
You must have patience and expect more mistakes, but drill and drill to reduce them to a minimum.

From Gladwell:
The people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else.  They work much, much harder.

In my synopsis of Outliers, I added these reflections:
• centerpiece to this book is the 10,000 hour rule… — with much intentional practice!
• “Practicing:  that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better”
• Some “observations:
1.              It really does take a lot of hard, hard work – the 10,000 hour rule really is close to an actual rule!
2.              Hard work requires much intentional practice.
3.              Success is the result of “accumulative advantage.”

From Colvin:
There is absolutely no evidence of a ‘fast track’ for high achievers.
Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration.  This is what makes it “deliberate,” as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.  Continually seeking exactly those elements of performance that are unsatisfactory and then trying one’s hardest to make them better places enormous strains on anyone’s mental abilities.

From Levitt and Dubner:
If you don’t love what you’re doing, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good at it.
“Deliberate practice has three key components: setting specific goals; obtaining immediate feedback; and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.”  (K. Anders Ericsson)

(I wrote this in a blog post about Ken Robinson’s The Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything a while back:
So — here is the question that we each need to ask: What do I care deeply enough about that I am willing to put in significant time, over the long haul, to get better at it? Even if the time I put in is not necessarily fun.

So, we’re always back to this challenge — where are you investing your 10,000 hours?

Wisdom from Coach Wooden: “A coach is someone who can give correction without creating resentment.”

Well, this is “coaches day” on our blog.  Bob Morris told this terrific story of Bear Bryant.  Here’s a little John Wooden, who just celebrated his 99th birthday..

ChampionsFirst, a few reminders about John Wooden’s record:
• 10 national championships (a record)
• seven in a row (a record)
• 88 consecutive victories (a record)
• 38 straight tournament playoff wins (a record)
• four perfect seasons (a record) with only one losing year – his first  –in 41 years of coaching

Recently, Mike Penner wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times: On his 99th birthday, 99 things about John Wooden (To commemorate the legendary coach’s birthday, here are some facts and figures about his life).

You’ll want to read all 99 things about Coach Wooden.  Here are a few gems:
12. Wooden is noted for his philosophical quotes about life and sportsmanship, such as: “Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be.”
14. During one 46-game stretch, he made 134 consecutive free throws.
27. Wooden turned down an offer to coach the Lakers from owner Jack Kent Cooke that may have been 10 times what UCLA was paying him.
28. The record Wooden is the most proud of? His Bruins teams won 19 conference championships.
31. Another quote from Wooden: “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”
41. Another quote from Wooden: “Young people need models, not critics.”
51. Another quote from Wooden: “Talent is God given; be humble. Fame is man given; be thankful. Conceit is self given; be careful.”
82. Another quote from Wooden: “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

Here’s a little more, from his book, Wooden on Leadership,

(from the foreword):
Here is the answer:  Coach Wooden taught good habits.  That’s it – that’s the answer.
Move past the equation, delve deeper, and the text of his good habits curriculum becomes the inculcation of values, knowledge, team spirit, discipline, consistency, standards, ideals, balance, character, details, hard work, love, self-control, loyalty, diligence, and more, including how to put on your socks in the most effective manner.

And — from Coach Wooden himself:

What am I?  Just a teacher – a member of one of the great professions in the world.

Have a definite practice plan – and follow it.

Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is a true classic.  And everything about his life:  his marriage, his faith, his humility, his unending pursuit of excellence, stands as true genuine leadership.

click on image to enlarge

When I presented my synopsis of Wooden on Leadership, one of our regulars sent me an e-mail.  He had heard Wooden speak, and described his credibility, his quiet strength – and then he said “Coach Wooden is the real deal.”  Yes, he is.

John Wooden conducts a clinic and speaks to Special Olympians in December, 2008.  (Los Angeles Times)

John Wooden conducts a clinic and speaks to Special Olympians in December, 2008. (Los Angeles Times)

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To purchase my synopsis of Wooden on Leadership, with audio + handout, go to our companion web site 15minutebusinessbooks.com.