Coach Wooden

John Wooden at a ceremony on Oct. 14, the coac...

John Wooden passed away over the weekend.  I wrote about him last year and as I reread what I had written at the time, I thought it was appropriate to share it again.  Do yourself a favor and print out a copy of his Pyramid For Success. It’s always sad when we lose someone who was the best there ever was at something.

They’re still playing golf out on Long Island as I’m writing this. The U.S. Open is always great fun to watch and this one has been no exception. It’s amazing how the course and the pressure always manages to bring the leaders back to the pack while the guys like Tiger and Phil who have been there before play their way into contention. I was reminded in the course of watching it how Coach Wooden’s words really are true, both about golf and business: “Little things make big things happen.” We saw this over and over again this weekend (and this morning). A spike on a shoe gets worn or filled with grass. The foot slips during a swing. The shot is a disaster. The moisture from the grass (it’s still really wet out there) gets on the club face as it makes a practice swing and the player doesn’t remove it before he makes contact. The ball slips off the face a bit. Trouble. Those are little things that a player can control if they are thinking about them and which can kill them if they’re not.

John Wooden is the most successful coach in ANY sport, for my money. He wrote a book on leadership which should be mandatory reading for anyone in sports, business, or both. He reminds us to

leave nothing to chance. The difference in the championship and merely good team is is often the perfection of minor details.

Many of his players have written about how Wooden taught them about those details, including the right way and wrong way to put on socks and tie your sneakers (I’m not kidding). Most executives I know are very focused on big things – budgets, revenue streams – but often ignore the little, less-visible things – someone’s birthday or what’s being said in social media – that can send the big things off into the rough.

Are you watching the little things? Would Coach Wooden be happy with how you’re managing the team?

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