Nothing By Chance Blog


For over a quarter of a century I was a college basketball coach and during that time I spent countless hours researching studying and creating working environments that fostered teamwork.  The goal was to give each member of the team an opportunity to play to their strengths while improving their weaknesses.

Throughout the course of my career the greatest compliment I could receive was one of my peers telling me that I had a “well coached team.”  Upon leaving coaching I took my research into the area of both athletic administration and the business world.

Although some say there is a great deal of difference between the two areas, in the modern day environment there are more similarities than differences.  I have summed up my findings in what I call the “nine” of traits of a well coached team.

(This will be the first of a multi part series.)

Teams have identifiable standards of excellence on the court

All good coaches and leaders give their teams specific goals to achieve.  They mark their team’s progress and hold each member accountable for his production.  The legendary North Carolina Coach, Dean Smith, set a goal of making more free throws each game than their opponent attempted.  Administrators use the APR as a gauge of academic progress of their coaches, while business leaders will have monthly sales goals set out for their employees.  However, the key to these standards is to make them your own and to emphasize them throughout every task that you do as a team.

It is not very effective to set standards if you don’t practice or implement ways to achieve them.  Make them part of your everyday practice plan for your staff.

A couple of business examples are the IRS and GE.  Jack Welch instituted the 10% rule.  This rule means that if you are in the bottom 10% in production you will be replaced.  At the IRS each auditor is expected to do a certain number of tax returns each day.  And let’s not forget the Domino’s Pizza 30 minute guarantee.  Delivered in 30 minutes or it is free.  Talk about setting an identifiable standard.

*Teams have a distinct language they speak

If you talk with Coach K at Duke he will tell you about the “fist” on defense.  John Calipari will describe his dribble drive motion in specific terms.  Bob Knight will tell you how his Indiana teams had certain “push points on defense.”  Every team has their own terminology and ways of describing an offense or defense.  Bo Ryan calls his offense the “swing.”  Lou Campenlli called it “flex.”  And Bob Spear called it “shuffle.”  All the same offense described with different words.

In business Walt Disney calls their employees at Disneyland “actors.”  When they walk around the park and interact with customers they are doing the “duck walk.”  Ironically, actors who work in the It’s a Small World ride call it the “asylum.”  If you work at Wal-Mart you are called an “associate.”  If you go to a Mary Kay cosmetic conference you will hear about the “go give” attitude.

Besides language some teams have chosen colors that make them distinct.  IBM wanted to be known for leadership, therefore, they chose the color blue to represent them.  Coke on the other hand wanted attention.  That is why the main color in all coke promotions (down to the color of the can and bottle) is red.

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