Monday, May 13, 2019

Leaders Grow Trees

Leaders are measured not just on what they achieve personally but also on what the people they mentored do as leaders in their own right. Sports provides many examples of leaders who have had their protegees become successful leaders. One of the best is Duke’s head Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Among Coach K’s individual achievements (4 NCAA championships, 2008 Olympic gold medal), one additional factor that he is often overlooked for is the success of his former players and assistant coaches in the profession. Coach K’s coaching tree has had numerous former players go on to become head coaches at NCAA Division I schools, including Steve Wojciechowski, (Marquette) Chris Collins (Northwestern) Tommy Amaker (Harvard), Johnny Dawkins (Stanford), Mike Brey (Notre Dame) and Jeff Capel (former Oklahoma coach). Each achievement by these “Coach K disciples” strengthens Krzyzewski’s legacy, but each setback could also tarnish his shining reputation.

Another coach whose legacy has benefited from a strong coaching tree used to coach only about 8 miles up the road from Durham in Chapel Hill. Dean Smith’s former players and assistant coaches have gone on to reach many different positions in the game and business of basketball.  Smith’s coaching tree includes Roy Williams (head coach Kansas, now UNC), Mitch Kupchak (GM of Los Angeles Lakers), Larry Brown (current SMU coach and former NBA head coach) and Jeff Lebo (East Carolina). When Smith retired from coaching, he was the all time winningest head coach in NCAA Division I basketball (he has since been passed by Bob Knight and Krzyzewski), however the legacy of his former players and assistant coaches will far outreach and outlive his personal accomplishments.

Thinking about the coaching tree and its impact on a coach’s legacy led us to ask ourselves a few questions about leadership. How often do we think of how our team members’ individual achievements (both as members of our team and once they have moved on) can reflect positively or negatively on our leadership style? How does the fact that your former coaches who now run their own program impact your leadership legacy? And most importantly, what can you do to develop your people on staff to facilitate their long term career success? Below are some tips and techniques that you can potentially use to help you improve your coaching tree:

Give your staff small wins to prepare for the future. Chris Collins, Coach K’s former assistant coach and former player, took on some roles that will helped him become a head coach. For example, at half time, the head coach is normally interviewed by the media about potential adjustments for the second half. However in Duke’s case, Collins was the coach that usually took the interview rather than Coach K. This allowed Collins some additional camera time but more importantly it prepared him for the media attention that comes from being a head coach. Other examples include letting an assistant coach handle the head coaching responsibilities for the junior varsity team, as Smith let certain assistant coaches do their time in Chapel Hill. These instances of delegation by Coach K and Smith allow their assistant coaches to achieve small wins in their current role that can be strong lessons to learn for when they have their own program.

As a leader, you can think about some core elements of your job that you could be delegating to give your team members developmental opportunities. This type of delegation serves several business purposes beyond just allowing you to enhance your “coaching tree.”  Once your team member is comfortable taking on the new task, you will have more time in your schedule  to focus on other priorities.  Your team member is able to practice new skills in a relatively safe environment to learn the job, and also may benefit from direct access to, and attention from, additional stakeholders beyond your team.

Have Mentor Discussions. As a head basketball coach, Coach K can not be everything to everyone involved in the program. Therefore it is essential that he develops a strong core of assistant coaches and support staff. His current staff of Jon Scheyer, Jeff Capel and Nate James are all former players so are familiar with the key objectives and culture of the Duke basketball program. Coach K is able to rely on these assistant coaches to work with the players to accomplish key goals. However, Coach K has spent significant time individually with these coaches to act as a mentor to develop them as they grow in the profession. For example, when Jeff Capel was released as head coach of the University of Oklahoma after five seasons, just a few months later he joined Coach K’s staff to continue to grow in the coaching profession. These development conversations, which allow Coach K to truly understand and establish relationships with his assistant coaches, are something that he is known for. Through these deep relationships, he can mentor these individuals in their current roles but also as they grow in the profession.

Coach Amaker said “You might not always have liked it, but Coach K always made sure all of us knew where we stood in our progress and I always respected his honesty and his care.” These mentoring sessions should also be part of an ongoing, regular conversation throughout the year, rather than just taking place around formal review or development planning sessions.

Stay connected with your team over time. Many former Duke and UNC players have been quoted saying that they do not make a major life decision without reaching out to Coach K or Coach Smith for advice. Strong leaders know that the mentoring relationship does not end when one person moves on to a different job. Rather, these strong relationships can go on for a lifetime. Amaker was just one example of a player who has stayed closely connected with his “Coach” from his days a player to an assistant coach to now running his own program. For these players and assistant coaches, Coach K and Coach Smith will forever be known as “Coach.”

Coach K was asked how do you have the time to stay connected to all these players and coaches? His answer was that while he is not as close with some players as he would like to be, he is always open to communication with his former players and coaches. He said that you also want to be there even if it has been 10 years since you talked to them, for them to come back to ask their “Coach” for advice or just talk. He also said that one of the critical things in his life has been making time for both his family and his basketball family. These statements indicate how seriously Coach K takes the mentoring relationship.

Relationships are one of the main way we grow, stay connected and make progress in both our personal and professional lives. For Coach K and Coach Smith, their coaching tree legacy is an asset that will far out stretch their coaching tenure. Also more importantly, this leadership legacy has achieved more wins collectively than either of them could ever have individually achieved. Hopefully that makes you think about your leadership legacy and what you have done today to grow your legacy tree.

—Adapted from Bigoness/Moore article on


A Season In THEIR Words by Dan Spainhour

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Few Leadership Lessons of Phil Jackson

Management and leadership advice comes in a host of forms. Conferences, seminars, articles written by CEOs and other corporate executives all detail the path to achieving cohesion in the workplace, or how to be a stronger leader. But the leaders of the boardroom aren’t the only people who know a thing or two about managing difficult personalities, or how to exercise authority.

Retired NBA coach and player Phil Jackson released Eleven Rings in May 2013. The book is a memoir about his values, leadership style, and other factors that contributed to his unprecedented eleven NBA championship rings as a coach. Jackson enumerates the 11 principles that assisted his career, and why they are important for everyday life — not just court-side coaching.

  1. Lead from the inside-out. When you lead from the outside-in, Jackson says, you may have short-term success, but it can’t last. No one wants to be repeatedly “brow-beaten,” and your opponents will eventually discover your game plan. “As time went by, I discovered that the more I spoke from the heart, the more players could hear me and benefit from what I gleaned.”
  2. Bench the ego. “Some coaches insist on having the last word, but I always tried to foster an environment in which everyone played a leadership role — from the most unschooled rookie to the veteran superstar. If your primary objective is to bring the team into a state of harmony and oneness, it doesn’t make sense for you to rigidly impose your authority.” Jackson says he came to this conclusion after trial-and-error with imposing his will. He realized he needed “to dial back my ego and distribute power as widely as possible without surrendering final authority.”
  3. Let each player discover his own destiny. For Jackson, this was as much about letting players find who they are, but also helping to draw them out as well. By working with players to discover their individual talents, he made them assets to the whole team. “My approach was always to relate to each player as a whole person, not just a cog in the basketball machine. That meant pushing him to discover what distinct qualities he could bring to the game beyond taking shots and making passes. How much courage did he have? Or resilience? What about character under fire? Many players I’ve coached didn’t look special on paper, but in the process of creating a role for themselves they grew into formidable champions.”
  4. The road to freedom is a beautiful system. As a coach, Jackson used the triangle offense. In this offensive-play system, all five players need to be cooperating, passing, and moving in order to stretch the defense and open up the court for plays. “What attracted me to the triangle was the way it empowers the players, offering each one a vital role to play as well as a high level of creativity within a clear, well-defined structure.” For the strategy to work, Jackson says that, “All five players must be fully engaged every second — or the whole system will fail”
  5. Turn the mundane into the sacred. “As I see it, my job as coach was to make something meaningful out of one of the most mundane activities on the planet: Playing pro basketball.” Jackson admits there is “glamour” to the life of a professional basketball player, but the actual process — the constant traveling and games can be “soul-numbing.” To combat this, Jackson’s players frequently meditated. “I wanted to give players something besides X’s and O’s to focus on. What’s more, we often invented rituals of our own to infuse practices with a sense of the sacred.
  6. One breath equals one mind. Building on the concept of meditation, Jackson “discovered that when I had the players sit in silence, breathing together in sync, it helped align them on a nonverbal level far more effectively than words. One breath equals one mind.” Through rituals and techniques, he created mindfulness for his teams so they could better connect with one another, preparing them for the teamwork needed on the court. It also helped free players from needless constraints. “If you place too many restrictions on players, they’ll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to buck the system. Like all of us, they need a certain degree of structure in their lives, but they also require enough latitude to express themselves creatively.”
  7. The key to success is compassion. “Now, ‘compassion’ is not a word often bandied about in locker rooms. But I’ve found that a few kind, thoughtful words can have a strong transformative effect on relationships, even with the toughest men in the room.” To illustrate his point, Jackson gives the example of Michael Jordan returning to the Bulls after his brief stint with minor league baseball in the 1990s. Jordan was disconnected from the team, but it took a fight between Jordan and Steve Kerr for Jackson to realize the extent. By having the players get to know and understand each other, Jackson opened up compassion on his team, that enabled them to heighten their level of play.
  8. Keep your eye on the spirit, not on the scoreboard. “Most coaches get tied up in knots worrying about tactics, but I preferred to focus my attention on whether the players were moving together in a spirited way.” In emphasizing the player, not the score, Jackson is returning to the ideals behind his fourth point, and the triangle offense. The team working together was the most important aspect, all needed to work to be one part moving toward the same goal. “When a player isn’t forcing a shot or trying to impose his personality on the team, his gifts as an athlete most fully manifest.” Jackson wanted team players, not just in actions on the court, but in their off-court characteristics as well.
  9. Sometimes you have to pull out the big stick. In terms of coaching, Jackson gave players leeway and chances to express themselves, but occasionally, he used what he referred to as “tricks” meant “to wake players up and raise their level of consciousness.” Jackson was trying to teach his players how to react to unplanned and uncontrollable events.“Once I had the Bulls practice in silence; on another occasion I made them scrimmage with the lights out. I like to shake things up and keep the players guessing. Not because I want to make their lives miserable but because I want to prepare them for the inevitable chaos that occurs the minute they step onto a basketball court.”
  10. When in doubt, do nothing. Not every problem can be tackled with multitudes of energy, and a can-do spirit according to Jackson. “Basketball is an action sport, and most people involved in it are high-energy individuals who love to do something — anything — to solve problems. However, there are occasions when the best solution is to do absolutely nothing.
  11. Forget the ring. It isn’t always about winning, even in a sport, or field that emphasizes records and results.”I know that being fixated on winning (or more likely, not losing) is counterproductive, especially when it causes you to lose control of your emotions. What’s more, obsessing about winning is a loser’s game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome.” Jackson admits that personally, he hates losing, but he knew that it was of greater importance to emphasize “the journey rather than the goal. What matters most is playing the game the right way and having the courage to grow, as human beings as well as basketball players.”



Just Released!
A Season In Their Words
Quotes From Coaches From The Preseason To The Postseason

Monday, April 29, 2019

Great Verbs Of Life

The following from George Walter Fiske (1872-1945) a prolific author on theology, is good advice for anyone but especially leaders:

The Power of I.....

I am: the power of self knowledge.

I think: the power to investigate.

I know: the power to master facts.

I feel: the power to appreciate, to value and to love.

I wonder: the power of reverence, curiosity and worship.

I see: the power of insight, imagination, vision.

I believe: the power of adventurous faith.

I can: the power to act and skill to accomplish.

I ought: the power of conscience, the moral imperative.

I will: the power of will, loyalty to duty, consecration.

I serve: the power to be useful, devotion to a cause.


The Coaching & Leadership Journal 
Written specifically for busy leaders, the Coaching and Leadership Journal gives you the latest strategies in a concise, quick-read format.
Published Monthly

Monday, April 22, 2019

Be A Do More Coach

Do more than say you are a coach....prove it.

Do more than assume leadership....accept the responsibilities.

Do more than profess dedication to the it.

Do more than hoard game knowledge....share it

Do more than demand teamwork....encourage it.

Do more than know player potential....develop it.

Do more than urge physical conditioning....require it.

Do more than formulate team rules....enforce them.

Do more than talk to players....communicate with them.

Do more than advocate consistency and fairness....practice them.

Do more than react to game pressure....stay cool and deal with it.

Do more than meet the game challenge....enjoy it.

Do more than dream of for it.

Do more than count wins and losses....analyze them.

Do more than commend officials and foes....mean it.

Do more than profess your convictions....demonstrate them.

Do more....


LEAD . . . for God's Sake!: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership

Monday, April 15, 2019

Aspiring Thoughts...

  • Goals should be realistic, attainable, and shared among all members of the team.
  • You develop a team to achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone. All of us alone are weaker, by far, than if all of us are together.
  • Confidence shared is better than confidence only in yourself.
  • In leadership, there are no words more important than trust. In any organization, trust must be developed among every member of the team if success is going to be achieved.
  • A leader may be the most knowledgeable person in the world, but if the players on his team cannot translate that knowledge into action, it means nothing.
  • Erect no artificial walls that might limit potential, stifle creativity, or shackle innovation.
  • Leaders should be reliable without being predictable. They should be consistent without being anticipated.
  • A leader has to be positive about all things that happen to his team. Look at nothing in the past as failure.
  • Courage and confidence are what decision making is all about.
  • Leaders show respect for people by giving them time.
  • I believe God gave us crises for some reason—and it certainly wasn’t for us to say that everything about them is bad. A crisis can be a momentous time for a team to grow—if a leader handles it properly.
  • Encourage members of your team to take the initiative and act on their own.
  • People want to be on a team. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be in a situation where they feel that they are doing something for the greater good.


The Coaching & Leadership Journal 
Written specifically for busy leaders, the Coaching and Leadership Journal gives you the latest strategies in a concise, quick-read format.
Published Monthly

Monday, April 8, 2019

Things I Wish An Older, Experience Coach Would Have Told Me When I Was Young

The following is from the late Don Meyer

  • Rules from Jerry Krause
    1. Find yourself--Coaching is a lifetime process.
    2. Find your unique gift or talent and develop it
    3. Give your gift away
  • Be what you is because if you be what you ain’t you ain’t what you is. Players can spot a phony or con man a mile away. Try to adapt the good ideas of coaches you  study rather than adopting the whole ball of wax.
  • Get all the good ideas but you can not use all the good ideas. Your personality, your personnel, your league, your school, your geographic region, resources available and many other things will impact just what you can use in your program.
  • Promise less and deliver more.  Never promise wins and always provide attitude and effort.
  • Don’t say anything bad about your predecessor even it is true.
  • It is preferable to have players quite rather than have to dismiss them from the team. When players just won't buy in or refuse to get on the same page, tell them what they must do and let them make the decision to no longer be a part of the program. Do not rip them publicly even if they deserve it. Simply say that, "This is probably best for all concerned. We wish this young man/woman only the best in whatever they choose to do.
  • Newspaper buy their ink by the barrel and you buy yours by the pen. The old adage that whoever has the piece of chalk last wins certainly applies to the print media. They always have the last word.
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch. This really applies to whenever someone gives you or the program.

Coach Yourself: A Motivational Guide For Coaches And Leaders

About This Book
Coach Yourself is a unique book, compiled exclusively for coaches to provide you with physical, mental and spiritual motivation throughout the season. In his follow-up to A Season In Words, veteran coach Dan Spainhour arms you with quotes and motivational ideas to help you achieve peace of mind throughout the season from how to stay motivated to handling critics.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them - work, family, health, friends, and spirit - and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends, and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.
—Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola
So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning
—Morrie Schwartz, in "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom
Dorothy Shula, on the career dedication of her husband, the Miami Dolphins' coach: "I'm fairly confident that if I died tomorrow, Don would find a way to preserve me until the season was over and he had time for a nice funeral. I remember a speech our coach, John McKay, was giving us at one point in the season, he was emphasizing that games are lost in the trenches by failing to block and tackle on the front lines. And as he was talking he noticed a lineman asleep in the back. He called his name, woke him up and asked him 'Where are most games lost?' And the lineman says 'Right here in Tampa, sir.'