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Greatness Pt. 1

By August 24, 2012 No Comments

This summer I was inspired by watching the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team in London, so I’m going to devote a couple of weeks to that topic.  This week I’ll focus on the incredible Coach Mike Krzyzewki.

Greatness. Is there anything better than witnessing it? Is there anything that is more motivating than seeing greatness with your own two eyes? I think not. This week I will look at the 2012 Olympic Men’s Basketball team led by Coach Mike Krzyzewski. I believe there are five core leadership principles that can be learned from Coach K and be applied in various roles as a coach, teacher, employee, and leader.

Recently Coach Mike Krzyzewski led the United States Men’s Olympic Basketball team to its second consecutive Gold Medal in the summer Olympics. The team went undefeated in the Olympic Tournament. This group faced many challenges and unparalleled pressure. During his illustrious career Coach K has coached 4 National Championship teams. He has been named the National Coach of the Year 12 times. Coach K has over 900 career wins and holds the all time record as the winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 history. This past summer I read his book, [amazon-product text=”Leading With The Heart” type=”text”]0446676780[/amazon-product]. It is a must read for all coaches and people in leadership positions.

The first lesson to take from this Coach K is leadership. If you want to see true leadership in action, you need not look any further than Coach Krzyzewski. He is one of most successful, decorated coaches of all times.  His most recent team, the 2012 Olympic Men’s Basketball, faced unsurpassed scrutiny from the moment training camp began.  The margins and manner of victory were questioned and second-guessed along the way.

It is easy for someone to sit back and say, “Well they should have won the Gold Medal easily with all the NBA talent on the team.” Coach K and this team had to deal with immense pressure. This team was expected to win and win big. Winning was not enough in the eyes of many reporters and fans, they were supposed to win each game by 30 points. They were supposed to beat teams with the flare and dominance of the ’92 Dream Team, the team that many consider to be the best ever assembled in team sports. What most people fail to realize is just how much better the world is at basketball now than it was in ’92. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic men’s teams met all challenges from the best teams in the world bringing home Gold in the past two Olympic games.  This could not have happened without the leadership of Coach K. USA basketball was in complete disarray after the 2004 Olympic games in Athens where they lost two games (unheard of and embarrassing for the United States in modern basketball) and brought home a bronze medal. Coach K brought in a vision for USA basketball and with that returned it to its rightful place, on top of the world. He was able to mesh together eccentric personalities, different skill levels, while creating strong team unity.

The second lesson to take away is on the importance of goal setting. Watching Coach K during the Olympics reinforced just how important and powerful it is to have common goals. It was motivating to see how everyone involved put egos aside for the good of the team and their country. Coach K got all individuals to come together with a common goal in mind; being unselfish and playing for one another and their country. That is no small task when looking at a roster full of NBA superstars who are used to being the leader and main player on their teams. Coach K brought a clear vision to the team. He creatively planned practices, offenses, and defenses. Most importantly he showed what security and confidence should look like.

No matter what you do for a living, you can take these lessons and apply them in your life. A third lesson to take from Coach K is vision. It is vital that you have a vision for success. As a coach you must have a vision for your team and you must be able to articulate it clearly to your team. One suggestion would be to have a team meeting before the season begins and go over what the daily, seasonal, and team goals are.  Every player needs to know what the goals are and what the plan is to achieve them. A person in a management position must do the same with the people on their team. A coach has to know what talents the team possesses and what must be done on the court and off to fulfill that vision. In the business world, a clear vision is crucial. Starting from the top, everyone in the company must know what the vision is. What is the company mission statement? What is your niche? What are your company’s goals, and plans of action? How are you going to best serve your clients? Everyone must be cognizant of the vision and the actions needed to carry it out.

Planning is the fourth lesson. Successful planning has to take place for any team or company to achieve success. From Coach K, we can learn how to do this. As coaches we should give players a day off every now and then to keep legs and minds fresh. Creatively design offensive sets that put your players in the best position to succeed. It is always a good idea to plan events that generate team camaraderie. In the business world, a company must generate camaraderie as well. In all settings, camaraderie leads to more production. Find ways to be creative and get your team to come together by planning team-bonding events. Some suggestions are team movie night, bowling night, BBQ’s, or putt-putt golf. Great things will follow!

The final thought and lesson from Coach K is security. A leader must be secure in who they are and what they are doing. The gold medal game in London was against Spain, a very good team. It was a close game throughout. I was tense and nervous watching it as the Americans had a slim lead late in the game. He was calm and confident. I was impressed with the security and composure Coach K showed. Players look to their coach in tense moments to see how to act. Coach K’s team followed his actions and came out winners. Most coaches would have been up pacing, yelling at players and officials. As a coach always remember to stay present and move on to the next play. You are a detriment to your team if you waste time arguing calls and not focusing on what the next move should be. If you are a leader, and we all are in some capacity, be like Coach K. When things get tense, stick to you plan. Do you what you know. Be an example for the people who work under and alongside you. Show them that no matter how rough the sea is, you’re going to bring the ship in. Confidence is contagious, so is poise and security. Follow through with what your vision is. If you do so, things will turn out in your favor.

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