Now that March Madness is behind us for another year, it’s a great time to learn some organizational lessons from one of the greats.
When many people think of John Wooden, former head coach of the UCLA Men’s Basketball Team, they think of him as a winner. He’s widely recognized for his success on the court, which includes 11 national championships. However, his greatest impact might have been off the court with his ability to nurture talent and help individuals reach their full potential.
After his coaching career Wooden authored several books to help organizations obtain the same success he had at UCLA.
The key principles of management that follow are from his most popular book, Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization, that could be applied to your organization.
Define success as every employee buying into the organization’s mission and taking care of their part of the process
Wooden didn’t view success in terms of wins and losses. In his early seasons at UCLA, they were winning less than 20 games a season. He believed these were just as big a success as his later years when they were undefeated and won the national title.
To him, success was having a process in place that everyone bought into.
His end goal each season wasn’t to “win the national championship.” With that goal there would only be one team capable of achieving their goal each season. His goal was to have his players buy into his process and give it their all: that was a successful season.
This same model can be applied to your organization. Don’t think of success in terms of closing a sale or reaching a specific revenue goal. Think of success as every employee buying into the organization’s mission and taking care of their part of the process. The profit will follow.
Master every detail
Wooden also preached that there is no “big secret:” There is no shortcut to success, you must master every detail.
Wooden would make sure his players paid attention to details such as tying their shoes the right way and even drinking room-temperature water to avoid cramps. These seemingly small details all add up to achieving the big goal.
Make sure your organization puts an emphasis on the small day-to-day details that lead to your end goal.
Be a lifelong learner
It’s a common theme for basketball players on scholarships to feel like they don’t need coaching. They’ve made it this far, what can someone possibly teach them about the sport?
Wooden emphasized to his players that they should constantly be learning, even after they leave his program. This is one of the easiest principles to execute in your organization: Invest time and resources into making sure your employees are constantly learning. This could include conferences, meetings with other departments, or online certifications.
Create leaders that inspire belief
“Leadership is about more than just forcing people to do what you say. A prison guard does that. A good leader creates belief,” according to Wooden.
Both leaders and prison guards cause action, but they go about it differently. Make sure your organization focuses on creating leaders that inspire belief. This goes back to an earlier principle of trusting the process.
A good leader inspires his or her co-workers to buy into the process and act because it’s for the betterment of the organization. A prison guard uses force and intimidation to get the action desired.
Encourage employees to understand their roles
One of Wooden’s greatest coaching accomplishments was getting his players to understand and accept their roles on the team. He knew that not everyone was going to be a starter and lead the team in scoring.
For some players their roles were simply sitting on the bench and supporting their teammates who were in the game. Getting a buy-in from each player on the team led to an amazing overall team chemistry.
Making sure your employees understand their roles within your organization can lead to greater chemistry in your office. Think about taking the time to sit down with your employees and talk to them about their roles and how they contribute to the goals of the organization.
There’s nothing worse as an employee than feeling like the work you’re doing every day doesn’t contribute to the organization’s success.
Strive to reach the level of chemistry that Wooden’s UCLA teams achieved. Everyone knew their roles and why they were important.