Priceless Lessons From Great Coaches

I've written before about that Peter Drucker "quote"  so many business people believe. It's a lie, and a dangerous one. It not only hurts their companies in the long run, it leads people to do very bad, unethical things. They become bad people. 

And Drucker never said, "What gets measured gets managed." The guy who said something like it was wrong. So stop living by it. 

Instead, think about great sports coaches like John Wooden and Bill Walsh. 

Wooden, you probably know, was the great UCLA basketball coach who produced both champions and very good men. He built character that became success. And he never measured himself, his teams, or his players by wins and losses.

Bill Walsh transformed the San Francisco 49ers from the NFL's doormats into perennial Super Bowl champions. And he had no room in his brain for winning percentages. 

Instead of focusing obsessively on the final outcome, which neither these coaches nor their players could control, Wooden and Walsh focused on the building blocks of greatness. Here are two quotes that tell you all need to know about their philosophies.

John Wooden

Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

Bill Walsh

The score takes care of itself.

Contrast that with most corporate executives. They talk only about profits. And because they can't actually control their profits, they use financial engineering to give the illusion of extreme growth and obscene profits. They talk about "making their number" and "shareholder value." Rarely do they talk about the qualities that tend to produce great outcomes. 

What are those qualities that produce great outcomes?

Again, the great coaches told us, if only you would listen. 

Wooden's Pyramid of Success

John wooden lived and coached according to his Pyramid of Success:


John Wooden's Pyramid of Success


Coach Wooden recognized that he and his players could not control the outcome of any game. They could control all the other qualities. And when enough players practiced those qualities, his teams won. 

Walsh's Standard of Performance

  1. Ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement.
  2. Respect for everyone in the program and the work that he/she does.
  3. Be committed to learning.
  4. Demonstrate character and integrity.
  5. Honor the connection between details and improvement.
  6. Demonstrate loyalty.
  7. Be willing to go the extra mile for the organization.
  8. Put the team’s welfare ahead of my own.
  9. Maintain an abnormally high level of concentration and focus.
  10. Make sacrifice and commitment the organizations trademark.

Know What You Control

It all comes down to knowing what you control and doing something about those things. Profits and growth are a result of the things you can control plus fortune. Success depends on improving things within your control and gratefully accepting the outcome. 

Both of these legendary coaches built their models on the ancient philosophy of stoicism. And knowing what you can and cannot control is the foundation of all stoic philosophy. As Epictetus wrote:

The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.

Steve Jobs created the most valuable company in history by focusing on things in his control: designing great products that people loved. The profits took care of themselves. 

I know you're not Steve Jobs and your company isn't Apple. Maybe it never will be. But if you keep focusing on profits and hoping character will take care of itself, you're in for a miserable downfall.