Kim Sykes is a marketer at Edoc Service, Inc.
In Be Quick – But Don’t Hurry: Finding Success in the Teachings of a Lifetime, another book on Edoc’c reading list, author Andrew Hill details some of the top lessons he learned from one of (UCLA) basketball’s most well-known coaches, Coach John Wooden.
Wooden’s philosophy can inform every entrepreneur on successful teamwork and self-discipline. Here are 4 concepts I took away from the book that are in alignment with Edoc’s culture.
One message that was loud and clear in the book is that whatever you’re doing, you have to make sure you’re enjoying the process. Do what it takes to ensure you are doing your best—but enjoy the ride.
To this point, Hill writes in the book that Wooden’s most satisfying season was not one that ended with a national title.
“More than fifty years after his first season at UCLA in 1948– 49, Coach still considers that first squad one of his most satisfying, despite the fact that they did not go on to postseason success.” That team was actually picked to finish last that year.
Instead, they won 22 games and a conference title.
No national title, but Wooden still regards it as one of his proudest achievements, and perhaps his favorite season of all. “Winning was a by-product of effort, not an end product,” Hill adds when describing Wooden’s thoughts on that season.
Just as sports is about more than just winning, business is about much more than profit or “success”—though no one where in the book are those words about business directly articulated. Instead, Hill and Wooden suggest that “winning must be about more than just winning and losing games.”
The same can be said for business: it’s about more than just the “game” of business and making a profit: it’s about the journey—one filled with purpose. Along the way, we should be growing as individuals, as a team, and as an organization.
“Be quick, but don’t hurry” is a phrase that Wooden would say quite often with his players. But there was good reason: “It was Coach’s mantra,” says Hill. “Life, like basketball, must be played fast— but never out of control.”
The idea is that is you hurry, you are likely to make mistakes. But, at the same time in business, if you are too slow to move, you simply won’t get things done. You won’t be responsive enough. You won’t adapt fast enough. You want be agile enough to respond as well as you could. “If an attorney isn’t a quick thinker, he could lose a case,” writes Hill. It’s a point that isn’t just about how individuals think and act, it’s also about how we work with others.
Hill argues that, “Nothing holds back progress and deflates morale more than the slow and never-ending ‘maybe.’” To his point, it’s true that the idea of “maybe” can be a bit stiffing and can hold back a team.
The larger message: be intentional with your responses and with how you communicate your decisions. You want to do whatever you can to empower others to move forward, not to deflate them or to hold them back from achievement.
Applying this concept to his own work, Hill says that in his many years in the TV industry, one of the best decisions he was able to make was the decision to respond as quickly as he could to creative materials. He recognized that “when a creative person has handed their work to you, they are on pins and needles until they hear if you like what they’ve done.” By getting them feedback in a timely manner, he was able to empower and help advance the work of those around him.
Another major point from the book is one of the most common errors we can all make as leaders: over-coaching. As Hill points out, we’ve all faced a manager (or two) like this.
It’s not always “micromanaging” straight out of a Dilbert comic, either. It might be too many meetings, or simply meetings that last hours on end. We all have good intentions, but sometimes we get off course.
“The strong leader who is secure enough to give simple instructions and trust his followers’ ability to implement them will almost always come out ahead,” writes Hill. Of course there is inherent risk in that idea of “letting go” and trusting those around us, but you have to be willing to let go of your insecurities, face your fear, and take on that risk as a leader.
How does your company respond to people making mistakes? While your reasoning or rationale for making a decision may need to be explained, at Edoc, we emphasis an atmosphere where people learn from mistakes. “The team that makes the most mistakes may not always win, but a team that tries to make no mistakes hardly ever will,” says Hill.
Hill writes that this type of mentality isn’t always the case for organizations. “Too many people in business situations are not engaged in trying to do their task the best way they possibly can; they’re simply trying to execute what they presume the boss’ vision is for them,” he says.
He suggests that these people become more worried about trying to please someone else, or just give someone else what they are looking for, rather than coming up with their own ideas, or using their own creativity to further the company.
But this kind of environment is stifling for most people, at least in the long-run. Most people crave involvement, they crave contribution to the company, and they crave an environment where they are able to use their own judgment to solve problems. And, simply put, sometimes this kind of environment means that mistakes or failures will occur. But those mistakes are what help us learn and grow.
Hill says that Wooden always had a mentality that mistakes are inevitable. “But many coaches inculcate such a fear of mistakes in their players that they play like automatons. To play freely and quickly, you have to embrace initiative and risk-taking, so long as they’re within the prescribed general framework.”
It’s an important point for leaders: we must learn to accept mistakes, but we also must be able to provide a framework for mistakes to occur within. We also must set up the mentality that we need to learn from all our mistakes.
When someone does something that didn’t go as we hoped, we trust that they used their judgment, but we’re also able to ask that why they made a certain decision. (And, we may be pleasantly surprised when we hear their thought behind the decision.) We lead with trust, but there’s a framework or “checks and balance” type of system in place to help guide people. This is a similar mindset to what Coach Wooden talked about.
The only kind of mistake that Coach didn’t tolerate? The kind that players made when they were still upset from their first mistake—and therefore caused another mistake in the process. It’s a powerful lesson on being able to manage your own emotions.
Kim Sykes is a marketer at Edoc Service, Inc.