I have always been a fan of Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) and the Duke Basketball program. In many ways - Coach K represents so much of what I hope a leader to be - motivated, insightful, compassionate and full of humility.
What really struck me as I read this new book was how many times Coach K looked back at situations that most of us would have struggled with, and he kept going back to the same core values and principles that he learned as a growing up.
This book is a great read for a couple of reasons:
- You get great insight into easy to read chapters - you will find yourself going back to specific sections that are titled after 40 specific topics.
- Coach K and his daughter (who helped write the book) - help us look at many situations from not only the coach's perspective, but from his view as a father and husband - something rarely shared in many leadership books.
My favorite part in the book is what Coach K says are the four most important words you can say to anybody - "I believe in you". You don't think it is that important, but you should see someone's face light up when you share that belief. Since reading that passage - I tell this to my daughter more often. It is amazing the power that it has.
Sometimes the best books in the world are the most simple. Coach K and his daughter prove once again leadership is not that complicated.
I have included a sample from the chapter on adaptability:
As a point guard at West Point, I had the privilege of playing for the legendary Bob Knight, a tough coach and probably the best of all time. There was one particular drill, called “Zig Zag,” that we did in practice every single day. It was a defensive drill that was difficult and physically exhausting. Though it’s a great and effective drill, my teammates and I dreaded it, but we always knew it was coming.
Five years later, after the completion of my service in the United States Army, I was able to reunite with Coach Knight as a graduate assistant coach at Indiana for the 1974-75 season. It was an unbelievable start for a coaching career, because not only did I have the opportunity to work under the best in the business, but he also had the number one team in the country that year with such standout players as Scott May, Kent Benson, and Quinn Buckner.
At our very first practice of the season, I was so excited just to be there. But I couldn’t help but notice that we did not do the “Zig Zag” drill. In the locker room after practice, I was thinking about saying something to Coach Knight about it, but I thought better of it, and didn’t say anything. Surely we would do the drill tomorrow.
The next day, we had a great practice, but again, no “Zig Zag.” That day, Coach Knight seemed like he was in a pretty good mood and I was feeling sure of myself.
“Coach,” I said, to get his attention.
“What?” he responded. I was already thinking that this was a mistake, but at this point I had to say it.
“Well, at Army, we did the ‘Zig Zag’ drill every single day, often multiple times. How come we haven’t done it with this team?”
Coach Knight walked calmly over to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Michael, there is a big difference between you and Quinn Buckner.”
He was right. Drills like “Zig Zag” that are a necessity for some teams may not be appropriate for others. You have to adapt what you do based on who you are. A drill that Mike Krzyzewski needs to do every day, Quinn Buckner may never have to do or may only have to do infrequently. Every player is different, every team is different, and to merely apply a formula is not fair to those players or those teams.
You can always learn something from great teachers. I had the privilege to learn from one of the best coaches of all time. From Coach Knight, I learned passion, commitment, persistence, and intensity. But I also learned adaptability.
That lesson is the reason why I have written a different practice plan for every single practice of my career. In teaching, you must remember that no group or individual is the same as who you taught the day before, the year before, or the decade before. Your plan has to suit who you and your team are right now. And you must always be willing to adapt. When you do, you and your team will be even more successful.