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Issue 87 - Make Sure the Team Members Know They're Working With You, Not For You

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 2 Issue 87
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



At the very first John Wooden Course, a young man posed this question: “Coach Wooden, next week I will be starting my first job as a manager in a brand-new department. What advice can you give me?”
Coach replied, “Make sure the people in your department know that they're working with you, not for you.”
The young man nodded enthusiastically and responded, “Coach Wooden what other advice can you give me?”
Coach smiled, and then repeated slowly and carefully: “Make sure the people in your department know that they're working with you, not for you.”
In his book Wooden on Leadership with Steve Jamison, Coach Wooden recounts an experience that had an impact on him with regard to the idea: Make sure the team members know they're working with you, not for you.
In the late 1960s, Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. At the press conference that introduced him to local writers and broadcasters, a reporter asked, “Wilt, do you think Lakers’ Coach Van Breda Kolff can handle you? It’s been said that you’re hard to handle.” I was at that press conference, and Wilt’s answer had a strong impact on me.
He told the reporter, “You ‘handle’ farm animals. You work with people. I am a person. I can work with anyone.”
Hearing his words reminded me that my book on coaching basketball, Practical Modern Basketball, which had recently been published, included a section called, “Handling of Players.”
I immediately rushed home, got out my notes, and changed the title of that section to “Working with Players.” For me that change in wording was extremely important, because I believe an effective leader works with those individuals on the team.
Taking the idea of working with, not for a step further than Wilt, was Coach’s father Joshua, who actually applied the with not for idea when working with animals on the farm.
Coach told many stories about his father’s gentleness in different situations on the farm. For example, the family kept two plowing mules named Jack and Kate, the latter of which had a tendency of lying down in the field and refusing to work.
No matter how rough or frustrated young John got with Kate, she would not budge. Joshua, however, would walk over until he was within earshot of the mule, and simply say, “Kate.” This alone would be enough to spur the animal back into action.
No building is stronger than its foundation. No team is stronger than its foundation. The three blocks in the middle of the foundation of the Pyramid of Success are friendship, loyalty and cooperation.
These three qualities define our ability to get along well with others.
They can only be strong if our teammates know they are working with us, not for us.
A good leader says: Our Team not My Team.
Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman
Twitter: @woodenswisdom




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Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry


 Teamwork’s Best
(an excerpt)


Let’s learn from birds what team-work is about!
Let birds teach us the advantages brought;
Let’s forge ahead in ‘We’s’ and not in ‘I’s’!
Let’s fly like birds together in life’s skies!

The leader bears the brunt along the way;
It has to fly ahead on, come what may;
It keeps the direction for birds behind;
The strong air-resistance, it does not mind!

The ‘V’ formation lessens air friction;
It helps all birds in ease of flight-action;
The wing-beating of birds is lessened much;
Their movement gains a sturdy, gentle touch.

’Tis best to fly in groups in harmony;
The single bird that flies looks so funny;
Your mind is stronger when friends are with you;
Encouragement comes, seeing others do.

United, we can accomplish more things;
Together, we do not feel life’s worst stings!
Our goals are easier to reach as a team;
Reality comes even to a dream!

And if the leader cannot stay ahead,
Give way to others, to youngsters to head;
Just take your position in lower rungs;
You’ve flown enough for long with your dear lungs!

Good leaders must be humble to others;
You utilize the talents of brothers;
Resources must be pooled to achieve goals;
In life, we ought to take up newer roles!

Teamwork is best for everything on earth;
Our Mother Nature tells this right from birth;
Why singly struggle when union is strength;
Why waste our precious time, God-given breath!

Dr John Celes


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