Shooting Hoops with God

by Brad Harmon on August 22, 2010 in Leadership

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We lost one of the great basketball coaches of all-time earlier this year with the passing of John Wooden.  While many will remember him for his accomplishments on the court, it’s the legacy he left off the court for which I believe he would’ve been the proudest.

Last time, we looked at the secrets for being an effective communicator primarily from the point of view of sending out your message.  Coach wooden knew what it meant to be an effective communicator and a great leader.  He would probably point out that there was another refrain in the Creation account that we failed to mention – “and God saw that it was good.”

As we move on to the fifth entrepreneurial lesson from Creation, monitoring and following up with your people, I couldn’t help but think what a great vantage point a basketball coach has to accomplish this.

Big Brother is Watching You

How many of you cringe a little when you think you’re being monitored?  It sounds like George Orwell’s Big Brother watching you, doesn’t it?  Why is that?  Nobody ever accuses a basketball coach of spying on their players while the game is going on, so why should this charge be leveled against other leaders?

Perhaps it’s the sneaky way that most leaders monitor their people.  Every player knew that Wooden was watching because he was on the floor with them.  There was no secrecy involved.  He could see his players and they could see him.  Later in this series, we’ll see that God monitored his Creation in much the same way.

Why Watch Your People at All?

If they’re honest, most leaders would admit that they monitor their people because they don’t trust them to do what they’re supposed to be doing.  This is why most forms of monitoring involve secrecy.  They want to know what really happens when they’re not around.  It’s okay, we’ve all been there.

Not trusting your people is usually a sign that you aren’t hiring the right people, not providing them with adequate training, or poorly communicating with them.  Instead, monitor them to see where you can provide better resources, clearer instructions, or better coaching to help them develop.

Pick Up Your Whistle and Coach

When John Wooden monitored his players from the bench, he was doing all of these.  He knew that his job as a leader was to attract and recruit the right talent, come up with a successful playbook, train his players through a lot of practice, and then to make the necessary adjustments during a game.

He monitored his players to help them step up when needed, and to make sure the whole team (including himself) was moving in the right direction.  By watching his team play he was gathering feedback on how well he was doing as a leader, and, at the same time, he was providing timely feedback to his players as they went up and down the court.

It’s Hard to Coach from the Owner’s Box

Coach Wooden believed in leading by proximity.  He knew his players.  He cared about them.  He worried more about the type of person they were becoming than how successful they were on the court. You have to be close to your people to lead like this.  It’s hard to be a servant leader from your corner office.

It’s easy, however, to monitor your people when you regularly walk among them.  Coach Wooden said to “make sure your team members know they’re working with you, not for you.”  When they know this, monitoring is something they crave from you, not fear.  It’s like shooting hoops with God.

The Buck Stops With You

Before the evening and the morning were the X day, God saw that it was good.  Likewise, as leaders, the bucks stops with you.  You must be that final approval that says whatever you’re producing is good.

It’s impossible to do this without monitoring your team and providing feedback where necessary to attain the desired result.  Great communications both begins and ends with the sender.  It’s the sender’s responsibility to make sure the message is clearly communicated and accomplished.

How do you monitor the people on your team?  Do they feel like they’re being watched by Big Brother, or do they feel like they’re being coached by a caring leader?  Does your team work for you or with you?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chad Galbreath September 3, 2010 at 3:53 pm


As someone who both reports to my leader and has a handful of people report to me, here are some tools that we use to allow coaching to take place without it being either sneaky or secretive.

Each week by end of day Monday, we all fill out a short 2 page document detailing what we hope to accomplish this week, updating what we actually accomplished last week. We also report back on how we feel our working relationship has been with our leader over the last week. We have a section to fill out how we are feeling, excellent all the way to overwhelmed. There are several other areas on the document that detail or personality strengths and well as our bigger 1 year goals. This helps us stay focused week by week and also allows the both people to be on the same page, give direction if leader wants different areas of focus, and allows for coaching to take place if a difficult task has remained on the weekly to do list longer than expected. more than anything it creates weekly communication. After filling them out for about a year now they take only about 10-15 minutes but greatly have increased our efficiency as on organization.

thanks for sharing your insight on the power of monitoring our teams to consistently produce our best results.
Chad Galbreath recently posted..Speaking Less Saying More


Brad Harmon September 3, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Wow, that’s a pretty significant commitment Chad. This is something I do with my coaching clients, and it works very well. I’m not sure I’ve seen it rolled out to an entire organization before. This looks like a great way to monitor your employees while being right there on the court with them. What an awesome idea.
Brad Harmon recently posted..What the Future Holds for this Site


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