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Learning from John Wooden: Everyone Is a Teacher & a Coach

by John Y. Shook
July 30, 2014

Learning from John Wooden: Everyone Is a Teacher & a Coach

by John Y. Shook
July 30, 2014 | Comments (4)

Photo courtesy of Fanbase

John Wooden was arguably the most successful, probably the most influential, and certainly the most studied coach in the history of US sports. His UCLA basketball teams won 11 national championships over a 13 year span. But, his influence is more than a matter of wins and losses. He spoke very little about "winning". Winning – the final numbers of the scoreboard – was the result of a process, of doing things the right way. And it was the way he coached that made a difference and led to his phenomenal results.

"Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing that you have made the effort to become the best of which you are capable," said Wooden when asked to define success.

Wooden's approach was unique, according to researchers Richard Gallimore and Roland Tharp, who studied the processes of many coaches. They found that Wooden gave very few "motivational" speeches and rarely got overly emotional, whether up or down. What he did was simply … teach.

In their study of Wooden, Gallimore and Tharp recorded 2,326 discrete acts of teaching, which they categorized as: 

  • Compliments: 6.9%
  • Expressions of displeasure: 6.6%
  • Pure information (what to do, how to do it): 75%

Coach Wooden taught via what he called the "whole-part" method; he would teach an entire move or play and then break it down to work on its essential elements. That will sound very familiar to you if you know anything about TWI – Training Within Industry program – and its "job breakdown" process.

Swen Nater played for Wooden at UCLA from 1970-1973 and wrote a book with Gallimore about Wooden's coaching/teaching style called You Haven't Taught Until They Have Learned. 

Swen says the heart of Wooden's process was condition (moral, mental, and physical), skill, and team spirit. For Swen, "Steady improvement in several areas continued to provide me with motivation to reach my personal best, but nothing motivated me more than enhanced conditioning, skill, and team spirit. The better my conditioning, the harder I could work to improve my skills. The better my skills, the better I could give them to the team. As all three were improving simultaneously, I could literally see daily improvements. It was exciting. I felt good about myself."

Coaching means improving performance and developing people. Any leader's job is to get the work done and develop the people doing the work at the same time. To accomplish these two objectives as separate activities is difficult if not impossible. So the lean leader's solution is to develop people through getting the work done. And one key means by which lean leaders do that is coaching.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  coaching,  culture,  leadership,  learning
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4 Comments | Post a Comment
Ralf ippold July 30, 2014
1 Person AGREES with this comment

h/t John for bringing John Wooden into the conversation. He is a largely unknown figure relevant for consistent team learning, though it was basketball not manufacturing.

His TED talk in high age is -from my point of view- legendary, http://www.ted.com/talks/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success


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David Bovis July 31, 2014

Brilliant Article, and good to have picked up the link to the TED talk from the Facebook page. Thanks.

The best thing about this is, we can now take these simple principles and understand how and why they work at a psychological / neurological level, giving those we teach more reason around instruction, which in itself improves our capacity to teach and obtain buy-in / autonomy.

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George Palma August 06, 2014
1 Person AGREES with this comment
Good summary of Wooden's way...Before he taught his players basketball moves, he taught them how to put on their socks and playing shoes....

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Codename_D March 21, 2016

wow really wooden expertise as a coach that is extraordinary, at the present time, we've rarely come across a coach like wooden, he trained without thinking about the victory, but he was trained on how to appreciate a process and finally, the process is exactly what will bring victory for our team. Nice job coach wooden.

by the way thanks to this <a href="http://www.ahliartikel.com" rel="dofollow">Ahli Artikel</a>

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