Duke men's basketball team lead by Coach K won its fourth NCAA title. What's their secret? According to Coach K, it's what might be called the "Women K": his wife Mickie and their three adult daughters. Read all about it in this fabulous article entitled "Follow Me" written by Michael Sokolove that appeared in the February 2006 edition of Play magazine, a supplement of The New York Times.
If you read the article and Coach K's books you'll see that he clearly describes what we refer to as a Connection Culture, including its three elements: vision, value and voice. Most leaders are intentional about developing task excellence but they are not intentional about developing relationship excellence. Not Coach K. Here are just a few of the quotes that appear in the article that show Coach K strives to develop relationship excellence via connection:
"Almost everything in leadership comes back to relationships"
"When he recruits a player, Krzyzewski tells him, 'We're developing a relationship here, and if you are not interested, tell me sooner rather than later.' That word -- relationship -- is one he uses frequently. [He tells players] 'If you come here, for however long, you're going to unpack your suitcase. We're going to form a bond, and you're going to be part of this family."
"Game day is not a day for long, drawn-out speeches. It is a time for interaction."
"There's an empathetic part of leadership, and this is what my wife and daughters have taught me! Guys don't share insights...Every night at the dinner table, my wife and girls discussed their day. They remembered details. They remembered the feeling the detail brought, and the feeling before that, where as men we remember only the final feeling. We're all about the end of the story, the punch line."
"Mickie will say to me, 'There's something wrong with [a player].' I'll say, 'There's nothing wrong with [him].' And she says, 'O.K., but there is.' I try to dismiss her, but I'm thinking, There's probably something bothering him. And sure enough, I'll take him aside, and there is. This kind of thing has happened hundreds of times over the years."
"Know their names. You know what? "Please" and "thank you" go a long way. You can be damn sure that every guy on my team says that. The best way to get better as a team is if everyone has ownership, and if you do these things they will."
When groups of any size, from a basketball team to a business organization, share a vision that makes them feel proud, when each group member feels valued and when each feels informed and that they have a voice to express their ideas and opinions, it creates a connection, a bond, a feeling of unity or esprit de corps. In groups where connection is high, members give their best efforts (i.e. employee engagement) and they align their behavior with group goals (i.e. strategic alignment). When times get tough, as they always do periodically in life, groups with connection pull together rather than rip one another apart. Connection is the force that differentiates a dog-eat-dog culture from a sled dog team that pulls together.
Duke's got game thanks to Coach K and the lessons he's learned from the Women K. Lessons that developed The Connection Culture: A New Source of Competitive Advantage .
Michael Lee Stallard and Jason Pankau speak, teach and write about leadership, employee engagement, productivity and innovation at leading organizations including Google, GE, Johnson & Johnson, NASA, Lockheed Martin and the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia. Click on these links to learn more about Michael and Jason in the media and their speaking engagements.
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