Sunday, March 8, 2015

March Madness: Coach K's Philosophy & Found Haiku

Review by Bill Doughty

One foundation for Duke University men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski  (along with his family) is his education at West Point U.S. Military Academy, where he learned three disciplines: "respect for authority, personal responsibility and the discipline to be honest."

"Imagine if every person had such a great foundation and then the passion and heart to love what they do. They'd always love their lives," he writes in "Leading with the Heart," written in 2000 and published by Warner Books. "That's what I'd call success."

Fundamental qualities for success in leadership and performance include communication, trust, collective responsibilities, caring and pride, according to Coach K. "In leadership there are no words more important than trust. In any organization trust must be developed among every member of the team if success is going to be achieved."

Pride comes from ownership of the mission; understanding of the mission comes from communication, caring and demonstrating collective responsibility as a team.

Coach K writes about being overly rigid in his early days as a coach, but he learned how to keep his core principles while being flexible, adaptable and innovative, depending on the personalities and situations he faced as his teams evolved. Now, "I want no artificial walls erected that might limit potential, stifle creativity or shackle innovation." Good leaders must be able to think on their feet and react immediately when necessary. And good leaders give their teams freedom to excel.

"At Duke, nobody is a number. Rather, we try to plant seeds that help people grow. We try to give every individual the freedom to develop their full capabilities.

"If you put a plant in a jar, it will take the shape of the jar. but if you allow the plant to grow freely, twenty jars might not be able to hold it. The freedom to grow personally, the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, the freedom to work hard, and the freedom to be yourself – these four freedoms should be guaranteed by every leader in every organization."

Touring the Pentagon after the 1992 season.
A pivotal moment in the book is his retelling of one of the most memorable plays in college sports history, the East Regional championship game against the University of Kentucky in March 1992. The Duke Blue Devils were down 103 to 102 with 2.1 seconds left in the game. Coach K called up a play for Grant Hill to pass the ball 75 feet down the length of the court to Christian Laettner at the top of the key on the other end.

It's what happened immediately before the play was called and immediately after it was executed that sets Coach Krzyzewski apart as a great coach, leader and human being. It must be read in its entirety to be fully appreciated, and it's too long to excerpt here.

Speaking with Soldiers at Fort Bragg.
In "Leading with the Heart," Krzyzewski offers practical advice for leading teams with exuberance and excitement, always living with integrity, demonstrating confidence, using plural pronouns such as "we" and "our" instead of "me" and "my," and building pride, unity and motivation through traditions. 

Returning several times to examples from his experience at West Point, Coach K writes:

"I find that people, generally, want to be on a team. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be in a situation where they feel that they are doing something for the greater good."

Found Haiku in Coach K's Philosophy

This book is filled with Sun Tzu or Confucius-like sayings like, "Never let a person's weakness get in the way of his strength," "Sometimes a loss can be a win," and "The only way you lose is if you don't try your best."

Within some of his words of wisdom are "found haiku," poems or verses generally fitting the rule of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables.

Here are some found haiku in "Leading with Heart":

The deal is [in] the
handshake; the deal is that there
won't be any deals

You hear, you forget;
You see, you remember; You
do, you understand

Confidence can be
an extremely effective
weapon against fear

Confidence shared
is better than confidence
only in yourself

A key principle:
don't worry about losing;
think about winning

People have to be
given the freedom to show
the heart they possess

And at the heart of
character is honesty
and integrity

Help me do my best,
help me be myself, and help
me lead with my heart

"Leading with the Heart: Coach K's Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business and Life" by Mike Krzyzewski with Donald T. Phillips was written 15 years ago, so references to Duke basketball players and others are somewhat dated (no mention of Jahlil Okafor, for example, who was only four years old at the time), but references harken back to some great memories of NCAA seasons and games. Among the names Coach K recounts in hardwood stories: Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Danny Ferry, Chris Collins, Trajan Langdan, Steve "Wojo" Wojciechowski, Shane Battier, Christian Laettner, Tommy Amaker and Johnny Dawkins.

Coach K's book is on CNO Adm. Greenert's professional reading list. 

Duke Blue Devils (28-3) are ranked 3 by the AP as of March 8. Coach K's team was victorious yesterday over the University of North Carolina at Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Down by two points at the half, they ended with a win at 84-77. They are expected to be a number-one seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament bracket.

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