Visual Lessons of Teamwork

903.  A number.  A number of wins.  A feat accomplished by a person who has a broad impact across so many people and lives. A family.  A basketball family.  Last week Mike Krzyzewski accomplished something in Men’s NCAA basketball.  He passed his mentor, Bob Knight in achieving 903 wins (Pat Summitt holds the NCAA College Record for Men’s and Women’s basketball at 1071+ wins Coaching for the Lady Vols at Tennessee).  Duke played my Alma Matter, Michigan State in a game that even though I wanted MSU to win, I certainly respect as a college basketball fan what Coach K. has done.

With the success that Coach K has had, there has been obstacles along the way.  When he first took the job at Duke he had a conference record of 13-29 in his first 3 years.  This would have possibly had most athletic directors, alumni, and students calling for his ousting but Duke stuck with him and over the next few years those humble beginnings turned into a national program that still remains a force to be reckoned with.  A lesson for us all in life that even humble beginnings can result in greatness.

I believe what provides this greatness isn’t the individual but the team and how lessons can be taught.  The most powerful form of communication in the world is imagery.  Images can teach, images can make you happy, images can make you cry and images can form memories that last a lifetime.  Images can break cultural barriers and images can insult cultures.  Coach K uses many images in his coaching toolbox at Duke but I think that two of these images stand out to me when thinking about teamwork.

The first image is the hand and the fist.  Hold out your hand…you see five fingers.  Each of those fingers are individual but if you form a fist it is much more powerful.  Five fingers working together to form a fist will always be stronger than its individual parts.  A team working together will always be stronger than silos of team members or individuals trying to tackle a task alone.

The second image is the wheel.  You have the outside of the wheel with many spokes and the hub in the center.  The coach is the hub, the spokes are the teammates.  Forming together as a single wheel, the leader (the coach) at the center.  With good leadership, even if the coach is not there the wheel still continues to roll down the hill.

What do these images represent?  I believe they are a very simple way of thinking about leadership.  Leadership does not have to be complicated.  Teamwork does not have to be complicated either.  Let your teams work together, break down the silos and create a wheel of your own.  You never know what could happen.  You too can become a champion.


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