Provision #282: Success

Laser Provision

This Provision pulls together and summarizes the Ten Strategies for Success that we have explored during the past ten weeks with the help of some great American sports’ coaches. Their wisdom has become our wisdom, as this Provision makes plain.

LifeTrek Provision

As we begin this issue of Provisions, concluding our most recent series on ten strategies for success, I want to celebrate nature’s annual display of autumn colors. Those who live in parts of the world where the leaves do not change colors are missing an unparalleled display of natural beauty. Here in southeast Virginia, the autumn colors are in full swing. The trees hold every color imaginable, from bright green to deep red and everything in between. When the sun hits them just right and they come alive in all their glory, there’s no way to go on about business as usual. You just have to stop what you’re doing and say, “Wow!”

Fortunately, we included such celebrative expressions of appreciation and joy in the series on success that we are now bringing to a close. We built this series around the interviews that Billy Packer did with great American sports’ coaches, exploring their strategies for success in sports and life. Judging from your enthusiastic and thoughtful replies over the past three months, this series has been eye opening and valuable. To make them clear in one broad stroke, we now present a quick review of all ten strategies.

1. TELL THE TRUTH: We started our series with basketball Coach Mike Krzyewski, from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. There’s no way to be successful if we don’t tell the truth to ourselves and to those we work with. The real art, when the truth is hard to tell, is learning how to give honest feedback with positive regard • so it motivates people to achieve rather than destroys their self-esteem. Coach “K,” as he is affectionately called, has mastered the art of telling the truth to achieve consistent success.

2. LOVE THE BASTARDS: This Provision caused a few of the corporate spam filters to reject our weekly distribution, because they didn’t like the affectionate epithet that legendary coach Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics used to describe his players. “How do we do it?” Auerbach quipped at one point. “I’ll tell you how we do it. We love the bastards!” That pretty much says it all. If you don’t love the people you’re working with, as exasperating as they can be, there’s no other way to be successful. It’s that simple.

3. LOVE THE GAME: Of course, it’s not enough just to love the people who play the game. To be successful, you also have to love the game itself (whatever that game may be, from parenting to project management). Unfortunately, many people do just that, committing what Malcolm Forbes calls “the biggest mistake people make in life,” namely “not trying to make a living at doing what they most enjoy.” No one could ever say that Pat Head Summitt, women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee since 1974, has committed that mistake. Only tremendous passion would keep someone in the game, so successfully, for almost 30 years. Perhaps that’s why she built such an incredible winning record. She’s not only a student of the game; she’s a lover of the game.

4. READ YOUR PEOPLE: Although loving your people is an essential precondition for this strategy, our next Provision highlighted an important and often overlooked dynamic. It’s not enough to be a student of the game. One also has to be student of your people. This is a matter of paying attention, often to very subtle dynamics, and then trusting your gut to make the right decision on a case-by-case basis. Joe Gibbs, head coach for the Washington Redskins during the 1980s, applied this to recruiting as well as coaching. To be successful, you have to get the right people into the right position and then you have to know when to bring them down and when to lift them up. It’s an art, not science, which has everything to do with intuition and attention.

5. BE ENTHUSIASTIC: Truth be told, there are going to be far more times when the occasion calls for us to lift people up than to bring them down. If you want to be successful, the coach will often have to double as the cheerleader. When the going gets tough • and it will get tough • successful people manage to keep their own spirits up and to lift the spirits of others. Tommy Lasorda, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ baseball team from 1976-1996, identified this as a key strategy for success. He spoke in terms of wisdom, perspective, understanding, and grace as he spoke about the importance of being enthusiastic in the face of adversity. Perhaps that’s why the root meaning of “enthusiasm” is “to be filled with God.” It ultimately comes from within.

6. HUMBLE YOURSELF: Anson Dorrance was not a name that I was familiar with before starting this series. He ended up giving us material for three Provisions. Dorrance is the winningest college coach in any sport after more than 20 years of coaching. His women soccer players have come as close to total domination as any program could ever come. With that legacy, one might assume there was room for a little strut and swagger. If so, and as with most assumptions, one would be wrong. Dorrance spoke in terms of humility as the key to greatness. The team becomes a team when the players stop thinking of themselves and start thinking of each other. It’s a breaking down process that leads, season after to season, to unparalleled greatness.

7. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: This was a tricky strategy to describe, because you can generate as many problems by taking too much responsibility as by taking too little. Still, there’s no way to be successful without taking responsibility. Successful people don’t pass the buck. They know what belongs to them and they take responsibility for getting the job done. They also take responsibility when things go wrong. For Dorrance, this means that his entire coaching staff walks the walk and talks the talk, both on and off the field, on a year round basis. When things don’t work out, they take the responsibility to change and improve. Perhaps that’s why they have been so successful.

8. DELEGATE: Learning how to delegate is perhaps the key to not taking too much responsibility. No one can be successful all by themselves. Unfortunately, many people have not learned how to delegate and to work with others. Either they make assignments and then hover around like a mother hen or they pass out work and then forget all about it. Dorrance suggests five principles of delegation that are critical to success: involve people in the decision-making process; make them feel important because they are important; take responsibility with them, rather than blaming them, when things don’t go well; praise and support them, regardless of the size of their contribution; and treat them with respect.

9. COMMUNICATE: In all of these strategies, the willingness, ability, and practice of communication stand at the heart of success. If we need others to be successful, and we do, then there’s no way to be successful without communication. But in this day and age, communication entails far more than just barking orders and expecting people to do your bidding. Lenny Wilkens, an NBA coach with a strong record of accomplishment, put it this way. “Today communication has to do more. It has to teach fundamentals, develop maturity, and build trust. If you build that trust, then people are receptive to what you’re talking about.” Without that trust, people will listen to nothing you have to say. Successful people understand this point and learn how to be master communicators.

10. CELEBRATE: Last week we came to the end of our series by focusing on one last strategy for success: celebrate! It’s interesting to note that this is a strategy for success, not just a result of success. Anyone can celebrate after they win the big game and the season is over. But successful people learn to celebrate every step of the way. They recognize and reward good work, whether the final score was in their favor or not. That was certainly part of the secret of Dean Smith, who coached Michael Jordan and many other basketball luminaries over the course of 36 seasons at the University of North Carolina. Smith was more inclined to celebrate the process of playing the game well than of winning any particular game. By so doing, he won plenty • and so will you if you learn to celebrate the process more than product.

I hope these ten strategies will assist you to be successful in your own life and work. If you want to make them come alive with the assistance of a LifeTrek coach, send us an email or give us a call. There’s nothing we enjoy more than working with people on the art of passionate and successful living.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

Excellent & directly wonderful article. I will practice it. “Process rather than outcome.” Greetings from tropical Malaysia. Cheers

This was an uplifting provision which I really enjoyed! Thank you for your thought and prayers, they were very helpful. Would you please send the Provision on Delegating again? (Ed. Note: Every Provision is archived on our Web site at

Once again, brilliant article on Leadership! I hope there are companies utilizing your insightful Wisdom when it comes to Leading. People follow Leaders not titles! (Braveheart) (Ed. Note: We’re happy to take referrals.)

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services