Thursday, June 12, 2014

John Wooden and the Big Picture

John Wooden and The Big Picture

Swen Nater


After retiring from the NBA, I coached college basketball in San Diego and made regular trips to Los Angeles to meet with Coach Wooden in his Encino condominium. On one occasion, the Lakers were in the NBA finals and I excitedly asked Coach if he was planning on watching the game that evening. I was hoping to watch it with him.


Because NBA basketball had too much one-on-one play, where passing was option B, Coach Wooden despised it with a passion and rarely watched a game. He was a believer in team play where all members eagerly sacrificed what they could do, for what they should do to help the team.


Coach Wooden often preached, “Make each day your masterpiece,” and he practiced it religiously. For him, a perfect day was all about self-improvement and, therefore, included reading from the Bible, strengthening friendships, spending quality time with family, and doing something for someone who can’t repay you. Watching an NBA game peeved him like fingernails on a blackboard and did not have a place of priority in his schedule.


Coach Wooden saw the big picture, self-improvement, and the activity options available for him on any given day were thoughtfully weighed against it. Everything he did was perfectly in line with his objective, to make each day his masterpiece, something he learned from his father, Joshua Wooden.


Managers of people can take a lesson from the Coach and improve their businesses. Sometimes we managers keep adding programs and departments, forgetting to stop and ask, “Are they necessary to help my company move toward its goal?” We don’t look at the big picture.


If you are in business to make a profit, the big picture is making money. Everything you do should be there because it helps you make money. If something you do does not directly or indirectly positively affect the bottom line, should it be there?  


You treat your employees and customers right. You provide value and a customer service program, geared to eagerly elevate each person to complete satisfaction. You expand your business responsibly to increase stock value, taking care of your stockholders. You practice high-level ethics and go above and beyond to ensure you are doing things the right way. When you do all of that, you believe it will build customer and employee loyalty which brings you business, and business brings you money.


Jimmy Johnson, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl champions said,


“Jettison everything that does not have anything to do with winning.”



So what exactly did Coach Wooden say when I asked him if he was going to watch the Lakers game that evening? “Not if I can help it.”


By the way, I’m pulling for the Spurs to take the championship. Shhh.





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