I’ve never thought of myself as a coach (even though I used to offer career coaching as a service). However, when I think about it, I’ve been “coaching” for decades.

And so have you.

As nurses, we coach our patients to be more compliant with their treatments. As preceptors, we coach our new nurses by helping them transition into professional practice. As nurse leaders, we coach our employees by creating environments where they can excel clinically and professionally.

As nurse leaders, let's coach our employees by creating environments where they can excel clinically and… Click to Tweet

Nurses coach every day but we don’t always recognize the importance of coaching to help others succeed.

John Wooden, the legendary American College basketball coach, encouraged his players to develop their character. Wooden has been called the greatest college coach in history thanks to a long list of accomplishments, including a record 10 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship titles. But for him, it’s not about the number of wins and losses: It’s about how the game is played.

His view of success was:

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

Early in his career, in addition to his coaching duties, Wooden taught English. With an undergraduate degree in English and a master’s in education, he considered himself a teacher first and a coach second.

It was as a teacher that he came up with the idea for “The Pyramid of Success”—a concept that took more than a decade to complete. If you want to study Wooden’s success and learn a few lessons that can help you create a high performing team, I suggest you focus your attention on his pyramid.

Wooden’s Pyramid of Success includes 15 building blocks that he felt led to success. The cornerstones of the pyramid are industriousness and enthusiasm.

Wooden says about industriousness, “There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile things come from hard work and careful planning.”

“There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile things come from hard work and careful planning.” - John Wooden Click to Tweet

On enthusiasm he writes, “Your heart must be in your work.”

Those are just the cornerstones. Wooden’s 13 other building blocks of success, with his description of each, are:

  1. Friendship: Comes from mutual esteem, respect, and devotion. A sincere liking for all.
  2. Loyalty: To yourself and to all those dependent on you. Keep your self-respect.
  3. Cooperation: With all levels of your coworkers. Help others, and see the other side.
  4. Self-Control: Emotions under control. Delicate adjustments between mind and body. Keep judgment and common sense.
  5. Alertness: Be observing constantly. Be quick to spot a weakness and correct it or use it as the case may warrant.
  6. Initiative: Cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone. Desire to excel.
  7. Intentness: Ability to resist temptation and stay with your course. Concentrate on your objective, and be determined to reach your goal.
  8. Condition: Mental/Moral/Physical—Rest, exercise, and diet must be considered. Moderation must be practiced. Dissipation must be eliminated.
  9. Skill: A knowledge of the ability to properly execute the fundamentals. Be prepared. Cover every detail.
  10. Team Spirit: An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests or glory for the welfare of all. The team comes first.
  11. Poise: Just being yourself. Being at ease in any situation. Never fighting yourself.
  12. Confidence: Respect without fear. Confident but not cocky. May come from faith in yourself in knowing that you are prepared.
  13. Competitive greatness: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Be at your best when your best is needed. Real love of a hard battle.

It’s quite a list.  You can tell a lot of thought went into it over a long period of time.

As you reflect on the list, it’s hard to take issue with what Wooden came up with. While you can certainly see how this list applies to a basketball team, it also applies to the work we do as nurses!

John Wooden built teams that aimed to live these values, rather than just create a motivational poster on a wall.  He reinforced the Pyramid of Success by using key phrases to remind people of their responsibilities. These included:

Be true to yourself.

Help others. Make friendship a fine art.

Make each day your masterpiece.

There is no substitute for hard work and careful planning.

Be more interested in character than reputation.

His approach worked for his basketball team. His teams left a legacy of winning titles, even though he did not talk about winning. Many players, commentators and others were touched by his work. His approach could work for your nursing department too!

John Wooden enabled people to keep developing their character strengths. They then worked hard to fulfill their potential as human beings.

I’m curious—which of Wooden’s 15 building blocks of success really resonates with you? Which do you think is the most important for nurses to adopt?

Wooden chose to make industriousness and enthusiasm the cornerstones of his pyramid.

What would you choose for yours?

Thanks so much for reading!

Take care. Be kind. Stay connected.