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Teams: All Are Equal - Some Are More Equal Than Others!
By Jack Donohue   Printer Friendly Version

Try to imagine a teacher without students or a coach without players. These images are not easy to form ... because the students and the players define the teacher and the coach. They are integral parts of a greater whole!

I spent 20 years as the coach of Canada's Olympic basketball team. We were very successful, and yet I never scored a basket, grabbed a rebound, or threw a pass. Every single basket, rebound and pass was performed by a player. I just made sure they did it very well, and that they had all the tools necessary to perform to their potential. The best example of a coach/player relationship: a horse and jockey.

On my television show, we had the opportunity to interview both Hervé Filion and Sandy Hawley, two of the greatest horse-drivers ever. When talking with Filion, the crew wanted to bet. "You win 6 out of 10 races you're in-you're riding in ten races today-we should bet on you!" Filion replied, "Never bet on the jockey-always bet on the horse! I can't make a poor horse good; I'm there to help good horses be better!" Herein lies a lesson for all of us. Players can win without coaches. Students can learn without teachers. Children can grow up without parents. IN THEORY! But it rarely works that way. Since we are not ABSOLUTELY necessary, it behooves us to make our interactions with students, players and children:

more interesting!
more productive!
and more fun!

But we'll talk about leaders at another time. Who are these players and what attributes do they have that make them successful? I must have more than 30 studies showing characteristics of successful people. The one that means the most to me comes from the work of Dr. Robert Nideffer (San Diego State University) and Dr. Cal Botterill (University of Winnipeg)-they worked with me with some of our basketball teams and we speak the same language (but they don't have my New York City brogue)-here are a few of the characteristics they have identified:


Successful People Have a Goal (A Dream)

They know where they want to go.
They make decisions based on this goal.
The goal may be physical, social, financial, business or spiritual-but there is always a passion to attain the goal.

Successful People Concentrate on the Process!

Once they know where they want to go, they concentrate on the path, the process. While these people are usually dreamers (they dream BIG dreams), they know things are done on a daily basis that either further or frustrate our dream. They work constantly and don't count on "challenges" or "motivation" to come along and move them. They examine the downside of what they do -- I don't mean a "Negative Nelly" or a "Sad Sam" approach, where everything is against me and the world stinks, but rather that these people take a little time to decide how they will be affected should what they attempt to do not work. This is not a negative process. It is more an exploration of whether I can handle it if I don't achieve my dream, or accomplish my plan. Hey, every day in every big city (or even small cities nowadays), two people lose their jobs. One goes out and finds a big building to jump from, while the other goes out and finds a better job.

Successful People Work Hard!

Surprised? They don't work hard as an add-on, or in the occasional spurt. They realize that nothing good has ever come about without people working hard. We did a Donohue's Legends show on Kurt Browning during his "off-season". Our crew was surprised by his answer to my question, "How long are you on the ice each day?" He replied that he had to be careful as he didn't want to get "stale". His event was far off and he wouldn't start preparation for a few weeks. He was on the ice for "only" 5 to 6 hours per day. "Now, a lot of that is just listening to music, or experimenting ..." Six hours a day ... in his "off-season!" Of course, he's a world champion ... and wanted to stay there!

Successful People Feel Good About Themselves!

This attribute is on each and every one of the studies I've reviewed. They say it in different ways, but it boils down to the fact that successful people like themselves. They feel they deserve their success because they are worthy and have positioned themselves to be successful and then they did the hard work necessary to achieve it! Stuck up? Rarely -- they aren't trying to put anyone else down, or make themselves bigger. They just feel good about themselves. My father used to say, "If you don't like you ... who should?" This is, in my opinion, the greatest indicator of success ... for players ... for business ... for you and for me!

These are only a few of the attributes identified in Dr. Botterill and Dr. Nideffer's profiles, but I'm sure you recognized some of these traits in your team "players" ... and hopefully in yourself. How Can We Be Sure We Have Successful People On Our Team?? We have the same opportunities as professional sports teams ... train'em or buy'em!

In some cases, you don't have the opportunity to say goodbye to people who don't measure up (e.g., your family, some teams, some businesses), so you must train your people. (By the way, that's what all the Words of Mouth people do ... help you help yourself and others!) We've just touched on what makes up a successful team. But we have covered one of the essential ingredients: THE PLAYERS! The leaders? The relationships? The communication? The commitment? We'll talk about those next time!

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