Rules for the B2B Marketing Agency Team, Lessons from Coach Wooden

I read this morning that the great John Wooden has entered the hospital and is in grave condition. He’s 99-years-old, and we certainly wish him comfort and recovery.

If you’re not familiar with the college basketball coaching legend, he brought his UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA championships in 12 years and produced an unbelievable winning streak of 88 games. To me, and many others, he was the ultimate team builder – and his philosophies still thrive in both sports and business.

Rules for the B2B Marketing Agency Team, Lessons from Coach WoodenWe think a lot about teamwork and team building here at the agency. Our work requires a diverse set of talents to come together and produce exceptional deliverables. And when we’re in sync, the work reflects it and we tend to grow as an accomplished culture.

I saw an interview with Coach Wooden during the Final Four this year, and I wrote down the “three rules” he gave his teams: (1) never criticize a teammate, (2) never show up late, and (3) never use profanity.

I remember thinking that these rules sounded so benign, so basic. What larger impact could they really have on team success? So I related them to the team efforts I’ve been around in the marketing agency setting:

Never Criticize a Teammate. I can report first hand that this is a team killer. When an individual assumes the authority to criticize, the team dynamic changes. Constructive communication tends to stop and, at least temporarily, the ideas stop flowing.

Never Show Up Late. This seems to be more about respect and team discipline. Yes, we’re in a deadline business so time management is important. But more to the point, if a team meeting is important enough to schedule and accept – it deserves the respect of on-time attendance. Taking this a step further, we should expect meeting participants to be prepared for the discussion. As we like to say here: “Show up smart.”

Never Use Profanity. Okay, a few of us may not make the team based on this rule. But what sounds like advice for a prior generation really speaks to respect and temperance. Coach Wooden once said: “You cannot function physically or mentally, or in any other way, unless your emotions are under control.” To consciously avoid an overreaction, or an unintended slur, can only help team efforts.

The strength of these three rules may be in their simplicity, and their true function may be to enable team accomplishment. That’s big, though, and with the right mix of players and inspiration it can lead to Championship efforts.

Thanks Coach Wooden for your contributions to team and to winning by the rules.