Imagine that a longtime leader-manager told you one of his secrets to success was to work with a new staff every day.
You’d wonder what he was talking about. You’d think he was crazy. A new staff every day?
We recently came across a statement from Duke University’s h
ead basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, on the blog of the business author Tom Peters about how Coach K thinks about leading his student athletes. Krzyzewski has successfully built championship college basketball teams for 30 years.
Krzyzewski was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying, “Things don’t stay the same. You have to understand that not only your business situation changes, but the people you’re working with aren’t the same day to day. Someone is sick. Someone is having a wedding. You must gauge the mood, the thinking level of the team that day.”
Peters’ reaction to Coach K’s statement was as follows: “That is, your six-person project team or seven-person training department or 18-person housekeeping unit is a new puzzle every day. It’s far beyond ‘treat everybody differently according to their skills,’ etc. It’s that in a 220-day work year, we the leader-manager face 220 different teams. Every day is a new crossword puzzle. If such constant puzzle solving isn’t your cup of tea, then leave the leading-managing to someone else.”
Coach K’s quote made us wonder whether leaders really understand what motivates their employees from day to day. Do leaders really understand the changes going on with their staff when they walk into the office each day?
Like Peters, we agree that his comment states the obvious. Of course, outside of the job influences and job-related issues that any employee deals with day to day affects their motivation. Employees can feel challenged one day and not the next day. They can feel valued for the work they do this week and feel not a part of the team the next week.
Coach K’s insight is that the impact of these internal and external influences on the members of your team isn’t just on the margins. As Peters puts it, you have a different crossword puzzle to solve each day. You need to view your team through this lens of constant change.
Think for a moment about the implications of Krzyzewski’s idea that your business has a different “staff” each day.
Most entrepreneurs don’t come to work each day and manage their business thinking this way. Why would they? If the organizational chart is stable, the team is fairly stable. They already have enough problems on their plate to solve each day — especially with the economy.
Building a company culture where staff grow and prosper is essential to a successful bottom line. But small business owners typically think the significant impact of changes with their employees occurs over a much, much longer time horizon.
If Coach K is right, small business owners not only need to raise the game of their problem-solving skills, they also need to face each day with a different level of energy and creativity leading a “new team” each day. They need to give much more attention to the needs of that team.
We believe Coach K’s perspective on building a team will be helpful to your small business. He has had a long record of success, and we see real value in his idea and think it will make you an even more effective leader and manager.
Pat Sisneros is the vice president of College Services at Everett Community College. Juergen Kneifel is an associate faculty member in the EvCC Entrepreneurship program. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.