This week’s Wednesday Wisdom is from Coach Wooden’s “Wooden Wisdom” blog with some of my own thoughts.

Coach Wooden established four essential components of being a successful coach, one of them is “The Coach as a Teacher” which we will discuss today.

An important characteristic of being an effective teacher is setting a good example. Consistent behavior provides an example. Consistent behavior can only be produced if we have a philosophy that governs our actions. Without a philosophy our actions will lack consistency because they will simply be reactions to the behaviors of others.

A favorite poem of Coach Wooden’s summarizes this idea:

No written word
Nor spoken plea
Can teach our youth
What they should be.

Nor all the books
On all the shelves.
It’s what the teachers
Are themselves.

In his book Practical Modern Basketball Coach Wooden discussed the coach’s role as a teacher in the following manner:

Since the most important responsibility of a coach in regard to the actual playing of the game is to teach his players properly and effectively to execute the various fundamentals of the game, he is, first of all, a teacher.

Coach continued by explaining the “Laws of Learning”:

A fundamental must be explained and demonstrated, the correct demonstration must be imitated by the players, their demonstration must be constructively criticized and corrected, and then the players must repeat and repeat the execution of the proper model until the correct habit has been formed to the point where they will react instinctively in the correct manner.

In our business, following the laws of learning can be beneficial. Sometimes we hurriedly give a team member an assignment with a deadline and walk away. We are disappointed when the result does not meet our expectations. I describe this delegation technique as “Drop and Run” or “Dumping.” This does not usually produce the desired results.

Coach would caution us: “Be quick but don’t hurry.”

The first step in the laws of learning above is “explanation.” Explanation is communicating to the team member the purpose of the task and sometimes how it fits in “the big picture”. This communication helps transform an employee into a team member. In the delegation/teaching process it is helpful to ask our team members for feedback. The simple question “What are your thoughts?” will further energize the team member as they begin to understand that they are truly working with you, not for you.

These steps are critical to making sure you and the team member are “on the same page:” (1) Demonstration by the Teacher, (2) Imitation of demonstration by the student, and finally (3) Constructive criticism of the imitation by the Teacher.

The extra five minutes you spend in following the laws of learning when assigning a task may seem like a lot in today’s fast paced business environment but the value of taking the extra time is encapsulated in one of Coach Wooden’s favorite quotes: “If you do not have the time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

Confucius provided a student’s perspective with regards to the art of learning: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

You haven’t successfully taught until the student has learned.

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