Play to Win

March 23, 2011

“The company practices a culture that is playing to win both competitive advantage and market share in a way that rewards courage and expects creative thinking, innovative problem solving, and high impact results each day from our team.”

Greeting Earthlings!

I grew up in a friendly, yet competitive neighborhood with other boys about my age, who wanted to be the best athlete at whatever sport we played. Whether it was baseball, football or basketball each of us played to win all the time. I never knew what it meant to not play to win. I love the following quote from Mary Ashton Livermore,

“Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts.’ probably lost.”

Legendary Duke University Basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski (known fondly as Coach K) is in the hunt again this year for another NCAA basketball crown. Beating Michigan last Sunday for his 900th collegiate coaching win, allowed Duke to join the illustrious sweet 16 and play for college basketball’s highest crown. At times during Coach K’s career, winning didn’t always happen. There were some people who said his coaching career should end and that he wasn’t an effective coach anymore, and should leave Duke.

When looking at Coach K’s amazing coaching record, three themes emerge that are key to his winning success:

  1. Build a Cohesive Team-Coach K doesn’t institute rules: He says he wants his teams to develop standards together.
  2. Involve Everyone-creating ownership and buy in to the mission is critical to success.
  3. Invoke a Higher Cause-when coaching for the USA in the Olympics (Coach K states there was no greater honor than to have your hand over your heart when the National Anthem was being played).

Obviously, Coach K likes to win and so do I, who doesn’t? Are you playing to win? Do you question everyday how you can win and keep a competitive advantage? I sometimes ask myself, how can I make our school, services and products the best?

In my younger years I played a lot of competitive tennis. I loved tennis and it taught me a lot about life and how to work. When my serve wasn’t working well I had to make sure my ground strokes were hit well. If my competitor was playing the net a lot I needed to be able to hit great passing shots or a good lob if I expected to win. In tennis as  in life, we have to sometimes adjust our strategy if we want to win.

I believe part of the trouble in America today, in business and in life, is that too many people are afraid of competition. In our public schools there are advocates that state there should be no winners or losers. They promote the notion that all should win and none should lose, resulting in people sneering at success if it costs hard work, training and sacrifice. That simply isn’t reality and isn’t the way life works!

If you are going to play, whether it is in sports, business, school or life, play to win.

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