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  • Wes Burwell

Wooden & The Four P’s

It is safe to say that all business professionals desire and appreciate great leadership, and the results that great leadership brings can be found in numerous segments of society. We can find the results of great leadership in quite a few of our sports team, in many businesses, and even in the political realm.


As many of you, I enjoy reading stories of great leaders, and am currently reading a book by one of the great leaders in the field of sports, and that is John Wooden.


For those not familiar with John Wooden, I will share with you that he was undoubtedly the greatest basketball coach of all times. He coached the UCLA Bruins from 1948 until 1975, and during his tenure he attained results that will never come close to being matched. His teams won 10 national championships, including seven in a row. He only had one losing season, his first season. In addition, at one point his teams had 88 consecutive victories.


What is even more astounding about these results is that John Wooden never scouted the competition, and UCLA did not always have the best players (though for many years they did). For example, when UCLA won their first national championship in 1964 against Duke, the UCLA team was the shortest team ever to win a national championship. The same was true when they won their second national championship the following year.


With that understanding I am going to share with you one of his winning formula’s, which he stated are the four p’s (found in his book “Wooden on Leadership”).


The first p is planning. The amount of time John Wooden spent planning his team practices exceeded the length of the actual practice. As business professionals we should always be evaluating our planning. A very challenging question we can all ask ourselves is “have we planned out each hour of our day?” Not to suggest that we should be rigid, for unexpected events will always occur. However, the importance of planning remains.


The second p stands for preparation. According to Wooden, a team needed to have physical, mental, and moral strength. In terms of mental strength, Wooden believed that the game of basketball was played as much between the ears as between the lines. He also demanded that his players be in excellent physical condition and had a moral code of behavior for his team that was enforced. We can all ask ourselves if we are prepared for each day from a physical, mental, and moral standpoint?


The third p stands for practice. Early in my career I was advised that practice makes perfect. Later in my career I was advised that practice makes permanent. Are we practicing/ training with excellence and with continual improvement in mind?


The final p stands for performance, which could be the most important of the four p’s. It’s great to plan, prepare, and practice, but it counts for nothing if there is no execution. Do we critically review our performance daily, seeking to determine how our performance could be improved?


In conclusion, we may not be leading teams to a national championship, and it is possible that we are not even members of a winning team. However, success leaves clues, and we can all take advantage of the four p’s outlined by John Wooden.

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