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Looking for a leader? Look for a coach

I hung out with a legend today.

It wasn’t just me. There were 3,700 other people there, too, hanging on every word that came from the mouth of former Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Coach K keynoted the AICPA’s 2022 ENGAGE megaconference in Las Vegas in a session moderated by CBS News’s Jill Schlesinger. Most of the things he said sounded like what you’d expect a basketball coach to say and they were exactly what the future-focused leaders in the room needed to hear.

Here are some of my favorites:

“I speak to my best player more than anyone else.”Makes sense, right? But when push comes to shove, who gets most of our time in the office our A players, or our screw-ups? We spend most of our time trying to turn our worst into our best. And our best? They resent it. In this environment, they won’t wait around for that attention. They’ll find it somewhere else. Spend your time with the people who want to spend their time giving you their best.

“My team doesn’t work for me. They work with me. If you can create ‘our’ instead of ‘mine,’ that’s a beautiful thing.”It’s one of the biggest cliches going, but there really is no “I” in T-E-A-M. The best leaders say “we” way more than “me,” and for good reason. Your business isn’t about you. It’s about serving others your clients and customers, yes, but more importantly your employees.

“We didn’t draw up a play. We created a mood, a feeling of success.”Krzyzewski was talking about coaching some of the NBA’s biggest stars as part of the men’s national “dream team” that won Olympic gold. Juggling those egos wasn’t easy, so instead of focusing on strategy and talent, he focused on culture and purpose. If everyone’s “why” is right, their “what” will be off the charts. First and foremost, get your culture right, then make sure everyone on the team fits that culture.

“Two great questions you should ask your people: ‘What do you think?’ and ‘How do you feel?’”It’s the essence of inclusion. Everyone’s voice should be heard. Make sure you hear them. That starts with asking them what they think. Great questions lead to great answers, which lead to great results.

“Look for these three things in new recruits: talent, balance, and character.”Talent means skill and experience the stuff they need to do the job. Balance is about curiosity a mindset centered on lifelong learning. And character? Simple: Be a good person.

Basketball and business? They’re one in the same, really, as long as you’ve got the right leader with the right mindset.

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