Sometimes the Details Matter

October 10, 2011

Professional coaching of all sorts seems to be having its moment, both for individuals and within the business world.  A recent article in the October 3, 2011 issue of The New Yorker by Atul Gawande made a compelling case for coaching.  Although Gawande, who is a surgeon in Boston and a faculty member of Harvard’s Medical School, is no slouch, he voluntarily subjected himself to the vulnerability of being coached by a more senior physician with favorable results.  

The article contains many good insights on the do’s and don’t’s of coaching.  Among them is this anecdote involving John Wooden, UCLA’s celebrated basketball coach:

” The U.C.L.A. basketball coach John Wooden, at the first squad meeting each season, even had his players practice putting their socks on.  He demonstrated just how to do it:  he carefully rolled each sock over his toes, up his foot, around the heel, and pulled it up snug, then went back to his toes and smoothed out the material along the sock’s length, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases.  He had two purposes in doing this.  First, wrinkles cause blisters.  Blisters cost games.  Second, he wanted his players to learn how crucial seemingly trivial details could be.  “Details create success” was the creed of a coach who won ten N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championships.”