The legendary John Wooden coached the UCLA Bruins basketball team for over 20 years and led them to 10 NCAA National Championships. Some of his players have gone on to become legendary professional basketball players such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, and Bill Walton. In almost every interview I’ve seen with one of his former players, they always talk about how Wooden would take the first day of practice to talk and demonstrate how to put socks and shoes on correctly. Can you imagine that as an incoming freshmen, you have practiced all summer on your jump shot or crossover dribble to impress your new coach and you get there and the first thing you do is learn how to put on your shoes and socks? What’s up with that? Perhaps that’s what made him legendary. Taking the time to teach and do the basics. When asked why this was so important, Wooden said, “that’s just a little detail that coaches must take advantage of, because it’s the little details that make the big things come about.”
Workplaces could function better if every one got back to the basics. Leaders need to learn and practice the basics of leadership. In many instances, leaders are promoted because they excelled in doing the initial job well. Getting promoted to management and leadership does not automatically qualify you to lead. Just as you learned the skills for the job that you did well, you need to learn the basics of effective leadership. What often goes overlooked is the need for direct reports to learn how to follow. Engaging direct reports in “followership training” gives them the basics of how to follow and support the leader and hold them accountable for their leadership development.
In our hurried lifestyle, how tempting is it to skip a step a two. But, maybe real success is achieved only after you’ve mastered the basics. You’re not a concert pianist without learning a few scales. What are the basics that you need to master before achieving your ultimate goal? Think you don’t have time for the basics. Then think again about the steps you may have to repeat.