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Duke’s Coach K: Lessons on How Advisors Can Build the Best Teams

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In case you missed this year’s final game of the NCAA basketball championship here’s the scene: The Duke Blue Devils, winner of four championships, under Coach Mike Krzyewski, is down 9 points in the final 13 minutes of the game against the Wisconsin Badgers. But Duke freshman Grayson Allen scores a 3 pointer, steals a ball from senior all-American Frank Kaminsky, turns that into another 3-point play, draws a foul and makes two free throws.

At one point, Grayson, the number eight player on a team of eight who until then had averaged only eight minutes a game, looked at Duke bench and screamed, “Let’s go. Let’s go,” Krzyewski, known as Coach K, recalled in the last keynote at this year’s Envestnet Advisor Summit in Chicago.

“It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me as a coach: a play in this game I never saw before,” said Krzyewski. And Grayson’s teammates listened, going on to win the game and the championship. “All eight of those guys had a great sense of self worth,” said Krzyewski. 

Then he asked his audience of financial advisors if the person at the bottom of their company would have the courage to say something and would others listen?

“Teams work better if their members have a sense of ownership, said Krzyewski. “You have your own teams.  How do you function as one?”

He explained that it’s not only “important to get on a good team” but to “play as one.”

As for his latest NCAA championship team, Krzyewski explained that after he had cut one player on the team, leaving just eight, he had to revamp his team, just like advisors have to adjust to changes in their teams and play as one. “We adapted, changed offense and defense and kept adding things as the guys improved.”

And then he asked his audience how they incorporate change, allow for growth, help team members get better at their job and put top members in key positions.

Krzyewski offered his five pointers that advisors can use to develop their own top team:

  1. Communication: learn to talk to and listen to one another and always tell the truth
  2. Trust: the cornerstone of every team.
  3. Collective responsibility: you win and lose together
  4. Care: have each other’s back
  5. Pride: in being in something bigger than yourself

And he warned: “Never lie to your teammates and look each other in the eye when you have a chance.”

These are the same guidelines he says he follows coaching the U.S. Olympic basketball teams, winning two gold medals.

When he started coaching that team, Krzyewski said he told the players, who included Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Charles Barclay, and Michael Jordan, that there would be no rules in order to provide a sense of ownership and feeling for each other, but there would be standards that they would set themselves.

“Look at your group and see if you do that,” said Krzyewski. 

“We built the culture. We never had a bad practice. And the team won two Olympic championships, a world championship and World Cup. No country in history of basketball has ever done that.”

See all the conference coverage of the Envestnet Advisor Summit: 2015 on ThinkAdvisor.

– Check out: 10 Win 2015 SMA Managers of the Year Awards


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