The Business of Winning

Sep 23, 2002

A leadership symposium Sept. 10 provided insight into how some of the greatest professional sports coaches of all time led their teams to the pinnacle of success.

A leadership symposium Sept. 10 provided insight into how some of the greatest professional sports coaches of all time led their teams to the pinnacle of success.

In this day of salary caps, hefty contracts, player mediocrity and lack of focus in professional sports, most coaches would agree that building a championship caliber team is more arduous than ever before. The Allan Iversons of 20 years ago learned quickly from their mistakes and in most cases rarely made them again, unlike the situation we often see in sports today. Such behavior not only damages the credibility and public perception of the player, it also disenfranchises team members who wish to play for a winning organization, which ultimately causes disharmony among the ranks.

The same holds true for American business and industry. Enron, Worldcom and a score of other companies that have gone under in recent months symbolize the Iversons of the business world and suggest more than ever that the selfishness with which company leaders conduct their business does indeed affect the public's sense of trust in the U.S. economy. More importantly, employees may forever cast a suspicious eye towards leaders who make bold and risky decisions that could impact a company's future viability.

Thus, the question that continues to loom in the economic air today is this: how does a company build a productive, ethical and winning team where all team members feel that they play an important role in achieving one goal?

Robert Evangelista '89, author of the award-winning book "The Business of Winning" and a production launch manager at the General Motors (GM) Powertrain Group, offered one way to answer this question Sept. 10 at Detroit's famed Fox Theatre. The Business of Winning Leadership Symposium brought together business leaders and legendary sports coaches to illustrate Evangelista's concept titled The Coach's Methodology: A Manager's Guide. Speakers included

  • Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers;
  • Pat Riley of the Miami Heat;
  • Scotty Bowman of the Detroit Red Wings;
  • Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke University Men's Basketball Team;
  • Bo Schembechler of the University of Michigan Wolverines Football Team;
  • J.T. Battenberg III '66 of Delphi Corp.;
  • Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick; and
  • Denise Illitch of Little Caesar Enterprise Inc.

These leaders joined Evangelista on stage to discuss a proven coaching methodology and how it can be effectively adapted to the business world.

Evangelista, whose book and methodology is modeled after his achievement as head coach of the Detroit Rockies Hockey Club (the only all-black hockey team to win at the midget AA level), explained that all business managers and leaders can learn from the lessons imparted by this cast of hall of fame coaches. For Evangelista, the success of this management technique is unequivocal: in one year of utilizing the Business of Winning method, his GM manufacturing units experienced a 50 percent increase in production, 40 percent increase in quality, 50 percent reduction in scrap and repair, 33 percent reduction in manpower needs, and a 25 percent reduction in operating costs.

The Coach's Methodology is composed of four interconnected phases that help individuals understand their role in the organization and ensures their comprehension of and commitment to the team goal.

Phase 1 is comprised of creating and focusing on the game plan. Phase 2 addresses the development of players and their roles. Phase 3 concerns player execution at game time. And Phase 4 concentrates on how the team can learn from the game after the game.

"Teams need to focus on the game plan," Evangelista said during his presentation, stressing the importance of a shared goal for all team members. "That's where it starts. The game plan embodies what a team is about."

During their individual presentations and discussions with Evangelista in front of more than 500 attendees, coaches applauded the methodology in motivating players, coaches and teams to achieve success. In addition, they shared personal and coaching experiences that support the need for American businesses to adopt the Coach's Methodology.

Bill Walsh, retired NFL coach of the San Francisco 49ers and owner of three Super Bowl rings, underlined the importance of this methodology in creating precision in terms of game plan execution. "Every player and person affiliated with a team," he explained, "must be clear on what the game plan is. No one individual is more important than another person is. This methodology supports the notion that teams must be precision forces with everyone working equally toward one goal: execution of the game plan."

Bo Schembechler, legendary coach of the University of Michigan Wolverines football team and coach of 13 Big Ten championship squads, agreed with Walsh. "Everyone-players, coaches, staff-must be hungry to win and committed to constant improvement."

All coaches agreed that to become the best team possible, leaders must adopt a coaching approach that aids individual team players and the entire team to deliver bottom-line results in today's organizations. This includes helping team players develop and understand how their role directly impacts the team's ability to achieve success.

Proceeds from the Business of Winning Leadership Symposium support the City of Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) and Kettering University. PAL is one of the leading providers of youth athletic, academic tutoring and after-school recreational activities for Detroit city youth. As a premier sports and recreation program for children, PAL representatives who attended the symposium received an exceptional opportunity to learn about a proven coaching method that motivates players and in the words of one attendee, "helps prevent behaviors observable in such athletes as Allan Iverson from taking place in the future."

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(819) 762-9538,