“The first thing I would show our players at our first meeting was how to take a little extra time putting on their shoes and socks properly.”— John Wooden, UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach

Master the Little Things to Master Quality Outcomes

​I have run multiple trail ultra-marathons. The ones I ran were 50 kilometers long. I had to cross creeks full of ice-cold water, sometimes still with ice chunks in it. I had to pull myself hand over hand up mud hills. I sometimes ran for hours through deep forest alone. And yes, I considered this a fun weekend activity.

These races were much more fun for me than they were for some of the other runners because I prepared well. Preparation entailed not just putting in enough miles to go the distance. Preparation also consisted of little things. It was knowing the course, terrain, and expected weather ahead of time. It was bringing along proper nutrition to get through a long day.

It was also knowing on race day that I had taken the extra time to make sure my socks and shoes were put on properly. John Wooden was right. It does take practice.

John Wooden had many of the best high school players in the country join his program at UCLA. The first thing he did was teach them how to put on their socks and shoes. He did this because he knew that loose socks and shoes would lead to blisters. Blisters would lead to missed practices. Missed practices would lead to missed shots and lost games. He knew which of the little things were important, and he made sure to teach those things and expect that they would be done each day. His coaching led to 10 national college basketball championships in a 12-year period.

What are the little things that make a difference for the teams you lead? Do you teach them? Do you follow through on your expectations every day?

My family was surprised by my appearance when I crossed the finish line after 50 kilometers. I was muddy, running fast, and smiling.

How do your projects end?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

Photo: David Marcu from unsplash.com

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.


"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...


"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...


"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...


"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...


"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...


"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This