Be Quick But Don’t Hurry

One of many famous credos of the late, great Coach John Wooden.

Everybody talks about moving at web speed.

As it applies to making decisions about All Things People, there’s no dispute. Web speed has potential to kill.

Team-building mistakes can cause missed opportunities. Bad enough.

Or they can pull a team dangerously away from its goals. Binarily bad.

Talking about team-building every day gets me thinking about speed.

IMO there’s no risk/reward equation as integral to company trajectory as recruiting the people to build around.

The right people.  Special people.

Assembling a management team, a “kitchen cabinet” of valuable advisors, investors and friends of the company.  Setting the course for hiring culture of the employees which follow.

The most important job a CEO has.

Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” for building great teams is a 50 YEAR OLD IDEA.   At first thought, pretty archaic.

But at second thought, applying his rules to company-making is still incredibly valid.

Level I: The Fundamentals.

  • Integrity — can I trust the person to do the right thing?
  • Worth Ethic — is the person an overachiever? Will the person go above & beyond to “win”?  To help the team blow away its  goals?
  • Loyalty — does the person have a track record of sticking with things as they develop? Or can it be argued that the person is opportunistic?
  • Initiative — has the person shown that they make things happen?  Can they “take the ball”?
  • Teamsmanship — can the person lead?  Give as well as take? Has the person shown she/he is a teammate as well as a leader? Really?

Brains matter.  Experience around need is key.


But without attitude & shared values, aptitude all by itself does not a team make.

Level II: Skills.

  • Success — have they been part of building great things?  Have they learned from really strong practitioners? Have they really helped to drive great things to happen? Or were they just “there” when great things happened?
  • Experience — DIRECTLY-relevant work which can serve as building blocks to what you’re trying to accomplish? Can you and your team really learn from this person?
  • Career — how has the person managed his/her career?  Does the path makes sense?  Has the person been thoughtful – or maybe just opportunistic?
  • Talent — what’s the function at which they excel? Are they really SPECIAL?

Level III:  Team Need.

  • Right Tools — each company moves through distinct phases during the journey.  Hills to climb today are different than those of tomorrow. Definition of help needed to climb those hills changes also.
  • Balance — all exceptional teams have great athletes — and great, versatile role players.
  • Projection  it’s critical to deeply think about skills needed for the company to get started, to experiment & iterate, to grow & to scale. All different challenges.  Different talents are needed to get through the first part of the team schedule – than for the schedule to follow.

Level IV:  Do the Work.

  • Talk to A LOT of people about the people you want to bring onto your team.  Find out from other folks what makes the person tick.  And how you might get the most from them.
  • Like all big decisions, the first 95% is easy, the last 5% is hard.  Do the work, talk it through with your advisors.  Gut check at the end.

Top Level of the Pyramid:  Select the Best.  Don’t compromise.  To build something really special, select only Special People.

One thought on “Be Quick But Don’t Hurry

  1. Great advice regardless of profession or industry. John Wooden was a class act and an inspirational leader.

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