5 Ways to Use Listening and Questions to be a More Agile Learner & Leader: Wisdom from Coach John Wooden

In this crazy time leaders are faced with increasing change. With the complexity and competition to thrive and move forward, they have to be agile learners. Leaders need to respond quickly to ever-changing environments to support their teams, organizations, businesses, churches, schools, and their own families.

Indiana native, John Wooden, coached from at UCLA from 1959 to 1975. He ended his career with 664 wins and – 162 losses, collecting a total of ten National Championships. During Wooden’s career he exemplified how organizations could learn, unlearn and relearn on the basketball court. Wooden who came from Indiana State University took over a faltering UCLA basketball program. Wooden coached in times of calm and social upheaval. The college campus of 1959 was vastly different than the campus of the 1970s. Coach Wooden, an agile learner and leader, became known as the “Wizard of Westwood.” Although Wooden was a great coach he valued being a teacher and leader equally. He was the mentor to countless successful leaders and demonstrated all 5 characteristics of an agile learner & leader.

 1.The Leader is the Model for the Organization.

Wooden’s model of learning, work ethic,character and determination, respect for, and love for his players was legendary. He believed that failures were his responsibilities, and the assistant coaches and players won games. He expected his players to be learners who could adapt to win.

 2. The Leader Modeled Listening & Learning by Asking Questions.

He valued other’s thoughts and practice being a present listener and thoughtful questioner. Wooden surrounded himself with people of different perspectives to gain a bigger picture. His teams modeled learning agility during games.

3. The Leader is Committed to Team Building.

Wooden believed in working together. A talented player who had to be a starter couldn’t play at UCLA unless they became a team member. Wooden utilized listening and questioning to encourage all to be team players.

John Wooden Quotes | Famous Quotes | SuccessStory

4. The Leader Uses Listening & Questions to Build Connections with Team Members & Staff.

In practice and games Coach Wooden modeled listening and questioning learning. This learning style helped players adapt and learn in fast-paced, changing situations. He also built strong connections with his team and staff by using listening and questions to demonstrate respect and concern for everyone in the organization. Coach Wooden often said the practice was his favorite part of coaching. He saw himself as a teacher who molded highly skilled players into team players who could be agile learners on the basketball court and in life.

5. The Leader Models a Shared Vision of Excellence Moving Forward. 

Coach Wooden didn’t talk about streaks, or consecutive games won. He coached and taught his players that the organization should give 110% every day to be better. Wooden believed that every day was a chance to learn and improve. Therefore he continually preached to his players to be quick but not to hurry, to listen, and be agile in any changing environment.

Coach Wooden used listening and questions to build ten national championships. He coached players to work together, support, and care for each other. His proudest moments were evident in the growth of his players and their development as team players. Coach Wooden developed players  but above all he reminded leaders to use listening and questions to be agile learners.

The leadership question for you is:

Are you willing to practice and prepare to “be quick but not hurry” by listening and asking questions to add value to your organization?

John Hackett, Ed. D

John Hackett, Ed. D is a servant leader who helps people and organizations move from where they are to where they want to be. John is an accomplished and experienced coach, trainer, writer, and leader in a variety of educational and other nonprofit and direct sales settings. He is a growing, learning entrepreneur in coaching and training who is passionate about equipping leaders to develop other leaders to serve. John is a certified trainer and coach with the Direct Selling World Alliance. John is a coach for the FUSE Business Training and a member of the John Maxwell team!


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