Lessons from a great leader apply to all games

I guess any job title that includes the word “regional” is probably going to require some travel. That is certainly the case for me, personally, as the Northwest “Regional” Associate with NCCF. I cover ten counties and spend a fair amount of time in the car. I could probably write a pretty interesting blog post on the wide range of inclement weather gear, office supplies, Nalgene bottles and other apparel you might find in my Subaru. Instead, as we are within the brief period of time each year when debates about ACC basketball reach a temporary truce, I would like to take this opportunity to honor the legendary Carolina basketball coach, Dean Smith. 

I have recently been listening to Coach Smith’s The Carolina Way:Leadership Lessons from a Life in Coaching as an audio book while driving to board meetings and visits with donors and nonprofits across Northwest NC. One of the greatest and most respected college coaches of all time, Coach Smith describes the backbone of his coaching philosophy — the approach to the game that he tried hardest to instill in his teams—as these three key principles: 1) Play Smart, 2) Play Hard, and 3) Play Together. 

The Carolina Way was written, in part, to offer insight on how professionals in other careers can incorporate some of the ideals, habits and perspectives that helped Coach Smith consistently achieve success and earn respect from players, fans, other coaches and an entire university community over many years. Here are some thoughts on how these principles apply to my work at NCCF:

Play Hard: This one I get.  I was always a pretty scrappy rebounder. At NCCF, visiting with donors and nonprofits and providing support for my affiliate boards and fundholders is kind of like diving for loose balls or hustling up the floor on a fast break: the small things that require extra effort can make a big difference over the course of a game, season and career. 

Play Smart: Coach Smith ran his practices with absolute precision and expected his players to learn and execute complicated defenses and a fast-paced offense. For me, organization, attention to detail and sound preparation are important areas that I must continue to cultivate.

Play Together: At NCCF I am part of a team. I don’t see some of my teammates that often as many are in Raleigh and others are across the state. My colleagues in Finance, Communications, Development and Community Leadership can and do provide assistance, resources and expertise beyond my individual set of knowledge and skills.  No doubt that taking more opportunities to learn from and engage my teammates would make me better at my job. 

Despite where your basketball allegiances lie, it’s hard to argue with Coach Smith’s record, his generosity and integrity, and his commitment to his players. I’m sure one could make a very similar argument for Coach K — but I will leave that to one of the two Duke alumnae that I am fortunate to work with at NCCF.