UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Coach Dean Smith and Professor Gerald Bell Share Leadership Lessons in New Book


What can you learn from one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time that you can use in your business on a daily basis? That's the question that former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, UNC Kenan-Flagler professor Gerald Bell and sports writer John Kilgo address in their new book, The Carolina Way: Leadership Lessons from a Life in Coaching" (The Penguin Press).

"Coach Smith developed three keys for coaching. He focused on getting his players to play hard, play smart and play together. What business is all about is getting people to do things effectively and in orchestration with each other," said Bell, who teaches management and organizational behavior. Bell has been on the faculty at UNC Kenan-Flagler for more than 30 years and heads up his own leadership consulting firm.

In the book, the legendary "winning-est coach" shares a philosophy of leadership that he developed over 40 years of shaping the lives of internationally renowned athletes. With 879 victories at UNC, Smith has won more college games than any other coach.

In a "business perspective" that follows each chapter, Bell outlines how you can apply Smith's leadership lessons from coaching to leadership and team-building challenges in business. A "player perspective" with each chapter also gives testimonials from former players who are continuing to use the principles in their careers.

Smith writes that the seed for the "coaching is management" approach was planted in 1990 when Bell invited him to be on the faculty of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) University in St. Moritz, Switzerland. "Dr. Bell knew all along that coaching is management. I'm leaning in that direction now," Smith writes.

The book describes techniques that include the following:

  • How to lead so your people work unselfishly;
  • How to raise the effort and spirit of a team when morale is low and success seems unlikely;
  • How to delegate responsibility effectively around individual weaknesses;
  • When to praise, encourage or discipline.

Bell offers a sample of important lessons for leaders from the book:

  • Build committed followers, then your employees will become fully engaged and will work to their highest potential. Bell says: "Coach Smith deeply cared about his players. In turn, a manager has to walk in every morning and ask, 'how do I focus on helping each of my employees succeed?' Once people know you care about them more than the numbers, they will give you their best efforts."
  • Treat every employee with dignity and respect and insist that employees treat their colleagues the same. Bell says: "When you act with integrity and live by that honor code, you create trust. Treat your employees with respect, and they will trust you."
  • Reward good behavior. Bell says: "Keep score of employees' performance on the things that count, personally praise them and then reward them by enlarging their jobs, and giving them more responsibility and opportunity."
  • Provide more avenues for training. Bell says: "In basketball, you teach, train and practice more than you play. In business, we 'play' every single day and never take the time to practice. We practice through training, rehearsing presentations and polishing communication, negotiation and listening skills. The secret of leadership is to build your people so they build your business."

Hugh McColl (BSBA '57), retired chairman of the board and CEO of Bank of America, offers this testimonial on the book jacket: "'The Carolina Way' provides an invaluable primer on good leadership techniques and, if the proof is in the pudding (product), then there is no doubt that Dean Smith's way works. My company and I had the benefit of hiring a number of Dean's players from Phil Ford to Pete Budko. All of them were winners - ambitious, energetic, loyal team players. He never sent us a bad one."