Two Sets of Threes

I’ve always been impressed with Coach John Wooden (even though I’m not a UCLA fan). His accomplishments, on and off the court, are indisputable.  I’m reading Pat William’s book about Coach Wooden and the principles that were passed from his father to the coach that shaped his life.

One of the early examples of his father’s wisdom given in the book is the “Two sets of threes”. These rules to live by are: “Never lie, never cheat, never steal”, and “Don’t whine, don’t complain and don’t make excuses”.

What a simple set of life principles you find here. In the first set of three, we are encouraged to keep our life straight. The best way to stay out of trouble is to avoid the “big three”…. We’ve heard them all our lives: to not lie, cheat or steal. This simple and solid advice that is eternal.

Most of us probably do a fairly good job of adhering to the first three.  But the latter three are a little harder for most of us. It seems like whining, complaining and making excuses are almost a rite of passage into the world today. We probably first think of teenagers when we think of these traits. But I believe we see them in people of all ages. After all, where do teenagers learn these traits? Adults, of course.

Coach Wooden had a hard life as a child, and his dad ran into some very unfortunate situations. But, he adhered to this code and never whined or complained. He took what life gave him, and without excuse, managed to raise a great family amid the challlenges he’s faced.

Undoubtedly, most of us have run up against whiners and complainers in our workplace. I don’t think there is a much more destructive force in an organization. As a manager, dealing with these negative traits will often zap me of my energy. If I’m not careful, dealing with complainers end up negating other good things going on, and negatively impact my own performance.

As a leader I believe we need to do three things:
1) Set an example by being positive, not making excuses, and not whining or complaining.
2) Do not allow a whiner to take away our energy, but to instead use our energy to turn them around.
3) Deal with negative personalitiies, even if it means removing them from the organization, before they poison those around them.

These are tough remedies, but if we are to truly lead organizations out of the cycle of negativity, we have to take the tough steps. 

Good luck, and don’t forget the two sets of threes.

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