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discipline

You discipline those under your supervision to correct, to help, to improve—not to punish.

Coach Wooden felt strongly that discipline was essential for any group, whether it was a business, family or sports team, to be successful.

In his book Wooden with Steve Jamison, Coach summarized his perspective:

Leaders have to discipline. Those who dispense discipline must remember that its purpose is to help, to improve, to correct, to prevent, not to punish, humiliate, or retaliate.

You are not likely to get productive results if you antagonize. Punishment antagonizes.

Self-control is essential for discipline and mastery of emotions, for discipline of self and discipline of those under your supervision.

Former player Kenny Washington described Coach’s style of discipline: He would never degrade, abuse, or humiliate individuals, even though he had the power to do it. He gave respect, even when discipline was doled out.

Former player and assistant Coach Gary Cunningham described Coach Wooden’s disciplinary style as: not emotional, just very intense.

Former player Keith Erickson described it as: not with any anger, just very stern.

Discipline becomes less effective when you speak with anger and/or question the character or intent of the person you are disciplining.

The boss who yells at the tardy employee, “You’re late again! You are irresponsible and obviously don’t care about this job,” has attacked that person’s character (you are irresponsible) and intent (you don’t care about this job). The boss has antagonized the employee and limited the effectiveness of the follow up discipline.

The boss who calmly advises the tardy employee, “I’m sure you are not doing this on purpose, but you were late again today. The position we have to offer at our company requires that you are on time for work. How can we fix this?” keeps the focus on the behavior/action and moves the employee into the solutions department.

Coach summed it up this way: When discipline was required, I tried to dole it out in a manner that was firm but fair, with no emotionalism or anger attached. Anger prevents proper thinking and makes you vulnerable.

Related: How to Discipline

Photo by @esspeshal/Twenty20.com

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, www.woodenswisdom.com. He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.