Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Resiliency: "Failure is not a destination!" Words of advice by Coach Mike Krzyzewski at the annual Feagin leadership program - Duke University.

Resiliency: "Failure is not a destination!" Words of advice by Coach Mike Krzyzewski at the annual Feagin leadership program - Duke University.


The 2016 annual Feagin leadership program focus was on Resilience. Coach K reminded us that "Failure is not a destination"! You must learn to survive a failure. These are my thoughts and reflections based on Coach K's talk which truly resonate with all surgeons.

"Why is it that professionals find it so difficult to move past a failure?" He asked. Coach K stated that "The problem with being a 'winner' is that we are always prepared to win and when we fail", we find it difficult to move past that point, recover and move on. But it does not have to be that way. We were reminded that we are leaders because over time we have learned to be resilient. It is in our nature. We need to train ourselves to remember that at our darkest hour, we need to pull through, move forwards (refer to Admiral McRavens commencement address at UT in a prior post of mine), gain knowledge from that failure and find a way to improve for the next time.  When failure occurs, you need to look to the future. It may sound simple now, but this can prove difficult for those who are accustomed to constant success. "We are winners. We are accustomed to winning." We need to think of these experiences as stops on the train route- at some point the train has to stop either as a planned or unplanned event. But it must carry on after each stop and move on.

     Unfortunately when we encounter failure, we tend to focus inwards and become silent when, (as Tom Kolditz teaches us) we need to be outwardly focused. To be resilient, you cannot survive alone. "A really good leader doesn't go it alone". To move forwards you need to work as a team. This does not begin at the moment you encounter failure but far ahead of that failure. Teamwork comes from training together to make improvements. Through this your team develops trust. When your team trusts you, you can survive anything.


     To be a good leader in basketball, you need to be willing to run a "motion" offense. In a motion offense, you are less structured but adapt to the defense. A resilient leader in any profession recognizes when the situation is declining and adjusts his offense to suit. They make changes based on their read of the situation before things collapse. You make "reads" based on your opponent and your team. You don't wait till everything "goes into the pot. A good leader rescues his team or allows his team to rescue themselves". "The best teams have leaders on the court who can make those decisions".

Coach K, explained that to become resilient you need four characteristics: an adaptive attitude, the belief you will overcome adversity, the acceptance that from that failure you can make changes, and the ability to move forwards.

1.    Attitude- we need a great attitude. After the failure and you have taken a moment to release your exasperation and frustration you need to be sure everyone has a great attitude. Without that positive attitude you will not recover.

2.    Belief-  before you encounter failure you need to establish belief amongst your team. belief in what you and your group can do. "Belief does not go out the window when things go bad. Belief has to be heightened when things go bad".

3.    Make changes- after a failure something has to change. You can't go back to the same way of doing things and then wonder why you failed again.

4.    Go forward- finally, after you have encountered a failure, you need a plan to move forwards. You can use the failure as a lesson but you cannot allow it to stop your train. The train needs to keep moving forwards.

Thanks Coach K for inspiring us today.

Kenneth Lipshy, MD, FACS

1 comment:

  1. Leadership has nothing to do with titles. Similar to the point above, just because you have a C-level title, does not automatically make you a “leader.”

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