Coach K on Building a Culture of Trust and Goal Mistakes

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) is a master at team building. Below, he shares his thoughts on gaining the respect of your players and the wrong approach to goal setting.

  • On creating respect of players: “The best way gain respect is to tell them the truth. Look them in the eye and tell them, “This is the way it is.” Give it to them straight – both the good and the bad. Not just, “You are not playing hard enough or giving enough effort.” But also, “Your good – here is how you can be even better.” When you look at a player straight in the eye and tell him the truth over and over – that’s the basis of your relationship. You develop the best of relationships because it’s founded on trust. That’s the key building block to future success.”

  • On setting goals, including specific number of wins: “I’ve never set goals in terms of wins and losses. I’ve always talked to my players about the possibility of winning a championship. The reason I don’t do the wins and losses is that I want the mental approach that every game is winnable. If you set a goal for say 20 wins and making the NCAA tournament, I think the danger is that certain sense of satisfaction creeps in that can prevent you from going farther. Then you’d be stopping yourself. On the other hand, what if you have a few key injuries on a team capable of winning more than 20. That same team may win 17, but that was still a solid achievement based on what they were dealing with. I would rather define success for my team rather than have specific wins and losses define us.”

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