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Tony Bennett's Five Pillars

April 22, 2020

I borrowed the following article from a past issue of the UVa alumni magazine. Such an impressive foundation for building a basketball team. Chop wood, carry water!

Coach Tony Bennett has based the team’s culture on a foundation of “five pillars.” Here, professors at the Darden School expand on the importance of each pillar.


“Narcissistic teammates tend to be flashy and demonstrate self-confidence and comfort with risk taking — and sadly these traits may lead to the initial perception that they are impressive. But studies show that they are also more likely to disparage others, take more than reasonable credit, hog opportunities for themselves, engage in impulsive behavior and respond defensively to feedback. Far more effective, both in the day-to-day and long-term, strategic work: humility. The humble colleague is more likely to cultivate trust, encourage an exchange of ideas, help others to develop while being open to their own areas for development, show empathy and generosity, and succeed at work that requires change or assessment. Humility leads to genuine collaboration — the cornerstone of any high-functioning team.”


“If your team is to join you in pursuing a goal, show them a reason to reach it. It’s not enough for you to believe in reaching a higher, better standard — the skill of leadership involves inculcating that same fervent, passionate belief in others — that they can reach it. To inspire higher aspirations in people, show them that what you’re doing matters by making your messages personally relevant — demonstrate you see the problems they face, the qualities they bring to the table and what their personal needs may be. By understanding those you lead, by leveraging their strengths and pushing them outside their comfort zones toward that shared aspiration, you can inspire people to believe in their own abilities to reach exceptional heights.

Of course, it’s easier to inspire the people around you if you actually care about what you’re saying. And it’s even easier when those around you — the social context — are echoing your belief in the team’s success. Passion can’t be lukewarm because inspiration doesn’t happen halfway. It’s an individual attitude propelled by the collective voices who believe and make you believe in a better end.”

Morela Hernandez expands on these ideas in the video Three Things: How to Inspire Others.


“In any team, there will be conflict — more important is how the team functions as a whole and how skilled its members are. The most successful teams communicate well, building on each other’s ideas. They agree on the team’s overarching mission, but they also each have a meaningful, internalized objective that makes the broader goal their own. And they have an ordered internal process in place which, though it may evolve, receives the attention and commitment of all involved. Ultimately, the roles of each team member are clearly defined, but they exist in a state of interdependence and true partnership.”

—Lynn Isabella authored “Teams and Teamwork: A Foundation.”


“How can we help our colleagues — and ourselves — bring our ‘whole selves’ to work? Unfortunately, many of us will run into situations in which the person we want to be may be in conflict with the expectations of our organizations, our bosses, even our peers. But if we can emphasize alignment between our individual sense of purpose and that of the organization, if we can build commitment to our goals by supporting our teammates with peer feedback and coaching, if we can express our needs while considering those of the people around us, and perhaps most importantly, if we can practice ways to constructively voice and enact our values, we may find the skills, the scripts and the comfort to be our best selves in all situations — not just the easy ones.”

—Mary Gentile is author of the award-winning book Giving Voice to Values and curriculum of the same name.


“Be thankful each morning for the gift of life — another day to embrace your learning journey. Give thanks throughout your day to those that serve you, help you and who are kind and giving to you. Give thanks to those people who have the courage to help you learn by pointing out your mistakes or transgressions and who challenge you to take your ‘game’ to a higher level. Give special thanks each day to your loved ones and teammates — remembering that no one achieves their full potential by themselves. We all need others to be all we can be. Strive each day to live your thankfulness by giving others your best self by being kind and caring with an open, loving heart.”

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