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Grin Events San Diego | A man is attempting to block a basketball while applying lessons from Coach John Wooden.

Lessons about Company Culture from Coach John Wooden

The Greatest of all Time

It’s March Madness and we can’t think about college basketball without thinking of legendary UCLA men’s basketball head coach, John Wooden. In case you’re not familiar with his accolades, Wooden led the Bruins to 10 national championships, including seven in a row, 38 straight NCAA tournament victories, and set all-time records for games won including four perfect 30-0 seasons and 88 consecutive victories.

Wooden is also famous for his style of leadership – he consistently talked about the process more than the outcome. He was just as concerned with his team’s behavior off the court as on the court. And he wanted to develop young men with great character, not just great jump shots.

As college basketball and NBA Hall of Famer, Bill Walton stated, “John Wooden is the greatest basketball coach of all time, but what I learned from him had much more to do with living life than with playing ball. The skills he taught us on the court – teamwork, personal excellence, discipline, dedication, focus, organization, and leadership – are the same tools that you need in the real world.”

The Pyramid of Success

Over the course of his career, Wooden developed a “formula” for success, which he defined as “peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” He called his diagram the Pyramid of Success and it outlines the individual traits needed in order to achieve success, according to his definition. He purposefully positioned each block in a specific order so there is a clear foundation and cornerstones that build up to the apex of personal success.

There is much to glean from the pyramid when it comes to individual mastery and how we show up in the world, but there is also a lot to apply to how we lead and develop teams in corporate cultures.

(Note: see all the definitions and a more detailed explanation at the Official Site of Coach Wooden.)

Applying the Pyramid to the Workplace

Chances are your top performing employees possess many of the characteristics mentioned in the Pyramid, and for others, these can be developed through intentional management and leadership coaching.

We nurture the traits in the foundational layer of the pyramid through professionally hosted fun and games:

  1. Industriousness: hard work; we believe in balancing hard work with play; stepping away from the day-to-day tasks periodically motivates your team to work hard and be productive.
  2. Friendship: respect and camaraderie; we create a comfortable environment for participants to come out of their work shells to be their authentic selves, the first step to building friendships.
  3. Loyalty: wanting to be part of the team; games allow teams to compete against each other, but more importantly compete with each other; we help foster a “we” mentality instead of a “me” mentality, creating a team environment where employees look forward to their work day because they want to contribute to a greater cause alongside their co-workers.
  4. Cooperation: sharing ideas, information, responsibilities, creativity, and tasks; games require teams to cooperate with each other to share ideas and work together.
  5. Enthusiasm: joy in what you do; we pride ourselves on bringing energy and enthusiasm to all of our events, leaving our attendees feeling energized and enthused. This enthusiasm is contagious and ignites the other cornerstone trait, Industriousness. When you are enthusiastic about your work, you naturally work “harder” – that is, you work with heart, energy, and a sense of pride. This positivity is something that “spirals up” as we described in a past post.

Developing Teams Through Fun

When we bring teams together to engage in a virtual game show, in-person game night, or Sandcastle Wars, for example, we create environments encouraging participants to let down their guard and get to know each other outside the responsibilities of their jobs.

We’ve seen it over and over – teams show up to our events a little apprehensive, shy, and even skeptical. Within minutes we see individuals open up and let loose and this attitude spreads quickly. By the end, most participants have seen pleasantly surprising sides of their co-workers. “I didn’t know Bob from accounting can sing!”

Don’t take it from us – here’s what one of our event attendees recently shared: 

“I have now attended two corporate retreats where John and his team lead the team building exercises. At first I was concerned - is this just a trivia game. I was so surprised how he was able to get everyone to open up and have fun. The games were designed to get to know one another better and moved quickly. Before I knew it the event was over and even though my team lost (recount needed) I had a great time.”
– Rachel McKinney

Building Your Own Pyramid

The foundation of company culture is a stated set of values and behaviors contributing to the overall success of the company. To apply Coach Wooden’s philosophy, success is the satisfaction knowing you made the effort to create the foundation for your team to become the best they are capable of becoming. This cultural foundation creates the trust and connection needed for individuals to be their best. When employees are at their best, especially as a collective, companies thrive.

There is nothing more powerful than a connected team of individuals working together towards a common goal. This is the power of Team Connection.

Call In The Experts

We know you are busy with your already full workload, so we make it as simple as possible to start creating the foundation for a healthy team culture. Our clients consistently tell us they are thankful we are experts in fun so they can focus on everything else going on at work.

It’s easy to work with us:

  1. Contact us at, fill out our web form, or give us a call at 619-972-4746 (we love to actually talk to our clients)
  2. Let us know if you want a virtual or in-person event, or maybe a combination of both
  3. Pick a date and time and let us know the number of participants

We take care of the rest!