“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” — Philippians 2:3-4
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It was a summer, offseason practice in June when I walked through the doors of a particular Division I basketball arena to observe their practice. I immediately noticed the coaching staff’s shirts — not so much the front, but the words written on the back. I was intrigued, and even inspired, as I read the words “Serve & Compete.”
The word “serve” is very special to me — it was my 2019 word for the year, the first year I incorporated Jon Gordon’s “one word” concept. As a former high school coach and athletic director, I started realizing that leading was actually all about serving.
Serving is about others. It’s about relationships, humility and being unselfish. Serving is putting the needs of others before yourself. But serving really isn’t a natural process. We tend to naturally focus on our needs and wants first. Coach Pat Riley describes the “disease of me” being real. I’ve watched this ugly disease kill many teams — many good and talented teams. I’ve seen it ruin relationships, marriages, families, businesses and churches.
Several ingredients make a great team: Talent, effort and connectedness, among many other qualities. Serving may not initially be considered part of that list. However, the true greats are the ones who serve. Everyone strives to be great — players, coaches and teams all want to be great. In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be great. Author John Maxwell reminds us, though, “You don’t have to be great to serve, but you have to serve to be great.”
Culture is the “hot topic” today, especially among businesses and teams. Culture is actually the Latin word for “care.” Strategies and systems are important, but culture trumps them both.
Leaders will post signs, hang posters or banners, and share quotes in the hallways and in locker rooms, stressing their beliefs and culture. Coaches and leaders will try different ways to emphasize their culture. However, what makes a culture special is not just leadership or the head coach defining it, but when the rest of the organization defends, embraces and displays it.
And for the basketball team I got to observe last summer, it was clear that “Serve & Compete” was a culture they all embrace — their brand. It’s way more than just a quote on a T-shirt, it’s what embodies their program. It’s the core and foundation of what they do, but more importantly, it’s who they are.
Prayer: “Dear God, my prayer is to be a servant. Please forgive me when I make this life all about me. May I love You by loving others, and may I serve You by serving others.”
— Jim Good
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