blog

Employee Motivation

Why John Wooden Would Use Blueboard To Motivate His Organization

If there was a definitive ranking of coaches who have made the biggest impact on their player's lives, it seems presumably certain that John Wooden would be first on that list. Coach Wooden's legacy has never been about the X's and O's - which is remarkable considering that while serving as the head coach of the Men's basketball team at UCLA, he won 10 national championships in a 12 year span. Instead, Coach Wooden's accomplishments were overshadowed by his even more significant achievement: making a lasting impact on the people he encountered.

This really shouldn't be surprising considering that John Wooden always understood that it was the people in the building that mattered most. According to Wooden, an organization's success is a by-product of how you treat and motivate your people:

"You might say that a leader has a simple mission: to get those under his supervision to consistently perform at their peak level in ways that benefit the team. Your skills as a motivator determine if, and to what degree, this occurs."


Whether it's winning 7 straight national championships or exceeding all of your company's Q1 KPI's - how motivated people are is at the center of that positive result.

And motivation is at the center of why John Wooden would use Blueboard to motivate his organization.

John Wooden never worked in HR - but he was a people person. And if some alternate reality existed where Coach Wooden was in charge of administering a rewards and recognition program - he would choose one that was personal and meaningful to his people...

Blueboard is an employee recognition platform that focuses exclusively on personalized experiences. Instead of generic, uninspiring recognition options like cash and gift cards - Blueboard serves experiences that capture the essence of how John Wooden viewed his players - unique people with unique interests and motivators.

So imagine this - for your next work anniversary, a long overtime assignment, or for referring a successful hire to your company... You could take your son fishing, indulge in a favorite hobby, or reconnect with an old friend.

No alt text provided for this image


In his memoir "On Leadership," Coach Wooden identifies three main methods for how he approached player praise and recognition: Purposeful Recognition, Intangible Rewards, and Authentic Praise. John Wooden used these ideas to build the most successful dynasty in the history of sports. Blueboard uses these pillars today to create the most engaging and successful recognition program available in the HR tech market. Here's how:

1. The power in purposeful recognition

“Seek opportunities to show you care. [These gestures] often make the biggest difference.”


As seen in the quote above, John Wooden always sought to find moments to recognize and make a gesture of appreciation. All too often - albeit good intentions - recognition programs miss the opportunity to make these purposeful gestures. Using gimmicks such as gamification, points, or transactional gifts - the point is missed of what purposeful recognition really looks like.

Purposeful recognition is a gesture intended for that specific person.

Consider the "Thank You" card...
What is the easiest way to know that a Thank You card wasn't very heartfelt?

  1. You receive it 6 months after the fact.
  2. Nothing in the card is specific to you or what you did.

Points programs, cash, and gift cards are often not far off from this mediocre "Thank You" card. Because they don’t establish a clear tie between the achievement and the reward and are not that personal: they become a missed opportunity for purposeful recognition.

Blueboard sets up companies with purposeful recognition by focusing on rewards that can be sent immediately and are diverse enough that everyone can choose something that is personal to them.

2. Carrots are better when they are intangible

"Carrots come in many forms. However, I believe the strongest and most meaningful motivators are not necessarily the materialistic, but the intangible."


Coach Wooden is referring to the "carrot" as the reward being used to incentivize a behavior. He always iterated that the intangible carrot was more powerful and longer lasting than any other option. The reason for this is because the "intangible" isn't something you can see, but instead something you can feel.

That is the value of experiences - the intangible effect it creates. The anticipation of going on an experience, the actual moments and memories made doing something you're passionate about, and then the "afterglow" and stories that are shared later: all intangible things with enormous effects.

3. Praise is genuine and appropriate

"Sincere approval instills pride. I wanted a team whose members were filled with pride... Pride in the team and commitment to its mission are fundamental components of competitive greatness."


Perhaps the most important ingredients to praise that generates positive culture outcomes are authenticity and appropriateness. Approval must be granted in a way that acknowledges someone as genuinely acknowledged and seen.

Coach Wooden continues that:

"Just as damaging as biting personal criticism is the compliment given but not meant."

Perhaps the most poignant way to understand the importance of appropriate appreciation is this example:

No alt text provided for this image


Imagine you were invited to the family holiday of a friend. You all sit down around a large table together for a wonderful meal and have an amazing time laughing, eating, and being together. The evening is coming to an end, and as everyone finishes their meal, you stand up and make an announcement.

You say: "As a token of my gratitude and appreciation to you all of you for welcoming me in your home this evening, I would like to give everyone $50."

Can you imagine? It would be widely inappropriate and make everyone feel uncomfortable. But why? You had good intentions! You were just trying to express your gratitude...

The reason for the dissonance in the situation is due to the theory of market vs. social norms. Cash and gift cards are transactional items that are appropriate to give when there is another transaction happening - whether it be for an exchange of services or goods. When it comes to showing gratitude - social norms would dictate a different course. You would instead show your thankfulness by reciprocating the gesture. Whether it be inviting everyone to your home for a similar meal or something else personally touching to the host - your appreciation would match the social norms.

That is exactly what Blueboard does - we help companies change the narrative of recognition from market norms to social norms. When praise and recognition feel genuine and appropriate to the situation at hand, your employees feel truly seen and valued for their efforts and dedication to the team.

There is no doubt that John Wooden cared deeply for his players.

No alt text provided for this image

Companies that partner with Blueboard also leave no doubt that they care for their people. Feel free to reach out to brady@blueboard.com to learn more.

Looking for the best way to reward, recognize and incentivize your top people?

Reach out to see the experiences we’ve curated for your market and start building your ideal program.

Request a demo