By Terri Hughes-Lazzell
Cathy George, head coach of the Michigan State University women’s volleyball program, has built a reputation for success, both individually and with her team.
Under George’s 10-year leadership, the MSU volleyball team has ascended to become one of the elite programs in the country, drawing in crowds that rank it among the top 25 NCAA Division I programs.
George’s teams also perform strongly in academics, continually earning Academic All-Big Ten and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Awards.
Her style and winning approach began even before George joined MSU. In 1989, she became the first woman to coach in the NCAA Division I Final Four. That determination is what propels her to find the right team members to fit the program she has built and continues to drive.
“We play in one of the best leagues, with eight or nine of our teams in the top 25,” George said. “It’s hard to gain the edge on your opponent (in these circumstances). Our team has to pull together to compete. And to win a conference championship, we may be going through people who also will be vying for a national title.”
That kind of competition is nothing new to the business world. Executives fight the odds to put together winning teams. Some of these executives will learn strategies from George and other MSU athletic coaches as part of the Eli Broad College of Business and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Building Winning Teams annual program June 2-4.
“It’s important to hire the right people,” George said. “If you don’t have that—people or players—who can go the distance, you can’t be successful.”
It also means, as a coach or boss, to continue to inspire your team to go the distance.
“When a team is not successful, you have to go to the foundation and find the cracks, and build it back up,” she said. Under-performance also may mean pushing people beyond what they believe their capabilities to be.
And, most importantly, be a team—working for the benefit of the group, not an individual.
George will be joined by other MSU coaches, including women’s golf coach Stacey Slobodnik-Stoll, and the Broad College’s distinguished, award-winning faculty to present at this year’s Building Winning Teams, a distinctive learning experience.
The three-day program focuses on helping those attending to:
- Promote accountability and efficiency
- Encourage creativity and innovation
- Build a culture of shared values that promotes team performance and cohesiveness
- Diagnose the causes of conflict to better manage it
- Overcome resistance to change
- Leverage current skills and develop new ones