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Winners never quit, quitters never win 16/02/2012

Former professional basketball player and coach Bernd Volcic has played his sport in different countries. Here, he shares what it takes to lead a team to success by developing a positive mental attitude.

Winners never quit, quitters never win

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  1. Take responsibility for your career
  2. Adapting to new cultures
  3. Live by your values – role modelling
  4. Developing ambition in others
  5. MBA – my next challenge
  6. Winning mentality
  7. Downloadable document

Take responsibility for your career

About 15 years ago I had a very demanding coach who truly lived the following quote: ‘Winners never quit, quitters never win’. One of my team mates back then quit or almost passed out at a 6am workout at the track running sprints. Our coach made an example of him by never allowing him to play a single minute throughout the whole of that season. I think I'm still traumatised from that.

I believe every person needs a goal in life. Set achievable goals but never forget about the dreams you always have. Those dreams sweeten life. In terms of my sport I have learned that there are always moments where you need to step up and take responsibility. Being afraid of taking this responsibility will most likely end up in failure.

Adapting to new cultures

After living and working in different environments and countries where I usually adapted quickly, it taught me never to be afraid of taking on new challenges. Understanding different cultures is an asset; not only in understanding your own culture, but it's also important when it comes to communication within intercultural teams.

One should approach a new country and its inhabitants with an open and unbiased mind. This became my guideline and it's become a discipline I live by. I grew up in Austria. I have had to loosen my Austrian roots. In the USA, I had to learn to adopt ‘the survival of the fittest attitude’. When in France, I had to be much more creative and in Italy I learned to take advantage of life’s beauty. My curiosity to explore but not to judge other cultures helped me to become the person I am right now.

If you have a team where people come from various nationalities and backgrounds it's important to communicate in different ways. You need to be able to speak the language of each individual member within your team. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be yourself but adjusting to your counterpart is crucial. Helping your colleagues adapting to a new environment is the first step and is often under-valuated. Simple steps include helping a new colleague to settle in which can foster their commitment to you.

Live by your values – role modelling

Building up relationships needs honesty, consistency and trust. Add in hard work and fun. Values can’t be built overnight. By being a role model, living your values and being consistent will positively impact others around you. Creating such a culture within a business always has to start with someone – why not with you?

Do a little bit extra and those around you will also take an extra step, be positive at all times, and enjoy what you are doing. By opening up to your colleagues, they will open up to you. Admitting mistakes to others will also make you more credible by just being honest and people will most likely follow your path.

Quite often someone sees the best in people that are in some aspects similar to the beholder, and it is always difficult to see beyond those limitations. You need to make that extra effort to get to know people well to discover the best in each person.

Everybody is different and therefore getting the maximum out of each individual in a team context is challenging. As the team is usually prepared physically, technically, tactically and mentally together it's important to pay attention to each single individual in these contexts. Drivers for each individual are different.

Developing ambition in others

The first step to developing ambition in others is to understand their objectives. Then, it very much depends on the person’s character. Sometimes helping them to understand their objectives or to develop new goals is enough. On the other hand, people who are not competitive in the first place sometimes refuse to be ambitious, which is not necessary a bad characteristic.

Understanding those drivers is necessary to get the maximum out of each individual, keeping in mind that the team will always be more important than any individual. Establishing 'common ground' outside of work makes it easier to understand what 'turns people on & off' in terms of individual motivation and goals.

For example I once spent a lot of time mentoring a young talented team mate, and this was not easy for me since he was very introverted. I succeeded not only in motivating him but also in making him become a more respected team mate among the group giving him confidence in developing his own personality and to stand up for himself.

MBA – my next challenge

I’m now studying for an MBA at SDA Bocconi, Italy. The competitiveness and the ambitions that are attributes of an athlete which develop even further throughout a career cannot be suppressed from one day to another. I felt that I had to invest in my future to give those drivers a playing ground in the future. Over the past 15 years I have always tried to get the maximum out of my potential to succeed as an athlete. Now I am trying to get the maximum out of my potential to succeed in business life. I feel an MBA gives me the foundation to do so. My next ambition will be to convert my education and my background as an athlete to become an asset in business life.

Winning mentality

My last game in my career was the fifth and deciding final in the Austrian Championship. I had returned back to the team I grew up with after 11 years abroad and we managed to win the first championship in the club's history. In this last decisive game we were trailing the whole game between 10-15 points when our coach got disqualified 15 minutes before the end and I took over in the time-outs as well as on the court from this moment. By making my team mates believe that we could still win – we did.

Downloadable document

CV-Bernd-Volcic.pdf (44kb Pdf)

Bernd Volcic, former basketball champion

Bernd Volcic, former basketball champion

Austrian champion; cup-winner; league MVP, final MVP. Belgium league 4 x semifinalist. Several European Cup competitions; 70 games.