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Inspiring New Generations of Leaders and Teams

Bill Sanford, Senior Executive Trainer at Bell Leadership

The Enduring Wisdom of The Carolina Way

The Carolina Way has been with us now for 20 years. The memoir encapsulated Coach Dean Smith’s leadership lessons from a life in coaching.  Working with Coach Smith on the book and translating those leadership lessons from the court to the world of business was an honor for Dr. Bell and a highlight of his professional career.

A lot has changed in 20 years—in business, culture, technology, science, even human interaction—but the principles of leading effectively on the court and in the office still hold true.

What is it about The Carolina Way and its leadership principles that make it so enduring? Why does it hold such wide appeal two decades later? Perhaps it is the simple, yet profound lesson that success is found when we stop worrying about the things we can’t control and focus on the things we can. Master the efforts and the rest will take care of itself.

The Carolina Way teaches that simply setting the goal to “win” isn’t the most effective path to success. While seemingly counterintuitive, to achieve great results, focusing on winning (or making money, finding a cure, passing an exam—whatever your goal may be) hinders your chances of success. The end result is determined by many factors, some of which will inevitably be out of your control. Instead, work on studying and analyzing –then acting on– the things you can control. When each member of your team does their personal best, working for the benefit of the whole, that’s when you’ll see exceptional results.

Coach Smith and Dr. Bell had a trusted philosophy to make this happen: Lead and coach your teams to 1) work hard, 2) work smart, and 3) work together. When any endeavor focuses on these three fundamentals, win or lose, you can feel good about what you’ve done and how you’ve done it.

Working hard isn’t about getting your people to put their noses to the grindstone; it’s about inspiring your team to commit to the job at hand and to consistently and willingly give their best effort.
Working smart focuses on practice and systems, making sure that everyone on your team uses the right methods and techniques and focuses on the work that makes the most impact.
Working together means taking care of each other, working collaboratively, and providing support to your team members. Organizational success doesn’t come from the work of one person; it’s a team effort, and when everyone works for and with each other, the results are bigger than the sum of the parts.

In the coming weeks we’ll explore each of these concepts and their application to leaders and organizations today, whether it be a sports team, a tech firm, a manufacturing facility, or something different altogether. Twenty years later, the teachings of two great leaders through the practices of The Carolina Way continue to be a benefit for all leaders.

Next week, what does working hard look like for teams in 2024.

Whether you are a seasoned reader or new to The Carolina Way, this email series will be a valuable resource to enhance your leadership practices. If you are interested in receiving these articles, be sure to fill out the form below. By signing up, you will have access to exclusive content and be the first to receive updates on our latest releases. We look forward to sharing more valuable information with you. Don’t miss out on this opportunity and sign up today!


DR. GERALD BELL CEO Bell Leadership

Founder and CEO
The Bell Leadership Institute

In the presence of Dr. Bell, one finds themselves in the company of excellence.Thousands of leaders from around the world have experienced personal and professional growth by implementing his timeless methods. Dr. Bell’s insights are formed by his decades of research and a background in business and psychology. His passion for learning and sharing his knowledge and experience with others has made him a globally respected and sought-after speaker, trainer and executive coach.