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From Basketball to Business Coaching: Lessons on Teamwork, Success, Significance, and Engagement

Episode #1075: In this episode of the Arete Coach Podcast, Ken Stibler, an Executive Coach, Executive Advisor, Vistage Master Chair, International Speaker, and CEO, discusses his transition from basketball—where he coached and led the 1982 College of Charleston Men’s Basketball Team to victory in the NAIA National Championship—to executive coaching. As we dive into Ken’s experiences, we learn about the parallels between coaching basketball and businesses, the importance of moving from “me” to “we,” the best questions and tools for business owner accountability and employee engagement, and the similarities and differences between the DiSC and StrengthsFinders assessments.

About Ken Stibler

Ken Stibler is an Executive Coach, Executive Advisor, Vistage Master Chair, International Speaker, and CEO. Ken began his career as a high-impact leader by coaching the 1982 College of Charleston Men’s Basketball Team to victory in the NAIA National Championship. His business and consulting career spans 30 years in the energy, telecommunications, athletics, automotive, and insurance fields. In a variety of top leadership roles for public and private companies, Ken has directed multimillion-dollar P&L responsibilities—leading thousands of people and over 25 M&A transactions.

Today, Ken serves as a catalyst for change as a Vistage Master Chair, the CEO of Strategic Integration Services, and a renowned international speaker. Leveraging his extensive management experience, he advises over 100 CEOs and business leaders across many sectors in all different aspects of business. His impact on business leaders and their businesses is evident in the success that they've had. For example, 28 of his clients that he's coached have gone on to win the Top 100 or Best Place to Work awards and 18 of his clients have earned Inc. 5,000 Fastest Growing Company awards. Ken himself is a two-time recipient of the Vistage Star Award in 2018 and 2020, a two-time recipient of the Vistage Top Speaker Award, and an award-winning distributor of Wiley Publishing's DiSC assessments. More recently, Ken was honored as a Top 10 Speaker and finalist in a Speaker of the Year Award in 2021.

Key highlights

Connecting the court to coaching

Timestamp 08:35

When discussing Ken’s athletic coaching background, Severin asks “what did you learn from athletics that helps you in leadership?” Ken shared that athletics is a “team sport.” Therefore, he had to “understand how to share.” He also explains that there is discipline involved in athletics, which is key to being a great leader. After discussing his journey to basketball coaching, Severin asks “would you rather coach a team of good players that play as a team or a team with an individual contributor who’s a high point scorer?” In response, Ken shares that the word “team stands for together everyone achieves more.” He explains that in business and coaching it’s good to have “some high scorers every once in a while” however, teams can go farther than great individuals on their own.

From “me” to “we”

Timestamp 13:54

When reflecting on sayings and mantras in his youth, Ken shares that when he “was first in business.. it was all about [him].” He explains that he was “selfish” and identified himself as “the guy that was going out alone and doing things on [his] own.” Over time, however, Ken changed, and “instead of dealing” he started “nurturing.” He shares that “instead of me, it became we.” Severin responds and shares that “by helping others succeed, we go much further… it’s moving to living a life of significance.” Ken goes on to distinguish that “success is what you do for yourself and significance is what you have an opportunity to do with others.”

Rules for being amazing

Timestamp 20:02

One of Ken’s powerful peer group activities is an exercise he calls “rules for being amazing.” In this exercise, he asks clients and peer group members, “if I worked for your firm, what are the rules for being amazing for your firm?” He will also ask, “what are the rules for being amazing to being a member in this group? What about for you individually?” Ken will do this exercise on a regular basis with his groups and clients. Ken also shares what his rules are for being an amazing Vistage Chair. His rules for being amazing include “risk more than is required. Learn more than is normal. Be strong. Be kinder than expected. Show courage. Shatter your limits. Read, excel, love and lead. Speak your truth. Love your value. Stay humble. Laugh, cray, innovate, and simplify. Adore mastery. Aim for genius, but act now. Release mediocrity. Deliver more than is needed. Transcend your fears. Exude your passion. Dream big, but start small. Don’t stop. Inspire others by your bigness. Go change the world.”

Comparing DiSC from StrengthsFinder

Timestamp 32:15

Ken frequently uses DiSC and StrengthsFinders in his coaching and consulting. He explains that DiSC is from Wiley and has a variety of programs within its program. This assessment “is a tool that measures communication style and preference.” StrengthFinders “measures your natural talents and skills” so that they can be nurtured and built upon. Ken also shares that a new tool has been developed using this that identifies the top 10 skills of an individual and shows them how to “go from good to great.” Ken uses StrengthFinders in his coaching practice to “nurture the growth” of his coachees and clients, and help them achieve their goals.

The big, hairy, audacious goal

Timestamp 43:33

Ken shares that his “Big, hairy, audacious goal… is to really be able to influence somebody” to make positive changes in their lives, that have a positive influence on others as well. He states that by his positive influence on the lives of others “that’s really… how I’d like to be known. That I was able to influence somebody that went back and influenced a thousand more, that influenced a thousand more.”

Download the transcript

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