“The Phone Rang…” The Success Pyramid

The phone rang. It was Craig, a recruitment firm owner from Westwood, California—home of my alma mater, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I often think of UCLA…

One of the reasons I went to UCLA was that I wanted to be proud when I was asked where I received my college degree. And it worked. I am proud when asked that question. But, in addition to my diploma, I gained something else along the way. I became aware of the teachings of our legendary basketball coach, John Wooden – The Wizard of Westwood. I still remember watching him from the student section at Pauley Pavilion as the Bruins were warming up before a game; his calm professionalism; his rolled-up program; how he looked up into the stands behind the Bruin bench right before the tip-off to find his beloved wife Nellie and give her a wink and a wave.

During my college years, I learned about the Wooden Pyramid of Success that Coach spent fourteen years developing. It requires a lot for those who follow it, but it is a proven foundation to build upon.

In this article, I am going to discuss Coach Wooden’s pyramid and how the central blocks and the external casings relate to our world of executive recruitment.

The Pyramid of Success

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of being.”—Coach John Wooden

Personal Traits

The Central Blocks of the Pyramid

Here are the blocks and descriptions of each (in italics), from left to right and bottom to top, that build the Wooden pyramid. After each block, I will add my comments as to how those blocks relate to our business. As Coach always said, “Success is based on simplicity.”

Tier One

1. Industriousness – There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.
Planning is critical to our success. Plan to work a full day and work that plan. Be where you’re at. Accomplish more than the day would normally allow.

2. Friendship – Comes from mutual esteem, respect, and devotion—a sincere liking for all. Like marriage, it must not be taken for granted but requires a joint effort.

Work to establish rapport with those with whom we work. On every call get the other person to like, believe, trust, and understand us. Only when those elements of rapport are established can fruitful business relationships take place.

3. Loyalty – To yourself and to all those depending upon you. Keep your self-respect.

Do what is required. Only you can answer to yourself. At the end of the day be able to look in a mirror and be happy with the reflection that stares back at you.

4. Cooperation – With all levels of your coworkers. Help others and see the other side. Listen if you want to be heard. Be interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way.

People love to help. So ask for that help and they will offer it. And be the first to help others — not for any monetary rewards, but because it is right to do it. What goes around comes around.

5. Enthusiasm – Your heart must be in your work. Stimulate others. It brushes off on those with whom you come in contact. You must truly enjoy what you are doing.

We are in a great industry! We help our candidates more rapidly improve their status. We help our client companies become more successful quicker. And we earn what we are worth. Where else can all of those elements come together!

Tier Two

6. Self-Control – Practice self-discipline and keep emotions under control—a delicate adjustment between mind and body. Good judgment and common sense are essential.

One of Coach’s favorite quotes was, “Be quick, but don’t hurry!” And always be in balance. We always want to be under control, but be fast. Understand the basics of our business and then use those basics in a methodical manner. The race is won by the steady and quick performer. Avoid the peaks and the valleys by practicing this self-discipline tempered by sound judgment and managed speed.

7. Alertness – Be observing constantly. Be quick to spot a weakness and correct it or use it as the case may warrant. Stay open-minded. Be eager to learn and improve.

At the end of each day, review your performance and make changes where necessary. Track your numbers and be aware of your ratios. As with all big billers, be open to trying new ideas.

8. Initiative – Cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone—desire to excel. Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it.

We are in a marketplace where we place with only 4% of our clients. That means that 96% don’t need us at any particular point in time. So, realize this ratio and let it work for you. One top biller says that 99.5% of everything he does “fails”, so that if he can improve his success rate by ½ of 1%, he can double his income.

9. Intentness – Ability to resist temptation and stay with your course. Concentrate on your objective and be determined to reach your goal. Set a realistic goal. Concentrate on its achievement by resisting all temptations and being determined and persistent.

Stay focused. Try to stay with your plan, but adapt when necessary. Use a coach to remind you of the course you have set. The biggest billers develop their niches and then stay within those delimited boundaries. Be dogged in your determination to succeed.

Tier Three

10. Condition – Mental – Moral — Physical. Rest, exercise, and diet must be considered. Moderation must be practiced. Dissipation must be eliminated.

Vince Lombardi said that fatigue makes cowards of us all. Take care of yourself. Don’t abuse your body, which is inextricably connected to your brain. When you feel great, that emotion is transmitted to your clients and candidates. Remember, people can’t resist an emotion—whether it be good or bad.

11. Skill – A knowledge of and the ability to properly and quickly execute the fundamentals. Be prepared and cover every little detail.

Become a student of our business. Learn the basics—the classics of recruitment — and use them. When you overcome your knowledge deficiencies, you’ll only have your execution deficiencies with which to contend.

12. Team Spirit – A genuine consideration for others—an eagerness to sacrifice personal interests of glory for the welfare of all. The team comes first.

Think of what will benefit your client and your candidate. Put yourself third. To borrow some of the words from Emerson, once you do this, riches will beat a path to your door.

Tier Four

13. Poise – Just being yourself. Being at ease in any situation. Never fighting yourself.

One of the great qualities of our profession is that it can be conducted profitably in so many different ways. In fact, when we see trainers fail, it is because, having learned this business one way, they think that is the only way that it works. Then they compound this mistake by trying to mold their students around the training instead of molding the training around their students.

So, learn the basics of our business, and then be yourself and you will attract those who like you just the way you are. To paraphrase Leo Buscaglia, if you are in an ‘apple’ world and you are a ‘banana’, don’t try to be an ‘apple.’ Just be the best ‘banana’ that you can be and you will attract ‘banana’ lovers. And then you will be the happiest recruiter in the world!

14. Confidence – Respect without fear. Confident not cocky. May come from faith in yourself in knowing that you are prepared. And keeping all things in proper perspective.

There are three sources of confidence: Product Knowledge — knowing your niche; People Knowledge — locating superstars and heroes for your client companies; and Recruiting/Selling Skills Knowledge — learning the classic techniques developed over the years by our superstars. Possess these three ‘Knowledges’ and you will exude confidence. For more information on this topic see the February 2011 issue of The Fordyce Letter, “The Phone Rang…How to Acquire the Right Attitude,” pp. 16-19.

Tier Five – The Top Tier

15. Competitive Greatness – “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Be at your best when your best is needed. Enjoy a difficult challenge. Real love for a hard battle.

Love to compete. Challenge yourself to be better than you were yesterday. Learn from your mistakes and constantly move ahead. Have fun in this recruitment business—a business that allows you to have fun while making a ton of money. And always remember that if finding strong candidates for our client companies were easy, no one would need us. It should be hard. It should be a challenge. But when we succeed, it is all the more satisfying. To paraphrase John Kennedy, we Americans do things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Personal Traits

The (external) Casing Stones of the Wooden Pyramid

1. Ambition – Properly focused; for noble goals.

Be ambitious for the right reasons. Ambition is good if focused on the higher good.

2. Sincerity – Makes and keeps friends.

Like people and use things — not the other way around. Most of us can unmask a ‘fake’ very quickly and tend to steer clear of those types of people. You need to like people because people are likeable — not for any other reason. Be real and develop real business friendships.

3. Adaptability – To any situation.

As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Be noted for your flexibility! For more information on this topic see the February 2010 issue of The Fordyce Letter,“2010…The Year to Continue ‘Adaptability,’”, pp. 1-5.

4. Honesty – In all ways; in thought and action.

You may have heard the story of Diogenes, who went around the sunlit streets of Athens, lantern in hand, looking for an honest man. People still seek that honesty today. It is an admirable quality in any line of business.

5. Resourcefulness – Proper judgment.

Choose your clients and candidates carefully. Use correct judgment and be jealous with your time.

6. Reliability – Others depend upon you.

Teach punctuality by keeping your appointments and making phone calls on time. Be the recruiter on whom others can rely. Give both good news and bad news in a timely fashion.

7. Fight – Determined effort and hustle.

Tenacity in the battle usually wins the battle. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

8. Integrity – Purity of intention; speaks for itself.

Good things happen to good people. If your intention is right, others will be attracted to you.

9. Faith – Through prayer.

Realize that we are all guided by a Higher Power — however you envision that Higher Power. This force is stronger than any of us and a great source of power to which we can hand over situations that are out of our control.

10. Patience – Good things take time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Define your marketplace and get into it daily. Recycle your client contacts on a quarterly basis. It does take time, but with time and ‘correct’ tenure, you will become more and more successful. After ten years, for example, you want to have accumulated ten years of experience, not one year ten times.

In Conclusion

I hope you liked this quick, Reader’s Digest version of my ‘take’ on Coach Wooden’s Success Pyramid. I am hopeful that you can use this knowledge on your desk to help you become more successful. As Coaching Wooden said, “There is nothing more satisfying for a teacher than watching his students make his lessons their own.”

Next week in “The Phone Rang…” series I will cover “Conversation with a Superstar – Robocruiter and the Total Account Executive.” Until then, U-C-L-A! Fight! Fight! Fight!


“The Phone Rang…” by Bob Marshall is a series that defines what we, as recruiters, do for a living. This article series ran in The Fordyce Letter over the past year and we are proud to bring you the series online. To subscribe to the print edition of The Fordyce Letter, click here.

Bob Marshall began his recruiting career in 1980 when he joined MR Reno, NV. In 1986 he founded The Bob Marshall Group, International, training recruiters across the nation as well as in the United Kingdom, Malta, and Cyprus. In 1996, he returned to working a desk full-time, while continuing to train recruiters. In late 2011, Bob will begin licensing his proven training system in selected U.S. and international territories.

To learn more about his activities and descriptions of his products and services (including the Double Production-guaranteed program), contact him directly at: 770-898-5550, www.TheMarshallPlan.org, or bob@themarshallplan.org.

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