Face-to-Face Communication Key to Success: Duke's Coach K

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The head coach of Duke University’s championship men’s basketball team told CNBC Wednesday that frequent face-to-face communication is the way to develop a winning team, whether in sports or in business.

“How do you make five guys on the court play like one?” said Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has lead the Duke Blue Devils to four NCAA titles and coached Team USA to a gold medal in the Olympics.

“How do you get a group of business people to play as one? You do that with constant communication. Face-to-face is the best way to communicate, where people can look each other in the eye and, when you have that opportunity, always to tell each other the truth and, [as a result,] an element of trust is developed.”

The coach’s collaboration with the Fuqua School of Business at Duke over the last decade has spawned a leadership center and an annual conference, now in its ninth year. Krzyzewski said that he reached out to Fuqua to counter the “silo” effect predominant at universities, in which departments of different disciplines don’t talk with each other.

The message for business leaders—and sports teams—facing difficult situations is not to do it alone, added Krzyzewski.

“Any time you’re in a scary situation, you don’t want to do it alone. I want to be there with a group. I want to be linked arm-in-arm with one another. It’s all about developing trusting relationships,” he said.

"In the world championship this year, we were in a huddle and looked into each other’s eyes and said ‘Together.’ ”