Feeling the Place

InTouch - Newsletter - #89

Welcome to the eighty-ninth edition of “In-Touch”. As always, I would love to continue the conversation so please hit reply and let me know what you think.

Story of the Week: “Feeling the Place”

Exactly 10 years ago, in summer 2014, the USA Men’s National Basketball Team underwent a shared transformative experience when they visited the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. West Point, a place steeped in history and significance, had been attended by team coach Mike Krzyzewski (known to all as ‘Coach K’) almost 50 years earlier.

By the time ‘Coach K’ took the team to West Point, he had already guided them to two Olympic gold medals (Beijing 2008, London 2012) and two World Championship titles (Turkey 2010, Spain 2014). They would also win a third set of Olympic gold medals in Rio in 2016.

In 2014, author Jon Gordon happened to be visiting West Point at the same time as the basketball team and, in his book The Power of Positive Leadership, he writes that, “Head coach Mike ‘Coach K’ Krzyzewski brought the team there to understand what it truly means to represent the United States of America” and recalls that ‘Coach K’ told them: “You can’t talk about this place, see a movie about this place, you have to feel this place. You go to a place like this, you get it.”

Wishing his players to experience the very essence of West Point, the first place he took them to was the Academy’s cemetery, where they met family members of fallen soldiers who spoke about loved ones who had given their lives in service to their country.

The impact was immediate and deep. The players, who may have intellectually understood the concepts of service and sacrifice, now felt them emotionally. As they stood among the graves, hearing stories of bravery and loss, they experienced a powerful connection to the values that ‘Coach K’ wanted to instil in them.

As Jon Gordon writes, “Feeling is more powerful than hearing. You can’t just create a culture where people hear about what’s important. You must create a culture where people feel what’s important. You must create a culture where people don’t just hear your talk but rather they feel your walk.”

In our organisations and businesses, it’s not enough to talk about values, vision and mission. We must create a culture where people don’t just hear about what’s important — they need to feel it. When team members feel the mission and values in their everyday work, they become truly engaged and committed. They don’t just follow — they lead with passion and purpose.

Creating a sense of place and connection within our organisation is crucial for both new and existing team members. To help them “feel” the organisation, we can:

  1. Host regular storytelling sessions where veteran employees share personal experiences and company history.
  2. Pair new hires with experienced mentors for personalized guidance and cultural immersion.
  3. Design interactive onboarding programmes with hands-on activities and immersive experiences.

Creating such a culture requires more than mere words. It demands actions that resonate emotionally with people. Mike ‘Coach K’ Krzyzewski knew what he was doing when he took his team to West Point. If they were to truly understand its values and meaning, they had to do more than simply visit it like tourists. They needed to feel the place — and they did.

Words of Wisdom

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.” Dale Carnegie

A Question to Ponder, dear friend.

Have you ever visited a place that you only knew from books/movies/other people? What was it like to feel that place?