Pam Borton Q&A

December 2, 2019
Pam Borton has coached basketball players to a Final Four and corporate executives to new heights.

“The night before the Duke game was a special moment. We had a team meeting and at that moment we began preparing mentally and emotionally for the game. It was around our purpose, vision and visualization. Everyone was given their own pair of scissors and on the back of the package they were asked to write who they were going to play the game for and who they were going to cut down the net for after the game with those scissors. The moment was getting their heads wrapped around purpose and seeing themselves winning the game.”

Was making the Final Four in 2004 the thrill of a lifetime?  

A coach’s pinnacle is getting to a Final Four and it certainly was that for me. It was one of those peak performance moments, which came at the end of a hard and long process throughout the year.

What did you tell your team the night before you beat Duke? 

The night before the game was a special moment. We had a team meeting and at that moment we began preparing mentally and emotionally for the game. It was around our purpose, vision and visualization. Everyone was given their own pair of scissors and on the back of the package they were asked to write who they were going to play the game for and who they were going to cut down the net for after the game with those scissors. The moment was getting their heads wrapped around purpose and seeing themselves winning the game.

Your teams always had at least a 3.0 GPA during your coaching tenure. How important was it to you that your players thrive academically?

They were students first and athletes second. I always had a holistic approach as a coach and had as high of expectations for my players off the court as on. They were focused and disciplined and I was proud of them.

In your book, On Point: A Coach’s Game Plan For Life, Leadership, and Performing With Grace Under Fire, you relate examples from your sports career to business. What is the biggest crossover between the two? 

Getting people to perform at their highest level is what I did as a coach and still do as an executive coach and leadership consultant. Building high-performing teams was a big and seamless crossover as there is need in the business world. Also, building a healthy culture was a big crossover and one that many organizations need to strengthen. It was all the same work, just in a different arena.

You wrote about what it was like to work for an athletic director you greatly admired for 10 years and another not so much for two years. Have you taken lessons from both that you implement in your executive coaching practice? 

Of course. I would not have traded anything I went through. I learned so much from being in a function culture and learned so much seeing it turn into a dysfunctional culture. I have used both of these experiences and knowledge of how to prevent it, see it coming, fix it and be the type of leader can can turn the ship around.

After spending 27 years as a college basketball coach, what has it been like to transition to the business world? Do you enjoy the diversity of work you do now? 

I love what I am doing now. Twenty-seven years of coaching basketball at the highest level prepared me for what I am doing today. Just like sports, every day is different and a challenge and rewarding. Coaching and supporting people to transform as a leader and building high-performing teams is extremely rewarding.

What do you find corporate leaders need the most help with in terms of their skill set? 

They need support in developing a higher competency of emotional intelligence so they can develop their people. They also need help communicating more effectively.

How important do you feel mentorship is for young women in the business world? Did you have a mentor that influenced you? Do you stay in touch? 

Mentorship is critical to everyone’s career — men and women, adults and youth. Based on research, there are many career improvements by having a mentor. I have had many mentors and have found new ones as I started my second career.  I would not be where I am today without mentors.

Do you still stay involved in basketball? 

I do not.  I watch it — men’s and women’s.

Who is your favorite basketball player of all time?

Lindsay Whalen — she was selfless, competitor, a winner and the game never became bigger than herself as a person.