Monthly Archives: April 2010

Genius is not required for great leadership – learn how

I love the game of football and I am not the only one. I work with a group of men who feel the same way. We love the process, the practice, the games and the social aspects. For those who really love the game it is the purpose that young men find in the game that really motivates us and as coaches we have the opportunity to impart values, work ethic and show young men what love looks like.  The touchdowns are fun but it is the changed lives that create passion.

Learning how to deal with disappointment and victory offers coaches the chance to grow with their team. We dedicate countless hours with game plans, practice plans, breaking down film and professional development to be the best. This desire comes from the belief that we can win and that will change lives. We are not that smart but we work hard, we are organized and we have passion for what we do.

I write this blog to share the leadership lessons I learn on my journey as a consultant, a coach, father and husband. I have a belief that good leadership is good leadership. With this belief, I go as often as I can to the annual University of Washington Huskies football clinic. Some of the most inspiring and insightful leaders I have met and listened to have been at this clinic. Some of these leaders were 40 season high school football coaches, legendary college coaches and NFL greats.

This year, a former NFL coach made an impression on me. Jim Mora coached both the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons. He is a ‘loose cannon’. He is the type of speaker that makes you nervous, like the nervousness you get when you watch the Office television show. You really don’t know what he is going to say. He knows this and warns you for this eventuality. This is one of the reasons he is a former coach. So with his lack of brain filter how did he become a head coach in a competitive profession – the answer is he has some great leadership practices.

  1. He sets the big picture for his players in terms they can understand. His premise for all his drills and systems are used to increase turnovers for other teams and reduce their own. He has the stats – 62% of teams with a +1 turnover ratio will win. This is the focus around which all other activities are based. We will win when we cause turnovers and when we protect the football. To do this he has to encourage specific player and coach behaviours.
  2. He clearly defines what bad behaviour is and what good behaviour is. Bad behaviours are ‘Loafs.’ He breaks this out into observable activities like accelerating out of every move on the football field. That acceleration is termed a burst. The absence of this burst is call a’ Loaf ‘. Good behaviours have themes. Competitions are created to have winners and losers for protecting the ball. If you cause a big play or turn the ball over it is acknowledged.
  3. When everything is defined it can be measured. The team films and counts everything they do. This information is aggregated and tracked individually, by units and as a team. They track and trend and relate those measurements back to what they do. In business planning terms their outputs.
  4. When measurement happens accountability is possible. Football teams watch a lot of film and everyday Mora’s teams will get the ‘Loafs’ posted by player number for all to see on the film room door. Along with the Loaf, great plays are celebrated and posted.

Players know why they are doing what they are doing, they know what is expected of them, they know it is being tracked and they know that it will be reported. Now think about your work day – can you say these same things. These practices drive performance and yet in business the planning and measurement budgets may be the first things to be cut. I think we can all learn a little from a fired NFL coach.

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Filed under Leadership

Got stuck in the box – the answer may be outside

The team

My life teaches me about leadership when I am paying attention. I was on a team this past weekend competing in a local version of the television show The Amazing Race – The Amazing Hunt, Surrey style.

I was reminded of a sound leadership insight; the goal makes all the difference. Our team finished 11 out of 12 groups. Our big failing, we got stuck in one phase of the race by choosing the wrong goal.

Here is how we got into this mess. Keen and eager we ran for the first check point after our very bright Captain figured out the first clue. Being one of the first teams to figure out the clue we did not have a lasting impact on where we placed in the end. Slow and steady, with a clear sense of direction was going to win this race.

The competition

Instead we were quick, off and running down the street rushing to finish the race. A phone number of a store was the next clue. We did not hear the message on the stores voice mail correctly and we thought it was a metaphor, “Praying for a game.” Turns out, the name was “Craving for a game”. This was a store in the local mall. Eventually, we caught on by following other teams. Not much for leadership yet. We were following and that even took awhile. We were too smart by half and that continued.

The next mistake was the big one that ensured we would finish in the back of the pack. Our Captain was kicking-butt and did the clue puzzle in record time. Our next clue was a logo and it stated “Where can you find this logo in Surrey Central….” We thought we were in Surrey Central Mall. We looked in every sports store, restaurant and toy outlet we could find.  No logo.

Trying to catch up

Where was this logo in the mall? Finally, we stopped running into other teams. At our wits end, but determined we went to customer service to see if they could help. They said “I don’t think you will find that in the mall, but the mall is called Central City and the area around the mall is called Surrey Central.” Woops!  One hour after the rest of the teams left the mall we ran to a place that we all knew and eliminated in seconds after receiving our clue, the training facility for a professional football team that was next door.

Knowing we were done

We eliminated options too early and needed to understand our situation better before acting. How often are we working hard when we have created artificial barriers to our success? This sure made me nervous, where at work or in life am I doing this? Am I not getting closer to a goal because of my own perceptions or presumptions? I have to figure out if I have a ‘customer service’ that can state the obvious and get me back on course. How about you?

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Filed under Decisions, Leadership