College athletics is as competitive an arena as any today. Coaches who produce winning teams usually become millionaires, campus heroes, professional coaches and sports icons. Coaches who don’t produce winning teams often end up selling insurance.
It’s all about the numbers and winning. Yet, it amazes me how some college athletes and teams are willing to die for their coach, their team and each other. This, in spite of the fact that if you, as an athlete, cannot perform a functional role on the team and be used to win, you’re replaced. It’s a totally utilitarian environment.
Good coaches focus on quantifiable Xs and Os. Great coaches do so as well, but they master the intangible – the unseen. Like a band of brothers fighting for a great cause, great coaches not only master the tactical, they meld the minutia of the job at hand into the strategic – the big picture. And what is the big picture? It’s the caring for one another at a deep level that’s somewhat spiritual.
Players performing for great coaches know that they’re not just a number. They know that the coach cares for and believes in them, probably more than they do themselves. Great coaches care deeply for their players’ character development, education, futures and families.
Mediocre coaches are myopic in their perspective. Their worldview is incomplete. They focus on themselves, their record, their career, their problems. Players (people) are simply a means to an end, the purpose of which is to glorify themselves. And you can bet that players know this. They, like most of us, know when they are being used.
Great coaches like John Wooden, Lou Holtz and Tom Landry see themselves as servants whose primary objective it is to enhance others, rather than themselves. They can’t help but help others develop all of their potential, all of the time, and in all circumstances. It’s been cultivated into their DNA over many challenging years. It’s this DNA which transcends mere winning, championships and sports glory that they pass onto their players. They truly do create a band of brothers (or sisters) – an arena of sorts where brothers and sisters not only achieve technical, but also relational, excellence.
Great leaders are, first and foremost, great coaches. To be a great leader, you have to master technical challenges and love people. You cannot merely focus on technical excellence while remaining inept at relationships. You must master both.
How it works. Mark Pendergast, president of Salmon Falls Landscaping in Berwick, Maine, is gruff, somewhat unrefined and driven. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. If he feels it, you get to feel it. Mark’s a field guy. He doesn’t like office work. However, he knows and understands commercial landscape installation field operations as well as anyone in the country. Mark does not know how to operate all the systems in the office such as accounting, estimating, job-costing software, etc. Frankly, you wouldn’t want Mark in the office running these systems. He would drive you and everyone else nuts. He belongs in the field. On the other hand, Mark knows how to assemble an excellent office team, and he knows the right questions to ask them.
No one works harder than Mark. He’s up earlier, works harder and stays longer than anyone in the company (or outside the company). He truly leads from the front. His passion for his work and his people is obvious, but that doesn’t mean that he’s easy to work for. Many have not lasted at Salmon Falls Landscaping – some for good reasons and some for not-so-good reasons.
Mark has recruited, trained and maintained a great team. This is primarily because he sets the example for others to emulate. You can recruit the best and train the best, but if you, personally, are not the best, it may all be for naught. You have to set the example. This is your No. 1 job as an entrepreneur – one that you cannot delegate.
Conclusion. It’s simple but true. If you want your team to sweat, you have to bleed. If you want your team to bleed, you have to hemorrhage. Leaders hemorrhage.
Jim Huston runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm. www.jrhuston.biz; email@example.com