July 22, 2014 / MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS
July 22, 2014
Recently, my six year old asked me during basketball practice, what’s my favorite sport and why? The quick answer was basketball and as for the why, I simply stated that I enjoy playing it even more than I enjoy watching it. But, as most children are prone to do, he asked why again. As I resumed practice, it became clearer, what exactly am I trying to teach these young boys right now? The better answer was that basketball is a team sport. It requires a group of individuals to work together to accomplish a common objective. Basketball, similar to most team sports, requires the players on the court to know their job, what’s expected of each of them, and then to do it. When jobs are executed as expected, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Failure to do one’s job means someone else has to pick-up for you, teamwork breaks down, and it often means the difference between winning and losing.
I’ve always been intrigued by the convergence of sports and business. As a turnaround business consultant, I’m particularly interested in why some teams, similar to broken businesses, get “fixed” and are on the road to winning championships while others simply cannot. So in the spirit of my six year old, I sought out the why? The answer became very clear when looking at coaches who make winning a habit. They share a trait, a pattern of how they act and operate similar to elite CEO’s. There is no hoping for the best or a ‘wait until next season’ mentality. These coaches understand the importance of guiding not just the players, but each individual within the broader organization, to function as part of the larger team. They create an organizational metamorphosis that requires discipline so that each and every individual understands how their job is linked to the success and achievement of the team’s objective, regardless of how much interaction they actually have with one another or the players themselves. Each person is held accountable and responsible for doing their job and doing it well.
John Wooden, former head coach for the UCLA Bruins and ten-time NCAA National Champion, Nick Saban, head coach for Alabama’s Crimson Tide and a four-time NCAA National Champion and Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs and a five-time World Champion, are just a few examples of these elite CEO coaches. Coach Wooden built a dynasty that will never be duplicated. Famous for his “Pyramid of Success,” he was one of the first coaches who called himself a teacher before anything else. When he passed away in 2010, he was mourned by millions and honored with tributes across the country. In 2012, both Sports Illustrated and Fortune Magazine ran an article on Coach Saban and his famed “Process.” Having just won back-to-back championships and three of the last four at that time, he quickly created a modern dynasty in six short years while losing coaches on his staff to other head coaching positions where they achieved a similar level of success using his Process. Coach “Pop” as Popovich is known, is lauded for his “System” and has built a dynasty that has won championships in three different decades. Most recently, he embraced change and took the innovative steps to take an older, plodding team and transformed it into a fast paced, highly skilled unit that won the 2014 NBA Championship.
So how did these coaches fix the broken organizations they adopted and create dynasties of success? In examining and comparing the different ideologies of the three coaches, it became clear how similar and simplistic they were. Taking from the old Marketing 101 books of focusing on the 4 P’s (Product/Placement/Pricing/Promotions), these high achieving coaches operate around a new set of 4 P’s that every leader of an organization should use as part of their leadership technique. Execute these properly and you’ll build a culture that will deliver increased enterprise value… and perhaps a dynasty.
1. Purpose – if you assumed that winning championships was #1 in importance for these coaches, you’d be wrong. No question they are winners and wanted to win, but Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success states the objective best. At the top of the pyramid sits “Competitive Greatness – perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.” What is the purpose of your organization? Is it clear to all of the “players” within your organization? Is it meaningful and capable of inspiring every employee to give their best and be their best? If your organization were to go away, would anyone notice? If you have to think about the answer, do your job and rethink your purpose.
2. Passion – each of these coaches share a passion for winning. But upon further examination, the winning only validates their true passion, developing people to be their individual best. Choose any one of the coach’s three ideologies and do your own research. What you’ll find is an insane commitment and dedication to making sure each individual that touches the program shares the same philosophy for people… it’s about the individual and it’s about the team. Are your players passionate about their jobs and excited every day to work towards your company’s purpose? Do they share a passion and love for their jobs so much that it could be mistaken for their hobbies? If you have people within your organization where that’s not evident to you or them, do your job and make some changes.
3. People – as much as these coaches are all about the team, it starts with having the right individuals. Successful organizations start with vetting and evaluating each person that has any impact towards the success of the team. Trainers to receptionists are evaluated and filtered no differently than a player or recruit. If a player or employee is technically talented or highly skilled, but lacks the character and personality traits required, they are not pursued or hired. Existing talent who are deemed a poor fit are encouraged to transfer or seek employment elsewhere. However, once selected, individuals are truly valued as evidenced by the amount of human and capital resources invested in each of them. As an example, while Coach Saban was at LSU, $15M was raised for a 54 thousand square foot academic center to help support the student athletes – in any business organization, whether you have a lot of money or not much money, the people are the difference. Does your team feel valued at the individual level? How do you know? Do you invest in your people, if so, how much? Are your employees rigorously evaluated to ensure they share the organization’s values? Do you overvalue skill and experience at the risk of undervaluing cultural fit? If you’re not sure how each position within your organization was hired, evaluated or invested in, do your job and find out.
4. Process – each of these coaches concentrated on the steps to success rather than worrying about the end result. Although each of these ideologies are nuanced, they all converged around a singular theme… Hope is not a strategy – there is no quick fix – you need to do the hard work – establish a clear process – repeat. Their processes are focused on targeting talent that fit their purpose and passion criteria. Every person or player who works within the organization has a specific set of expectations around what success looks like that is individually tailored to their specific job and around their specific skills, strengths and areas for improvement. Each individual is measured, evaluated and held accountable for doing their job to the best of their ability. Feedback is prepared and presented frequently to keep the individual on track with the organization’s objectives. Does each person in your organization know what success looks like through clear expectations? Are you making investments that help each employee be successful in achieving their expectations? If you use the word team a lot and don’t have customized programs designed to develop talent at the individual level, you’re not doing your job.
If you want to enjoy a level of success similar to Hall of Fame coaches, do your job and make the following areas habits in your organization:
Passionate people doing purpose driven work build dynasties.