Feature article from Delta’s Sky magazine about Coach K and Coach Urban Meyer on creating champions — September 2015 issue.

On my recent Delta flight, I read an interesting leadership article in Delta’s Sky magazine – the feature piece being an interview of two of the NCAA’s most successful coaches – Coach MikeKrzyzewski (Coach “K”) of Duke’s men’s basketball team and Coach Urban Meyer of Ohio State football with five and three national championships, respectively.

Given these two coaches’ storied careers, their leadership has incredible sustainability. Here are my take-aways from the article:
  • Both coaches took leave of absences in their careers due to medical concerns. Their successes cultivated deeper motivations to win exacting significant physical, mental, social, and emotional tolls. After stepping away, however, each returned to coaching posts to continue winning ways, but implemented mechanisms and understanding to keep themselves in check. Take-away: To operate in peak form like their respective teams, leaders, too, need to ensure self-maintenance. 
  • The interviewer asked the coaches about social media’s effects on the players. Neither coach stop players from interacting on social media. They see social media as part of a change that did, does, and will continue to be a big part of players’ lives. Instead, the coaches focus on teaching their players how best to leverage social media and be wary of its potential to amplify. At Body Boss, we ran into many coaches who wanted nothing to do with social media. These same coaches were against technology in the weight room. However, the more progressive coaches saw social media and technology as tools to achieve goals not able to be realized before. Take-away: The only constant is change, and successful leaders find opportunities to leverage new tools and ways of thinking to achieve goals.
  • There is a necessity to coach players beyond the field. It’s easy to focus on employees or colleagues as purely that – employees. However, like Coach K and Coach Meyer demonstrate, there is much more to be gained when coaching players beyond the field. In business, the importance is in developing capable, courageous, and influential people, not just workers. Take-away: There are greater ripple effects when influencing people beyond the job.
  • Urban Meyer recalled the first time he saw Tim Tebow play; except, he wasn’t playing football. Instead, Tebow was playing right field in a baseball game. By the third inning, Meyer made up his mind to sign Tebow because he immediately saw his competitiveness and tenacity. Take-away: Finding High Potentials and “athletes” can be tough, but once found, you can slot them anywhere and know they’ll get the job done.
  • Both coaches also reflected on the importance of players’ support systems. Given the many avenues for distractions for players, it’s important for the player to listen to their true support groups, not the noise. Take-away: There is a lot of noise today, but it’s up to the individual (player, entrepreneur, other) to choose who to listen to as it’s their lives, businesses at stake.
  • Both coaches have won multiple championships in different schools. The key to sustained success is cultivating adaptive cultures. Coach K noted cultures change, but the foundation of the culture, the values, are what don’t change. Take-away: Values should sustain over time. They are the building blocks of cultures that do and should change.

If you’ve read the article about the coaches, what were your take-aways? What points would you agree with them on? What points would you NOT agree with them?

Every once in a while, you stumbled on some hilarious YouTube video involving kids or kittens or in my case, ducklings. Okay, so these days, maybe it’s not “every once in a while” as much as it is “very often” thanks to everyone sharing everything. The video I recently saw had some obscure leadership lessons that I wanted to share. Yes, of course there are leadership lessons from watching ducklings go up stairs.

You ready? Okay, check out this video first: Ducklings vs. Stairs
Pretty hilarious, and yet, so cute… and so much to learn
Note: when you reach the bottom of this article (read it, don’t just scroll!), I’ll treat you to another hilarity by ducklings (in the wind). However, no leadership lessons I’m drawing from that one.
Let’s just do as ducks do, dive (or jump) into it:

  1. Perseverance. Okay, this was easy, but it’s only easy to point out because it’s so important. How often do you think you’ve approached a seemingly “impossible” task, only to give up short of success?
  2. Learn from your failures. Goes hand-in-hand with the preceding, but you can see the ducks constantly probe different parts of the stairs, and even try areas where another duckling had success. 
  3. Let your flock fly! Clearly, Mama Duck could see her little ones struggling. However, she patiently stood atop the stairs waiting. Sometimes, as a leader, you gotta step back and let the little ducklings do their thing.
  4. Ducks quack together. The line in Disney’s Mighty Ducks was “ducks fly together”, but seeing as the ducklings here aren’t flying, need to adapt it. When you watch the video, see how the ducklings follow each other and even quack at each other like motivation? Ducks quack, flock, fly together, even at a young age. Okay, except for maybe the last duckling. Poor guy.
  5. Sometimes, there’s no getting around the challenge in front of you. Ah, highly applicable, I think, for entrepreneurs and startups especially. The challenge in front of is… actually, there are many. Cutting corners or trying to find a way around some challenges just isn’t going to cut it. I’ve found that sometimes, you gotta find your way THROUGH it, or in the ducklings’ case, get over it.
So, it would have been an interesting leadership observation had none of the ducklings made it. What would Mama Duck do?
Okay, as promised, here’s another duckling video just for your fun today. It’s pretty hilarious, and in some (many) ways, I feel terrible for laughing: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEBLt6Kd9EY


If you enjoyed watching these little ducks go, you should check out this one. Not many lessons here other than “in high wind, reduce your drag coefficient… and don’t be a duck”.
You ever see someone who is just wildly successful at whatever YOU’RE trying to be, and then you want to just emulate everything that person does? However, you’re not able to keep up, or you aren’t able to make it work the way you were hoping? Yeah, so that happens to me, too. And so now, this brings me to Inc.com’s article by Geil Browning “The Brain-Based Secret to Getting More Done”.
I’ve been told I’m like a machine sometimes when I work, but I know others who are just absolute freaks when it comes to productivity. As much as I want to be as successful or more, I know that I have to carve my own path. I want to change the world, sure. But for me to be able to do something as simple as, say, blog everyday like I know David Cummings can do, I know it’s just not something I can (or will) keep up with. Just like working out, I’ve gotta find what’s sustainable for me.
Browning writes how there are four major ways people think that can shape and impact how they are productive:
  • Structural.As you can imagine, this is the person who formalizes a game plan. It’s got rigidity. It’s got form and structure.
  • Analytical.Every decision is scrutinized to find and implement the best ROI.
  • Social.This type of person is democratic in his/ her approach. This is especially great to create a sense of accountability to the table for everyone.
  • Conceptual.Stuff is just done. There’s a notion that things are WIP (work-in-progress), but productivity here is measured in completion.

Okay, now that I’m done summarizing the article by Browning, here are my personal thoughts:
  • Team play. In a startup team (or really any team), it’s best to have people with different thinking and different backgrounds. The natural yin-yang and complementing will help your startup find holes in products and strategies. It’s like a good trivia team… you want people who can answer questions for any subject thrown at you.
  • Sustainability.The article mentions New Year’s resolutions (8% actually follow through?!) especially with exercise. Reminds me of an article I read from a trainer who was asked what was the best exercise to lose weight? The trainer responded with, “whichever exercise you enjoy”. You’ve gotta find what works for you, and what you enjoy to really implement anything that will be sustainable.
  • Switch it up! The article (and this very awesome post) is all about finding your natural state of thinking for productivity and just general mind set. However, I think it’s also good to switch it up every once in a while, and spend a day (okay, a few) trying to put a little more structure to your day, if you’re more conceptual. Or perhaps being more social. Not looking for the sustainable part, but spending a little time on the other side of the walls can help you consider other alternatives that can make your process and thinking that much more holistic and perhaps even stronger.
  • Respect.To the point above about team play, this article readily highlights the differences in how others may think. It’s easy to try to push others to your style of thinking, and then getting mad when it doesn’t stick or isn’t considered. This is why those personality profile tests like Myers-Briggs, DISC Profile, etc. are so good for managers to see. It’s important to consider others as individuals and promote their own growth.
  • Consider yourself. The article, at its core, is about knowing yourself. In today’s high-speed, text-a-minute, Facebook-slap-in-the-face society, it’s easy to forget to consider who we are. I’m a big proponent of taking a few minutes every night before bed in reflecting on the day, and think about yourself. What you like, what didn’t you like, what you did well, what made you bored…

What are your thoughts about what makes you more or less productive than one of your friends or idols? How have you capitalized on one of your strengths to be more productive and effective?

During my wait for the bus this morning, I did my daily ritual of scanning a select set of websites.  And this morning on CNNMoney, I read an excellent (and lengthy) article about Nick Saban, Head Coach of University of Alabama’s football program.  Titled “Leadership Lessons from Nick Saban” (see the article here — actually, this article will be in the September 24th issue of Fortune), I couldn’t help but be intrigued.

Throughout the article, I smiled and laughed.  No, it’s not a funny, humorous article.  Instead, it reinforces so much that I’ve been thinking, and what I’ve been hearing throughout my consulting experience and in business school.  

Coach Saban developed what is referred to in the locker rooms in Tuscaloosa (and his prior stops at Michigan State, LSU, etc.) as The Process.  Instead of focusing on W’s, Saban preaches to his players to trust The Process.  Trust the coaching and fellow team members’ skills.  “Saban keeps his players and coaches focused on execution — yes, another word for process — rather than results” [1].  Coach Saban firmly believes in what he coaches, and luckily, it’s worked out quite well for him.  The article continues…

[…] Sound like your typical chief executive? “I think it’s identical,” Saban says, digging into his salad. “First of all, you’ve got to have a vision of ‘What kind of program do I want to have?’ Then you’ve got to have a plan to implement it. Then you’ve got to set the example that you want, develop the principles and values that are important, and get people to buy into it.” [1]

Coach Saban structures his program around his own core values, and the whole of the community of the University of Alabama, not just its football players, benefit from his leadership.  Since Coach Saban took over the reins at Alabama, the program has held the number 2 position in football players’ graduation rate in the SEC (after Vanderbilt) for the last 3 years.  Saban even helps coordinate his players to do philanthropy having provided aid to tornado victims last year.  All this while producing a National Championship this past January, 8 first-round draft picks the last two years, and so much more.

All through the article, the article’s author Brian O’Keefe details the diligence and sheer commitment to the program and his players.  Commitment including some hard-nosed recruiting that prompted the NCAA to create the “Saban Rule” (limits the travel of coaches to potential recruits — Saban apparently now Skypes with many recruits).  Terry Saban (the Coach’s wife) shares the stress and passion Coach Saban has for perfection. It’s not just about winning or doing something well… it’s about the opportunity to improve.  “You should always ‘evaluate success’. Even when you win, you should study what you could have done better and plan how to improve next time.”[1]

Success comes from the top-down.  Success is bred from Leaders like Coach Saban who instill positive cultures and ethics.  Success is the result of hardwork and dedication.  Coach Saban has his goals (to win Championships, to enable his players to reach their goals and achieve greatness), but he doesn’t focus on the results.  He follows the Process.  Three National Championships, NFL players aplenty, loving family… yeah, I think the Process works pretty well.

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[1] O’Keefe, Brian.  Leadership Lessons from Nick Saban.  In CNNMoney. [Website]. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/07/news/companies/alabama-coach-saban.fortune/