Leaders of team-related ventures can learn the true nature of leadership. Authentic leaders bestow feelings of “greatness” — they don’t take them.
reprinted from Tampa Bay Newswire 12/18/17
Clearwater Technology Company Teams with NFL Coach on Leadership Course
Boot Camp Style Web Clinic Delivers Insights That Inspire Success
Clearwater, FL, Dec 18, 2017: NextSphere Technologies, a Florida-based Global Information Technology Consulting and Software Solutions company that develops, maintains and hosts products and solutions for companies in several industries, announced it has developed a new website for Super Bowl-winning NFL coach, Bob Slowik as a platform for his leadership course.
Coach Slow believes, "Football is a lot like life and life is a lot like football. It is a finite period — an opportunity. A chance to do the best job you can. Whether or not you’re an NFL pro, we all have obstacles to surmount – we all have a game day for which we need support and guidance. This course is full of written, audio and video material designed to inspire and teach leaders and anyone with a passion to shape their version of success.” The recent launch of Slowik’s speaking tour echoes these concepts that empower achievement for professionals in any industry.
Hank Bartels, Director of Sales and Marketing for NextSphere adds, “Much of Coach Slow’s work can be applied to the business world. I’ve managed teams most of my career and always considered myself a coach. As Bob says, ‘Coaching means leadership. Leaders in any arena seek ways to help others reach their full potential’ -- this couldn’t be truer in business.”
NextSphere is known more for its custom software development work in the financial, healthcare and direct sales markets than for website development. “We’ve been growing at a good rate with our applications development projects,” states Raju Dantuluri, CEO of NextSphere, “we took the Coach Slow project on to show off our creative side.” The new web clinic will be available for purchase in January on NFLLeadership.com.
About NextSphere Technologies
NextSphere Technologies is the smart choice for software development projects. NextSphere combines a discovery and planning methodology using a group of subject matter experts with a delivery process that provides unprecedented transparency into your project. The result is a project or product that comes in on budget and on time.
Contact: Jeff Slowgrove | NextSphere Technologies | PRress@nextsphere.com
About Coach Slow
A twenty-year coaching career in the NFL and a member of a Super Bowl Championship team provided Bob Slowik a unique perspective on leadership. Over the course of his thirty-five years in football, he spent time in the company of people at their best and at their worst. He saw how they responded to success and how they extended their humanity; on- and off-camera. Coach Slow’s passion is to provide motivation and inspiration for competitors of all kinds looking to gain an edge. Visit CoachSlow.com for more information or to book him to speak at your next conference or event.
Contact: Bob Slowik | Coach Slow’s Land of Xs, Os & Beyond | ScheduleCoachSlow@CoachSlow.com
I have had the pleasure of being in the NFL as an assistant coach and as a coordinator. My background is that of a defensive coach working with both defensive backs, nickel backs, and linebackers.
The perspective of a defensive coordinator is far different from that of a position coach.
Being a coordinator on either side of the ball allows for an opportunity to be in a true leadership role with authority in the responsibility of both the defensive coaching staff and the collective unit of the defensive players.
Organization, time management, delegation of tasks, philosophy, game planning, opponents, staff and player relations, communication, play calling, and the responsibility of the unit’s performance and protection are all part of the defensive coordinator’s job description.
As I reflect on my years in the coordinator role two organizational lessons come to mind.
Although the coordinator shoulders enormous responsibility, the head coach is the ultimate decision maker in terms of philosophy. How much autonomy given to a coordinator depends on the head coach and his leadership style and background.
A head coach with a defensive background might have a hands-on approach where as an offensive-minded head coach might have little interaction or communication with the defense, but expect positive results.
As a first-time coordinator my first lesson of leadership was how important communication was to my role.
Not only communication with my staff and players but also with the head coach. As a coordinator, my first head coach was a hands-on personality. As the head coaching duties took their toll and his trust in my abilities grew, communication regarding both defensive direction and philosophy suffered.
The head coach no longer had the group of the defensive language and scheme. He always felt confident and comfortable talking to coaches and players. That comfort level was slowly deteriorating. Tensions grew until I learned it was not the head coach’s job to keep abreast of the defensive direction; it was my job as his coordinator to communicate and report to him. I opened the lines of communication and reported weekly tasks - there on all operated smoothly and his comfort level returned.
Another lesson that I learned quickly was that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything yourself. Embracing the opportunity to delegate to your staff had several benefits.
It allowed for more time for studying opponents and rehearsing your play calling craft which has a direct impact on the game’s outcome. With play calling having that bind of impact it is prudent to utilize as much time and energy as possible to prepare for that aspect of your responsibility.
Delegating not only gives you the time to spend on priority tasks it gives your staff a feeling of confidence knowing you have enough trust in their coaching ability to assign important projects. It also lets them know you respect their opinions.
As a position coach and as a coordinator I discovered position coaches can become extremely territorial. I’ve caught it myself often becoming angry or resentful of any comments regarding the players I was coaching. It is natural to take pride in your position and players, but it is important to be objective in evaluating performance and not become sensitive to superiors’ honest evaluations. Because of my own experiences as a position coach I would be sure to touch on that aspect of the position coach and coordinator relationship in my first defensive staff meeting.
I have been on defensive staffs where the staff would sit in the meetings far too long with little communication and instead watch endless amounts of video. Coordinators and position coaches need ample individual time for projects or task completion.
Unless urgent action is needed, thoughtful reflection and action in independent study can be far more beneficial than group discussion. Independent study followed by creative discussion seemed to provide the best results in attaining achievable ideas for useful application in the field of competition. I have also discovered that certain personalities find comfort in conversation and therefore talking is an indicator of progress.
Conversation directed at solutions is meaningful; as is staff members getting the opportunity to stand up for their creative ideas without the influence of other opinions.
All of us do much better when we work on projects that interest us. It was important for me as a coordinator to delegate and assign duties that interested my coaches as often as I could.
As one with authority, guard against the arrogance that you alone can come up with the best ideas. Organizational structure need not dictate operational practice.
Effective leadership will readily accept ideas especially great or creative ideas from any part of the organizational flow chart or outside of it.
The most joy in coaching, apart from the exhilaration of seeing team members succeed, was seeing the game from a global perspective as a defensive coordinator. Having the luxury of time to study opponents from a strategic and tactical angle allowed for much more growth in the ever-changing landscape of the game’s evolution.
Having the opportunity to call plays on game day and have a direct impact on the game is stimulating, fascinating, addictive, stressful and when successful -- the most rewarding feeling a coordinator can have.
The NFL season is upon us. Every team is full of optimism and truly believes the Super Bowl is within their reach.
Each team started to develop a personality during the grind of training camp. It is the first quarter of the season when the real personality of the team develops. It is only after the final roster is established does a team start the bonding process to develop its true identity.
The head coach of each team should have planted the seeds of what he expects his team to become by clearly and intentionally communicating his vision. The coaching staff reinforces that vision routinely to keep the destination in sight and to sell the vision as one unit.
The routine of the regular season and the game week preparation is in full swing. Many times, players being interviewed by the media pass along the notion that the team is preparing and having a lot of fun. My initial reaction is that they are not clear on the definition of fun.
Fun is defined as amusement and lighthearted pleasure. It is also defined as a behavior or activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having serious purposes. I have heard head coaches preach the fun principle. I am suspicious of teams speaking of fun. I’m positive not one player or coach would say one of their goals is to have fun if they truly understood the definition.
NFL Process and Preparation
The serious contenders talk about the process and preparation. The team that has learned to find joy in the process is the team who will be playing for the championship. The head coach and staff who can convey and sell that vision will find a championship in their future.
Rarely have I heard coaches use the word joy in their speech. It doesn’t have the football tonality. It was a word I used often when addressing my own unit.
Joy is defined as the passion or emotion excited by the acquisition of good. WOW! Teams that find a passion in the process to be good, WILL be champions. Champions find JOY in the process!
In life and in football, coaching and leadership are the same. A good coach is usually a good leader and frequently a good leader can also be a good coach. There have been good coaches that are not particularly good leaders. And there are good leaders who are lousy coaches.
It is important that every coach and leader establish for themselves a personal leadership philosophy that they believe in. I’m not speaking of simply strategy and tactics, but rather the core of your moral fiber and what it is that drives your passion.
There are many types of management styles, all of which have seen success. A personal leadership philosophy and the management style that might live with it can be easily found by your motivation to succeed.
Sometimes motivation for success is purposely driven by self-serving rewards such as money, notoriety, power, celebrity status, cars, homes and brand building.
When you are driven by those rewards it is easy to coach and lead with the end result; bottom line and wins and losses as your only necessary measuring stick for success. It is easy to ride the roller coaster of emotion and make decisions with no concern for your team members. A heavy hand of power brings some short-lived gratification to fulfill your desire and motivation to succeed.
My own personal coaching philosophy stems from two sources. The first is a scripture verse I Thessalonians 3:12-13, “May the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence…”
In whatever role I had, my primary motivation was to help those I coached move closer to their potential, not only as players but as men. Making the small world I worked and lived in better in some way brought me some satisfaction and joy. Stressing the fact that as we strive to become the best we will face adversity, setbacks, and successes. It will be the process (specific action steps) of striving to become the best and the journey along the way which we will achieve the most growth and reward.
Coaches and Leaders should be responsible for more than just wielding their power. I’ve thought of leadership this way. Which will have the greater result?
To impose one’s will upon another to act, or to inspire another to act upon his will!
There will be many times coaches or leaders will be required by circumstance to be the boss and wield that power, but great leaders are not consumed and corrupted by the power itself.
The other source that describes my personal philosophy is from the book The Teaching of Don Juan by Carlos Castenada, “Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone the question…. does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good. If it does not it is of no use.”
Hopefully more coaches and leaders will develop their own personal leadership philosophy based on not only winning, but building future leaders and coaches we would all aspire to be led by.
You’ll find coaches and leaders at almost every level of sportsmanship and life. As parents, if we do our jobs right, we are our children’s most influential leaders and coaches and we will set the tone for a life-long journey of development for our kids.
As we move through our education and into our careers, we will have many opportunities to interact with both good and bad coaches and good and bad leadership styles. The key is to pay attention to what styles and skills build the strongest, most effective teams and try to emulate and improve upon them.
Maximizing performance by maximizing effort
Coaches and leaders in any capacity work tirelessly to inspire their team members to give 100% in their role. It is important the coach and leader know exactly what they're asking for in demanding 100%. The most important aspect of 100% is the fact that by 100% we're speaking of 100% effort.
A person is born and blessed with a certain degree of talent which is beyond their control. Strategies and tactics are filtered down the chain of command for application in competition by competitors on the field of battle. Team members at times have input into the strategies and tactics. This will vary from coach to coach and leader to leader. Each of us, regardless of our role, has sole control over the amount of effort we put into our work.
What then does a 100% effort actually entail? I believe you must first be certain you acquire team members who will treat their job and role as a mission. A mission is defined as an operation or task assigned by a higher authority. Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do work at it with all your heart, as for working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”
With that in mind, a 100% effort means using every fiber of body, mind, and soul to complete your mission:
- You are training properly and taking care of your body.
- You are continuing the education needed to perform your task.
- You are refining and disciplining the specific actions necessary to succeed in your role.
- You stay positive in all of your work circumstances and maintain a pleasant disposition to your teammates or anyone you interact with on task.
- You accept responsibility for attaining your goals.
- You understand that anything worthwhile is never the easy road. It is always the hard road.
- You also understand that this road is less traveled and it is on the journey itself you work to acquire fulfillment!
Most of us, even at the pinnacle of our profession, cannot honestly say we give a 100% effort all the time. Those who do take the road less traveled of 100% effort are most certainly on their way to true achievement!
As an athlete and a coach, I've listened to speakers demand a 110% effort. It's always puzzled me how that was possible. I believed 100% was everything you had.
Mulling over the 110% puzzle over the years I came across an article or book about training that enlightened my thinking. It was a military training manual of some kind. It described 110% as a level of effort that cannot be proven. It exists only as an extraordinarily powerful idea. It can't be quantified and lifts human effort beyond imaginable. In order to get there, you need imagination, creativity, faith, and belief that there is always a better way. I think about a mom lifting a car to free her trapped young son as one example.
When asked to give 110% I no longer chuckle to myself but go to work with my imagination, creativity, and belief in a better way. And then get there!
Training prepares a person to react favorably to the unknown.
There are fundamental elements of each position in football that must be mastered in order to reach maximum potential. The same can be said of most family units, businesses and organizations of any size greater than one.
IN football, these include such things as:
- Change of Direction
- Hand Usage
- and Ball Tracking…to name a few
Every team and functioning organizational unit has basic team building skills that must be continually worked on and reviewed in order to keep these skills sharp. In the ideal football world, these fundamentals should be honed and mastered in the off-season and training camp. Outside of football, there may not be any off-season, so these skills must be worked on constantly. Some drills can be done every day in a short period of time for emphasis and muscle memory training. I have heard these commonly referred to as EDDs - the acronym: “Every Day Drills”. Most positions in football can complete their fundamental EDDs in 10 minutes at most. The same can be said of required skills outside of football. Short, but frequent reviews of critical individual skills are required to keep those skills sharp.
The rest of the training camp should be centered on group drills, team drills, or offense versus defense game-like competition.
Both Football and life are ever-evolving and every situation that could occur in the game cannot possibly be drilled.
Each player in game-like conditions will experience scenarios they haven't seen before. These valuable competitive repetitions will help them react quickly and correctly on Game Day.
It is important that each position group has a block of training time to put players in specific play-related group drills for emphasis. These position-specific group drills can change daily based on opponents or an area of needed improvement.
Educating your team members on situational football is invaluable and must be done with the scripting of a special category of the training regimen. The special categories can include things such as:
- Short Yardage
- Goal Line
- Third Down
- Fourth Down
- Two-point Conversion
- Last Play
My experience has also made me a firm believer in the idea of playing the game with no script in training sessions as the most valuable of all training repetitions.
Training in this game-like fashion forces players to be able to think and react to an ever-changing landscape of competition. That is the most valuable training one can experience!
Loud coaching is not the same as hard coaching
You’ll find coaches and leaders at almost every level of sportsmanship and life. As we move through our education and into our careers, we will have many opportunities to interact with both good and bad coaches and good and bad leadership styles. The key is to pay attention to what styles and skills build the strongest, most effective teams and try to emulate and improve them.
I hear head coaches and assistant coaches preach to media, players, and other coaches at clinics that they coach their players hard. I think young professionals have a misguided notion of hard coaching.
To some of the athletes, coaches, media, and aspiring future coaches, this bears the connotation of a hard-driving, profanity-laden, arrogant, mean, and callous approach to coaching. I can't speak for all those who stand up and proclaim that they coach hard, but I'm sure for most of them that is not the impression they would want anyone to have about hard coaching.
How Great Coaches Coach
Coaches should spell out exactly what hard coaching entails in the realm of his philosophy and program. Great coaches and leaders spell this out in the process of hiring coaches and recruiting talent.
Hard coaching is also misconstrued as “loud coaching”. The loudest coach on the field wins the contest for coaching his players the hardest in some programs.
Screaming at the top of your lungs from the beginning of the session until the end is not the best way to promote progress and improvement. Raising one's voice can be an effective technique to ensure a critical coaching point hits home.
However, when the coach has the volume turned to high at all times, it loses its intent.
- Hard coaching is demanding team members are purpose-driven in all aspects of their work: from the classroom to the field of competition.
- Hard coaching is communicating to the team members what is expected of them and what they can expect from you.
- Hard coaching is demanding that both player and coach follow through with the expectations described.
- Hard coaching is a prescribed process which demands a degree of effort beyond good. Good is not good enough if you want to be the best.
Constant criticism and little praise is also a misconstrued notion of hard coaching as the team members strive for perfection in their performance.
Great coaches can coach hard by praising the model of performance rather than criticizing the undesirable aspect of the team member’s performance.
As rec-league coaches, parents and middle managers in charge of small teams, we can apply the lessons learned from great coaches to help develop our teams, families, and divisions in to top performing units.
Focus on the process to achieve team goals.
So much of today's world is centered around the end result. It is the bottom line and wins and losses in the world of coaching.
With players, it’s about statistics regarding touchdowns, passer rating, tackles, sacks, batting average, three point shots, monthly sales, new memberships, and the list goes on and on.
The social media world has worked its way into every profession including sports.
Coaches and players not only consume themselves with the bottom line but have drifted away from the team aspect into the world of branding. Some coaches and players are trying to draw attention to themselves rather than the common goal of the team.
It is important to prepare yourself for the future but not at the expense of team goals, values, and rules. The new rage in coaching lingo is the word “process”. Process is a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end.
In any profession, the process will differ from team to team and organization to organization. The head coach or leader of an organization will have a process they have developed that they believe will lead them to the goal or objective. In the NFL, the head coach has a vision of the process by which his team will win the Super Bowl.
The most successful coaches can sell the team members that in order to achieve greatness they must forget greatness.
Instead of the focus being on the end result it is most important to focus on the process itself. The day-to-day actions that will take the team closer to the objective one step at a time. I hear coaches talking with the media and saying how their team is starting to understand the process.
In most cases the steps needed to attain a high level of achievement are very difficult.
Therefore, it is easy to lose focus, become fatigued physically and mentally, and lose motivation to continue the process toward achievement. That is why most achievements come after the grind of a difficult process necessary to attain the goal.
When leaders can inspire their team members to enjoy and embrace the grind (hard, dull, work) they are on their way to achieving greatness.
Greatness is not achieved by striving to be great, but by being great grinding towards your goal. Enjoy the grind and you never know what you will find.
Talent is only one factor in determining success
At higher levels, coaches have an advantage over managers when it comes to evaluating talent. And managers have an advantage over parents as we typically do not get to interview our kids to decide if we are going to keep them or not. But the end goal is the same for each. We all are looking for the best performing team.
When coaches and scouts evaluate players it is common to consider the measurables of height, weight, speed and position-specific movements as the prospect’s talent level.
A player's talent level is only one factor in determining the player’s future success. Hard work, persistence, determination, and passion are just a few of the other ingredients required to succeed to the pinnacle of one's profession. Just as it requires more than talent to become a successful player, it takes more than Xs and Os to become a successful coach.
I've never seen that coach make a tackle or catch a pass. Coaches, coach; Players- play!
Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximize their growth.
- John Whitmore.
It's not how much a coach knows, but how much he can teach his team members for useful application and competition.
- The best coaches are organized and passionate about educating their players or team members.
- The best coaches refine and discipline specific actions that are critical to winning.
- The game of football requires an ability to quickly diagnose moving parts in a lightning fast landscape.
Material is first presented in the low stress environment of the classroom. The speed for which they need to know is increased, and then put together for stress and speed on the practice field, and finally taken to the game.
Educating players on the situational components of competition is often neglected by the average coach. Well coached position and team players execute great situational football.
Knowledge of Xs and Os is a critical part of coaching, but teaching the Xs and Os is also integral in the final product.
Just as in football, the ability to teach necessary skills is the key to success in any organization. Raw talent without any guidance will usually only go so far.
Effective Leaders trust the plan, adjust when necessary.
Throughout my life as a parent, a player and professional and college coaching career I have witnessed and experienced firsthand, many different successful leadership methods.
Micro-managing, loud and boisterous, arrogant and unapproachable, combative and obsessive to name a few, are some of the negative methods that have worked.
Unfortunately, these methods are sometimes attractive to those who live in the world of instant gratification and pander to the hard-handed, “success now or be fired” approach.
From the outside, these approaches make the leader appear tough and powerful. There are certainly times when changes need to be made.
Authentic Leaders Don’t Take These Decisions Lightly
A leader who constantly makes changes on his staff might have forgotten the impact the changes have on the human level of wives and families. He should also look at his own hiring process if he is making that many mistakes.
When leaders put the passion into hiring their staff and have confidence in their decisions, it’s important to give the staff the necessary time to teach, coach and inspire the players on the journey. It takes both talent and leadership to win. You would not win one without the other.
Authentic leaders trust the plan, adjust when necessary, embrace the journey, develop future leaders, strive and die to their goal, but continually increase the quality of their team’s life as well.
A delicate balance that can only be achieved through an authentic leader’s mentality.
Authentic leaders understand that once one goal has been achieved there is another waiting.
Therefore, the journey, the process and relationships along the narrow road and difficult way, is the real game.
- Keep your team engaged and invested in the journey
- Acknowledge each and every success along the path
- Use each setback as a lesson from which to learn
- Have the confidence in yourself as a leader to allow input from your team to keep everyone involved and create a sense of ownership in the process
Winning the Championship is the ultimate goal for an authentic leader. Understanding that it is in the doing, not what has been done that leads to a championship mindset.
The Book of Proverbs states 'There is one who makes himself rich yet has nothing, and one who makes himself poor and comes to great riches.'
In other words, one says “look what I have done!” and ends up with nothing but themselves and one who keeps on giving no matter the cost and comes to great riches.
Develop a championship mindset that will bring great riches.
Riches meaning joy, satisfaction, and peace in the doing.
It is also stated in Chronicles 15:7, 'Be strong and of good courage for there is reward for your work.'
Authentic leaders who understand the real game is not always wins and losses or the bottom line on a spreadsheet, will not only win championships but are champions in the process! No matter your level of leadership or coaching, let's strive to become authentic leaders.
Each organization conducts interviews a little differently. Every Head Coach has his own way to interview candidates as well.
I’ve been present for well over a dozen coaching interviews. Most often the first thing done is to introduce yourself and your existing staff to the candidate. Make them feel at home and comfortable. Use this part of the process as an opportunity to sell your first-class organization.
After introductions, when you are short on experience and young in the profession, there is normally a segment of the process to gauge your knowledge and expertise in the subject matter required for your position. In the coaching world, this is called “being put on the board”.
Being put on the board used to mean going to the chalkboard and detailing your X and O knowledge as well as answering any questions you are bombarded with. It can be an intimidating process for a young candidate. It is important for both the employer and candidate because the employer determines if the candidate has the expertise necessary and the candidate gains confidence in presenting his material under stress.
Even when the candidate is not selected, the experience of the interview and being on the board is invaluable for the future.
I had coached 15 years before I was experienced enough and had a resume to prove it before I was interviewed and not put on the board.
Regardless of a candidate’s experience and reputation it is wise to have them present a list of the subject matter and systems they have coached in. These sessions don’t have to be as detailed as with an inexperienced candidate. You will be surprised how eager even a seasoned coach is to display his knowledge. Never assume a candidate has the expertise you feel would qualify him for your team. Once they are on your team it is too late. All other aspects of the expertise segment concern who the candidate on the board should be presenting to.
I have experienced everything from just the Head Coach to the whole staff or a mixture. I believe the interview should be conducted by the Head Coach and the candidate’s immediate supervisor who is the coordinator. I feel candidates can feel a little insulted when they must present to peers or coworkers, not superiors during these sessions.
It can also appear to the candidate as an intelligence gathering opportunity more than an interview. Candidates will share more information with superiors than with peers.
After the introduction and subject matter phase, some organizations will tour the facility have lunch or dinner and send the candidate on their way. One of the best and most thorough interviews I had was when I was sent to spend time with each member of the staff in a low-key fashion so they could get a feel for my personality and to see if it would mesh with the staff as a whole. Then there was the exit meeting with the coordinator and head coach.
Talent acquisition is the most important aspect of building a champion. Leave no stone unturned and be sure to check with previous employers when possible, for feedback.
No matter how great strategies and tactics are, it is mainly impossible to sustain success without talent!
The interview process is a critical element in locating and acquiring the necessary talent to build a championship team.
There is a secondary aspect of the interview process that organizations and leaders sometimes overlook. Not only are you interviewing the candidate and potential team member, they are conducting their own interview.
Whether the interview candidates are offered the position or not they are forming an opinion of you as a leader, your organization, your staff, your commitment to winning, as well as your facilities. Many organizations and leaders have fumbled the ball in this area.
Not only should you be looking for the best fit for your organization to help pave the way to a championship, but you are conducting a public relations campaign and marketing strategy to promote your team and organization. Leave all candidates with the feeling they would be honored to be part of your organization. Those candidates you did not choose (if they were treated correctly) will look for a future opportunity to fit on your team and will tell other peers what a committed, first-class organization you are – one destined for success.
So many leaders have candidates exit the process with a feeling of your arrogance, callousness, and overall sterile environment. This day and age has lost the simplest class act of at least informing all candidates of their decision. The norm is the only person who receives communication is the candidate who is hired.
As you conduct your interview in a first class, upbeat manner you are also doing the best job possible to ensure the candidate you wish to bring aboard will accept the position and be excited to do so.
Think of the interview process as not only acquiring top talent, but a promotional opportunity for the organization to help you acquire future talent!
How much input a professional player has depends on how long he has played in the league and how much success he has had. For the most part, the professional level in football is autocratic, not democratic. The coaches develop a game plan and the players carry out the plan.
The degree from which teams will stray from that model depends on a number of things:
The confidence level of the Head Coach and all the coaches around him is the first. If the Head Coach and his staff are not confident in themselves and their abilities, they will be very hesitant to listen to or give a forum to the players to express their thoughts on how they think the plan could be more effective versus the upcoming opponent. They think allowing input from the player will erode discipline.
Contrary to this thinking, I believe most competitors, when given input into the plan take more ownership. With more ownership there is more pride in executing the assignments and techniques.
Another factor in how much input players have is related to how much success the team has had. If you are coming off a poor season the coaches are less likely to be open to new ideas from the players.
Proven players who have been successful will have more of an opportunity to express their ideas. A lot depends on the personalities of the players as well. Some players don’t want to have any input and actually perform better when they do exactly what they’ve been coached to do rather than carry the extra burden of ways to improve the plan.
The other side of the coin is the player who performs better when they feel as if they have had a hand in how to attack the opponent most effectively. From my experience, I have found by involving the players who want to contribute not only helps the player but the coach as well.
I have also found adjustments that have to be made quickly on game day are more readily received and executed when the player is invested. When coaches are very rigid during preparation, players are more reluctant to buy in.
Know your personnel! Involve those who want to be involved. Communicate the plays or techniques that have no room for discussion and why.
Planning for the inevitable.
Injuries are inevitable in the game of football. Management, coaches and players all realize adjustments will have to be made during the course of a season because of missed time by players due to injury. There is some luck involved in winning a championship relative to injuries. Regardless of how well you prepare, there are injuries that all the planning in the world probably will not prevent.
The injuries you hope to limit, but will never completely prevent, are overuse injuries. There are injuries that can be reduced by education of safe technique, conditioning, hydrating, and heat and cold environments. Proper diagnosis by the training and medical staff is important to how much time it will take for the athlete to return to the field. Many times, the players themselves want to return to the playing field so badly they return too quickly and worsen the injury.
Because injuries are going to happen, acquiring not only 1st level talent, but depth on your team is critical to sustainable success. That is a balancing act of resources (mainly salary cap implications) to roster top notch starters, but adequate backups.
The standard coaching mantra when a player is injured is: next man up!
This means the backup steps in and you move on without skipping a beat. Confidence is fragile and can be shaken if leadership doesn’t approach injuries with the next man up attitude. If the coaches panic or show a lack of confidence -- so will the players. The reality of injuries is that most often the injured player’s replacement is not as talented and productive or he would be starting. At times, a team will have a rash of injuries that make it almost impossible to sustain winning. Injuries to a starting QB are especially devastating. It is difficult enough to find one quarterback, let alone two.
How is it then that some teams overcome injuries to key players?
The first thing that occurs is that the coaching staff does a tremendous job of adjusting the scheme as necessary to emphasize a different aspect of their team to maximize their production. Next, the remaining starters increase their level of performance. At times this happens because they simply get more opportunity to produce due to the injury. If a WR gets injured and he was the #1 receiver, then the #2 ranked receiver may get more passes thrown his way and a star. The same can occur on the defensive side of the ball.
Great teams overcome adversity because they have good coaching staffs that can adapt and have depth to navigate the bumps in the road. Make no mistake, when the best players are injured the team is simply not as good, but great organizations find a way to win!
Learn more about winning strategies in my leadership course.
In football and in business, I’m always curious and excited to listen, watch, and evaluate the different organizational approaches to the competition. There are many paths to take to the championship destination. The team’s navigational approach is as different as the head coaches’ personalities and management styles. All of the coaches certainly have a prescribed process in mind to address the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of preparation.
I have experienced a number of different approaches as a member of a coaching staff leading into these one and done playoff formats in the NFL.
A Stay the Course Philosophy
My very first year coaching in the NFL was with the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 with Jimmy Johnson as the head coach. We were 13-3 during the regular season and had a tremendously talented football team. Jimmy Johnson utilized the hardnosed, physical approach. As we made our march through the playoffs we changed nothing. We practiced in the same physical fashion and kept our meeting schedule intact.
As we started preparation for the Super Bowl I was expecting changes to the physicality of practice and lengthy meeting schedule. No changes were made. The Super Bowl practices were as physical as ever even with the risk of key players being injured.
Looking back, I see the most success occurred when little was changed from the process that produced the most productive results in the first place. Psychologically, a team that believes they have worked harder and prepared more diligently has the mental and emotional edge to overcome the highs and lows of a playoff or championship game. Teams facing early setbacks in those games who have stayed the course have a belief the momentum will swing in their favor because of the superior preparation. The conditioning and mental toughness acquired in the preparation process will pay off as the game wears on and those factors become more apparent.
The Burn Out Theory
I have also experienced the other side of the coin firsthand. Often times coaches will cut back on the physicality of the process lamenting the reason is to prevent injury. They will also pull back on meeting and preparation time citing the burn out theory and wanting their team fresh.
I’m not a big believer in that method. Although it has been effective on occasion it can create a confidence issue. When your preached process has been cut short in any area and adversity strikes early and the team falls behind, it is human nature to wonder if enough time and effort were put into the process to be champions. That uncertainty leads to panic and a lack of confidence to turn the tide.
The belief in preparation and the process will produce champions!
The most effective and productive leaders of team-related ventures have a chemistry or charisma with their team. It begins with trust. Trust begins with honesty and a vision for the team. The leader casts a vision and the foot soldiers carry out the plan. Communication is critical to the process.
It is important the leader conveys his vision clearly and thoroughly to his lieutenants who will then make sure all team members have a clear view of the destination. Along the journey there will be twists and turns and ups and downs. The leader has to continually update the team with any adjustments in the course along the journey. He must be sure to reiterate that the destination is the same.
Although his top assistants will have the most contact with team members, the leader or head coach in professional football will meet regularly with the team to reinforce his vision and the steps necessary to reach the top. All teams and organizations will suffer setbacks, bumps in the road, injuries and all sorts of adversity and distraction. Those leaders that can convince their team they are temporary and every setback has a lesson to be learned have the greatest success.
I have seen the leaders who are on a mission to convince the team members and organization of their own greatness. These are the pseudo leaders looking for more money, notoriety, brand building and power to satisfy their egos.
The authentic leader on the other hand because of the honesty, caring, common goal, chemistry, charisma and clarity of the vision convinces the team of their greatness. These are the leaders of Champions.
Turning Impossible into Possible.
There is a saying that goes something like: "if you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there." This is as true in life as it is in football. If you do not know where you are going or you have not set any goals, how would you ever know if you arrived? How would you know what you might be capable of if you never challenge yourself?
As the leader of your team, it is vital you provide a vision for the destination. In order to cast a vision, you must address your team or organization shortly after you have accepted your leadership position. Do not however cast a vision that is not complete or for which you were not thoroughly prepared.
It is also wise for the leaders of each segment of the team to present the vision they have for their team’s role in the organization’s destination. Each of these coaches should think of themselves as the head coach of their position. The message delivered by the lieutenants or position coaches should be clearly reinforcing the head coach’s vision. Leaders cast a vision, but it is the foot soldiers who guarantee the outcome.
I have been on teams where the head coaches speak to the team every day of the week. I was on one team where the head coach spoke to the team only a few times per week and even that was not a certainty.
As one of the coaches who is also a member of the audience listening to the head coach’s or leader’s message, I do have an opinion. The coach who made the biggest impression and had the most sticky or easy to remember message to carry out was the coach who spoke only when he felt he had an important message to deliver.
When the team was addressed daily it wasn't too long before the noise started to drown out the vision.
Noise being distraction, lack of attention, and simply listening to the same voice every day. When the head coach addressed the team at different times it carries a much different connotation. The team immediately had a sense that what the head coach was about to say was significant and important. When the head coach addresses the team daily, it simply becomes part of the weekly routine. So, the message becomes routine. On the day the head coach does not speak it also gives the coordinators a more powerful platform for their presentation as well.
As you and your team journey towards your destination it is the coach’s job to provide direction and to keep the vision in clear sight. As you do this, keep your meetings powerful and impactful by addressing your team when necessary rather than just as a normal part of a routine.
I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach great players. Some of these players may be in the Hall of Fame someday. Some of these players I’ve worked with were very young in the league with incredible talent, but limited professional experience. Others I have had in their primes, as well as others winding down their career.
A natural thought when you have the chance to work with a great player who has already had success is that you must make an impression and gain respect and credibility. Most coaches might think you must teach him something he doesn’t know or present a technique or tactic he has never used. That approach can be frustrating not only for the coach, but the player as well.
There will be a time when the player is more receptive to something new than others. When you are starting to develop a healthy coach-player relationship is not the time. Great players have already had success and will resist new ideas and techniques from a new coach they have not yet learned to trust.
A coach or competitor of any kind who wants to improve on the necessary components to grow should study those who are having the greatest success. If you will use that theory, you may someday work with one of those great players you have already studied.
My own philosophy on coaching and teaching a great player is to first learn as much about them as possible well before I would ever start developing a coach-player dialogue. Most importantly, I would study what makes them great -- from competitiveness to techniques, tactics, and scheme.
My initial approach with the players is to learn, coach and reinforce these things the player already does as well as or better than anyone else.
A gifted player doesn’t even realize what they do because they need no conscious thought to do it. It happens naturally.
By using this method, you are reinforcing the most effective techniques which are producing the best results. In this process, you are also building trust.
As the player’s trust grows and his performance continues to improve even if by a small degree, that’s when you can comfortably introduce them to a new technique or approach to attain even greater heights.
To learn more on how to get a top performers to be better team players view my course on leadership.
I don’t proclaim to be a life coach. I’m not a sports psychologist. I’m a football coach.
As a coach I’ve done my best to educate and teach young men fundamentals, tactics, and strategies of the game to help them reach their potential. As a coach, I’ve also done my best to present a message to the players just before competition that I hoped would help them have the proper mindset for that particular circumstance.
Circumstances that apply not only to that game, but to the game of life as well. I’ve always thought the message needed to be brief. As players get closer to kick off, the attention span for words and talk becomes shorter. A concise message helps bring out the inner fire they already have. Fanning the flame was my desire.
This was one of my favorite times with my players. It is a time when their emotions can be seen simmering on their skin. I hope I’ve inspired a few and I’m sure many were uninspired. Making the effort to me was important. Have a Passion for Good and Do Good with a Passion!
If a game day mindset message helped even one player it was worth it. That one player may be the one who wins the game for the team.
I’ve not always been one to look for good but now more than ever, you will find what you look for. If you keep looking for good you will find it. I believe a pseudo leader leaves you with a feeling of their greatness and an authentic leader leaves you with a feeling of your greatness!
For more insight into my life philosophy check out my book.
Teaching is the secret to success.
Being a manager or a coach of a group with low expectation is much less of a challenge than being a manager or coach of a group of high performing individuals that must learn to play together as a team. Coaching a team that is 5 and 5 to a 5 and 6 season is 20% improvement and may save your job for another year. But if you have a team that has been knocking on the door for several years and just cannot seem to win that last big game, pointing to your winning record may not save your job. Winning that last big game is the culmination of all of your team's talents and singular focus on the big prize. This is where managing and coaching skills are tested the most.
Whatever level you happen to be working at, you can make a difference. Coaching in professional football is the secret ingredient to success. I’m not speaking of the head coach only, but of all the coaches on the staff.
The talent level of professional players is so close that other factors become increasingly important. Coaches spend the most time with the players refining and disciplining specific actions that are critical to winning. A team may have more talent than any other team in the league, but without the proper coaching could wind up with a mediocre season.
The strategy and tactics utilized by each team is one way to gain an advantage. These strategies normally run from the top down. The individual tactics and techniques specific to positions are the primary responsibility of the position coach. Position coaches have a unique opportunity to not only impact the physical aspect of their players’ performance, but also the mental and emotional aspect of the game as well.
There are some coaches who ignore that element of educating their players. Those coaches believe it’s the sole responsibility of the individual to be mentally and emotionally prepared.
My belief is that no matter what your age or experience, a little inspiration and education to help fan the flame is beneficial. It surely doesn’t hurt, but could help. Preparing the players in every possible area that affects performance is prudent. Talent plays a part, Xs and Os play a part, but attitude can make the difference!
Professional athletes at all levels go to training camps to go back to basics, reinforcing and learning new skills. As leaders and coaches it is our jobs to be sure we are providing our team members with the tools they need to succeed. Providing the tools and reinforcing positive actions will get us the end result.
Players earn their money!
Professional football players are, not surprisingly, phenomenal athletes. The speed and power displayed on the field is amazing even for a coach who has witnessed these feats for more than 20 years. Because of the length of the season and the violent collisions they must endure not just on game day, but in practice sessions, their durability is incredible.
To perform to the best of their ability they must be in top condition. As Vince Lombardi said “fatigue makes cowards of us all”. Anyone who has played the game or any demanding sport will attest to that. A professional football playbook will easily contain 150 plays or more.
Until a player has been in the same system for at least a year, imagine being required to learn a new language and 150 different assignments in 3 weeks and then get thrown into battle every week to keep your job. Even though concepts in the game are mostly universal through the league, the languages are not. There is a learning curve to translate known concepts into a new language with a short turnaround time for take-off.
Not only are these players challenging themselves physically, but they are being pushed to the limit mentally as well. We have not even considered the emotional aspect of practice tedium and the constant stress of keeping your job.
An analogy of the game day test presented to a player would be to take a test on a subject matter that is demanding. But before being presented with your test question you must run 50 yards as fast as possible. After that sprint, you are given 3 seconds to answer. The test will have between 60 and 90 questions. You average about 18 seconds before each question! Players earn their money!