Care greatly…

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

John Wooden

What is the defining characteristic of a coach who can deliver correction in this way? Feedback can come from anyone, but without a key attribute, it can cause resentment, distrust and have the exact opposite of the intended effect. What is this critical variable?

The feedback has to come from a place of genuine care and concern in the coach towards the person that will be receiving the correction. The great coaches are giving the correction because they deeply care about YOU, not about themselves, not about winning at all costs, but because you need to hear something in order to live up to your potential. They care enough about you to ensure that you receive candid and honest input. The great coaches are always seeking to build you up so you can be the best possible version of yourself.

This type of relationship doesn’t happen overnight and it isn’t based on words or promises. It is based on actions demonstrated by the coach showing that their #1 focus is to help you become successful and they will serve that promise faithfully, even when it hurts.

I have had the fortune and privilege to work with, and see in action, both great coaches and horrible coaches. Without fail, all of the great ones shared the trait mentioned above. The very best of them could deliver the fiercest feedback and leave one both chagrined and hungry for more at the same time. When I was on the receiving end I always knew they had my best interests at heart and they weren’t going to let me get in my own way. The worst ones? Well, that is fodder for another day.

If you want to be a great coach, start by cultivating the relationships with those that you serve and ensure that they know you care greatly about their success. If you can’t do this, don’t fake it. They will know and your feedback won’t be very effective in the long-term. In fact, I would say that if you can’t coach with genuine care for those that you serve you should consider a career change. Great coaches care greatly. Period.

Patience to grow…

“I worry that business leaders are more interested in material gain than they are in having the patience to build up a strong organization, and a strong organization starts with caring for their people.”

John Wooden

It is cliche but there is so much truth to the old saying “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

Putting another person’s life and interests ahead of your own selfish pursuits is the mark of great leadership to me. Now, please don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean that you are putting another persons needs ahead of the organization. You are putting them ahead of YOU. The greatest leaders I have ever had the honor of serving under never compromised the needs of the organization or it’s shareholders for their personal gains or needs.

When I think of the patience part of this quote I am reminded of the story of the old farmer planting acorns. His grandson was with him and asked, “Grandfather, how long will it take these acorns to grow into trees like those around your house?” Grandfather thought for moment and then said, “son these acorns will grow to be trees like those in sixty to seventy years if they are cared for and protected while they are growing.” The grandson reflected quietly and then asked, “but that means you will never seen them becpme trees, so why are you planting them?” The Grandfather smiled and said, “Son, I asked my grandfather the exact same question when I helped him to plant the acorns around his house…”

Sometimes what we build isn’t for our enjoyment, but is for the betterment of the world around us and for the people coming after us. A legacy of a strong organization that cares for its people is one that will carry through multiple generations.

First who…


“If I were a young coach today, I would be extremely careful in selecting assistants.”

John Wooden

The people that you serve with are a direct reflection, and an extension of, your choices about who you are, your character, and who you want to be in your leadership of self and others. Picking the right ones is critical for both short-term and long-term success.

My first, and probably most influential, leadership mentor was a retired full bird U.S. Army Colonel. When I was leaving that company for another role he shared with me some of the best leadership advice I have ever received. Specifically it was on the topic of hiring and selecting talent: “Dusty, no matter what, if I could pass along one bit of advice it would be this. Never, ever, delegate completely the hiring of key talent and leaders. Always be involved in the process and ensure that you get to talk with them, even if they won’t be working for you directly. It will make a huge difference over the long haul. You have to be responsible for the quality of the leaders in your organization since you will be accountable for their performance.”

I haven’t always done this perfectly but it has been a guiding principle for me almost my entire career. The quality of the work produced by the team is dependent on the quality of the leaders that are guiding them. Never ever shortchange the leadership selection process.

Focused vs. Busy…

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

John Wooden

Busy. That seems to be the perpetual state of the world. Everyone is so very very busy. But what is being accomplished in all this busyness?

Sometimes it feels like we wear being busy as a badge of honor, that the more we have going on, the more important or worthy we are. Maybe this is just me. I know that I’m certainly guilty of this. People will ask me how I am doing, or how my weekend was and I catch myself saying “it was great, just busy” or “I’m good, just really busy right now.”

The real question is this. Are we busy doing the right things? Are the efforts we are putting in the right ones, or are they just the ones that take up our time? Are we achieving results that matter through focused effort, not just showing up and being busy?

Busy is a choice. It isn’t a bad choice, especially if you are focused on achieving your goals and impacting others. But if busy is the idol, the perpetual state of being, do you have time to look up and make sure that you are still going in the right direction?

I commit to this. When someone asks me how I am doing, I am taking the response of “busy” out of my lexicon entirely. If I can’t give a real and substantive answer, I’d be better off simply saying nothing.

The most important variables…

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

John Wooden

This is probably one of my favorite quotes. It states so clearly the danger of this world if you remove just two key variables. Humility and Gratitude. Without either you are going to go astray.

Why do you have your God given gifts and talents? Is it to serve others or serve yourself? If you have fame then how are you using that fame to serve others or impact the world? I would argue that if you aren’t using your gifts to serve then you are treading dangerously close to the definition of conceit.

The minute you believe you are better than someone else, that your life has more value or meaning than another person you have lost your way. My Dad used to tell me that “everyone puts their britches on the same way in the morning. No person is more important or deserves better treatment because of their role or wealth.”

How do you guard against conceit and selfishness?

No do overs…

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
 
John Wooden

I don’t know about you but there just never seem to be enough hours in the day.  The world today is busier than ever and the distractions are relentless.  

I really love this quote because it makes you sit back and thing about the work you are doing.  If you are doing something to check the box, achieve the minimum standard, etc, then why are you doing it all all?  If it is something that needs to be done right, what needs to go in order for you to have the time to accomplish the task at hand?

Part of the challenge in today’s hyper busy world is that it is easier, and more acceptable unfortunately, to do more things, at the bare minimum level.  That doesn’t create long-term sustainable success.  Focusing on the few things that really matter, and then executing them to a degree of completion that ensures they won’t have to be redone is a guaranteed way to stand out from the crowd.  

Besides, if you are so busy, how can taking the time to redo anything be a palatable option!  Get it right, get it done, move on to the next important thing.

Do what you can do!

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

John Wooden

I really love this quote as I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the phrase “focus on the solution, not on the problem” which was one of the quotes from last week.  It is amazing how easy it is to allow oneself to focus on why things can’t be done, as opposed to what can be.  It drives me crazy to hear, “that will never work” or “oh, I can’t do that.”  Not that I haven’t been guilty of it myself more than a few times… How do you flip this around when it comes up?

I’ve found that focusing on one simple question can reframe the thinking when I, or others, get caught in the “excuses trap.”  Because let’s face it, if you are focused on what you cannot do, you are making excuses.  The question is this; “What one thing can I do to create change in this situation?” 

Success in anything requires taking ownership and finding the path forward.  Getting caught up in the reason why something won’t work is a guaranteed way to get bogged down and achieve less than you are capable.

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