leadership dot #3788: coach hard

One more thought from new University of Nebraska coach Matt Rhule (see dot #3787). When he was asked what contributed to his success at Baylor and Temple, he replied that “we loved them (the players) and coached them hard. Others are afraid to coach hard for fear they will transfer, but we coached them hard.”

The same principle applies in the workplace. Managers allow employees to slack off for fear of them quitting or supervisors fail to confront poor performance because they figure having a weak employee is better than having none. Both behaviors cause more problems than they solve.

Great employees want to work with great employees. They don’t want to pick up the slack that others create and allowing sub-par work to continue diminishes the culture of the entire department.

The trick is to address both aspects of what Kim Scott labels as “radical candor — caring personally and challenging directly.” If you show that your team really matters to you, you can set those expectations high and push people to achieve more than they thought possible. And, as I know from experience, they almost always will come through for you.

Love hard and coach hard. It’s a winning formula on the field or in the office.

leadership dot #3787: turnaround

The hiring of Matt Rhule as the new University of Nebraska football coach isn’t something that would normally catch my attention — but then I saw he was given an eight-year contract. That caught my eye!

Nebraska used to be one of the premier programs in the country but has certainly lost its luster in modern times. They have amassed five national championships and over 900 wins but haven’t had a championship since 1997 or even a winning record since 2016. An eight-year contract is an acknowledgment of the magnitude of the rebuild.

Kudos to Nebraska for recognizing that the turnaround won’t be quick. Too many times, the new hero is trotted in on a white horse and faces unrealistic expectations. They bubble with optimism that the new vision will soon be realized, and then everyone faces a letdown when reality sets in. In Rhule’s press conference today he was asked about bowl games and championships but replied: “We don’t have the right to talk about that today. Let’s talk about spring practice.” If only more organizations and leaders were as pragmatic.

Rhule spoke of the great senior-level support he had at Baylor and Temple that “calmed the waters” when people were restless about the speed of success and allowed the program to “eventually break through.” The length of his contract speaks to the commitment Nebraska is willing to make to do the same — and is a reminder that change agents need to cultivate the support of those in power who can protect them.

Keep an eye on the Coach Rhule story as it unfolds. It could turn out to be a case study in change management — having a clear vision of how you do things, seeking senior support up front, being realistic about a timeline, finding alignment with the needs of the organization and skills of the implementer, concentrating on player (staff) development rather than only recruiting superstars, seeking input from the players (front line staff) to gain the knowledge they have regarding issues and solutions, focusing on “what’s next” then working on the small things every day, and trusting that if you pay attention to process the wins will come. Rinse and repeat over eight years and it becomes a new day for Big Red — and any organization with the patience to rebuild its culture.

leadership dot #3786: Saturday

A meme pointed out that when Saturday comes during a normal week, people are excited for the weekend to start — but when Saturday comes during Thanksgiving, it brings a sigh of sadness that the weekend is half over.

Just as the above mindset regarding Saturday is all a matter of perspective, so too is how you view the remaining 33 days of the year. You can see this time as a wrap-up period and postpone all your goals and resolutions until January — or you can treat the final month as the beginning, allowing you to get a jump start on all your ambitions.

The calendar is the same either way — just as it was last Saturday — but how you frame the time makes all the difference. Finish the year strong!


leadership dot #3785: allergies

Over the holidays, many people are having to address the food allergies and dietary preferences of their family and guests. Whether it be allergies to flour, nuts, shellfish, chocolate, peppers, or a host of other foods it is more important than ever to be aware of special needs.

As with everything else, you don’t have to fumble through new territory alone. Rather than guess about potential restaurants to entertain your visitors, the AllergyEats website identifies restaurants that are certified to avoid cross-contamination and proper food handling techniques. Restaurants can also earn Allergy Friendly designations — opening themselves up to a growing market and niche audience.

Rather than turning away customers whose food requires special handling, more restaurants are catering to them. Those who thrive in any business are the ones who provide a solution to someone else’s problem. Be that someone in your industry.

leadership dot #3784: good grief

If you read the comic strips today you likely will notice a theme — all of them include a reference to Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts. In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, cartoonists across the country were asked to include a tribute to Schultz in today’s strips, honoring the legacy of the greatest of their trade. It’s a beautiful way to recognize the impact someone had, and were he still living, it’s far more meaningful than a pile of physical gifts.

We would be wise to follow this lead when paying homage to others in our lives. For example, when our graphic designer/brand manager left our workplace we all wore purple that day — the signature color of our local competitor which she forbade us from ever using. I have seen obituaries that encourage mourners to wear bright colors or beach shirts or wakes that make a toast with the deceased’s omnipresent Diet Coke as a way to celebrate their life.

As we head into the season of gifts, think about whether your giving can be a more meaningful than material way of showing your love.

leadership dot #3783: bags and bows

With Thanksgiving over, many people use today to transition into the full Christmas season — unpacking decorations and everything else that goes with the season.

If you find yourself with half-used rolls of wrapping paper, a pile of extra gift bags or boxes, or a bag of bows that you don’t plan to use, now is a great time to donate them. Many nonprofit organizations provide wrapping services at the mall or select stores and your castaways can help them retain more of their donations to deliver services instead of buying wrap. “Free wrapping” isn’t free to provide it.

leadership dot #3782: in perspective

You may feel stressed today trying to make the perfect turkey or side dish, but imagine if you had to do the same for 2500 people. Such is the case for the Ginter Family (and a host of 400 volunteers). For over 50 years, the Ginters have been providing Thanksgiving dinners for free to anyone who needs one. I doubt they freak out over a little kitchen mishap or not having a perfectly coordinated table setting.

I think about the Ginters when I need to put things in perspective. If you face challenges, realize that someone else’s issue probably dwarfs the scope of your problem. Have gratitude for what you can control and do the best you can with what you can’t.

May your meal today be with food and friends that you love. Happy Thanksgiving!

leadership dot #3781: with certainty

I’m always amused by weather predictions because so many of them are wrong. While I understand the volatile nature of weather patterns, the forecasts are usually presented with such certainty — as if humans could actually know what the winds will do.

So, I was pleased to see this forecast that shared information about a pending storm — but clarified what the meteorologists both knew and didn’t know. It seems like a heck of a lot that they were unsure of, but, unlike most forecasts, they said that upfront.

What kind of communicator are you — the one that espouses things with certainty even though what backs up your message is shaky? Or are you vulnerable enough to admit that there are many things you don’t know beyond the premise of your message? Like the above forecast, it’s better to wait and gain confidence in the details before you share them.

leadership dot #3780: repetition

There is a long-standing marketing Rule of 7 which states that people need to hear your message seven times before they will remember it. The adage originated with television advertising — no doubt to encourage the frequency of ads — but it’s a good principle in many other settings.

As a leader, you may share a vision or outline change efforts with your team. When you first share your message, people are trying to ascertain what you mean and specifically what it means for them. By repeating your message in multiple ways, it helps others to absorb your intent and understand the implications. You don’t have to use the exact same words or vehicle for sharing it, but repeating the message over and over is beneficial for everyone.

Too often, leaders opt for one-and-done — sending an email, addressing something in a meeting, or giving a speech — and expecting that to suffice. Whether seven is the lucky number or not, the concept holds true that sharing something important in multiple ways should be your goal. “I told them,” is a lame answer if you only told them once.

leadership dot #3779: modulate

One of the struggles I see in new supervisors is their ability to modulate emotions. When situations are new, they all seem like a crisis or at least urgent. The first employee challenge, the first time they get public pushback, the first round of employee evaluations, the first firing, etc. — they all seem so monumental, and thus dramatic.

The same thing occurs with new leadership in general. When you have operated in middle management you may have been sheltered from some of the tough decisions or negotiations that now land on your plate. It may feel catastrophic to have a public relations issue or financial deficit, but over time these issues become part of the routine.

We need to do more to coach those in new roles about what to expect from the day-to-day drama and how to keep it in perspective. It does no good when the supervisor or leader becomes frenzied, distraught, or obsessed with the situation. Roller coasters are great for amusement parks but not for emotions.