Personal statement

As a coach I enjoy digging into new things, reading about the ideas, strategies and philosophies of those who have written their ideas down before me.

What’s new? Is of interest. And, I know that the time I spend clarifying these things for myself and my teams is the most impactful work that I will do.

The slowing down and thinking and writing, the parts that are not always as fun are what works. For me.

At the start of the new year we look for new things: challenges, philosophies, topics to attack. What about those things that we had on our list in other Januarys? Did all of the boxes get checked? Are those things no longer inspiring, didn’t work or just became tarnished with the passing of winter into spring?

Maybe all of these things, or maybe I’m just really good at starting things…

“What does that look like?” is the question that has moved me forward as a coach more than any bigger questions of meaning, other people’s frameworks or philosophies.

The second most important question is what “what doesn’t that look like?”, or what’s not it? Once again, providing myself with examples, customizing the bigger thoughts, is what makes things move forward.

Education is free. When I take the time to learn and study what matters, globally and then make it fit for me…a stitch here, a tuck here, a little bit of expansion there… everything is customizable. I’m going to go build something. For me.

When All You Have is a Hammer, Everything is a Nail

Multi-tools are cool. Stuffed into a stocking, offered as a gift, kept in the glove box, just in case.

Oh, the things you can do with a screwdriver, wrench, corkscrew and nail clipper all-in-one! Whatever the problem, it’s got the tool for you…as long as you have a “standard” problem. And even better if it’s a small problem.

If your need is metric, or bigger than a nose hair scissor, or requires a hammer, the tool in the pocket of your backpack likely won’t do it.

For your problem you might need a 5/16-in socket, or a sledgehammer, those things are not in the glove box. Keep that multi-tool handy, there are lots of things that can help you with. Just don’t think that you can toss it in your pocket and be all set.

For what you need you should consult your customized toolbox.

If you’ve lived in one room, or remember your first apartment, you know what it’s like to try to open a can without a proper can opener. It’s doable with a knife and a hammer, but not safe, nor especially effective, and you might get shards of metal in your tuna, or glass in your beer.

So, for you Coach, start building a set of tools that will work for you in any circumstance. Perhaps you know you won’t need a sledgehammer, that your style will require a full set of sockets, or that Allen wrenches and needle nose pliers are going to be more important to you. Think about it, and for sure you should develop your skills for when you don’t have the exact to what you need, but you can do better than a one size fits all gadget.

And for sure have vise grips.

Camp

Cat’s in the Cradle, Puff the Magic Dragon, One Tin Soldier…a bunch of sad songs that make me smile every time.

A couple of dozen rustic cabins, a pond, other unheated buildings with picnic tables and smelly kids. Canoeing, archery, arts and crafts…and the singing. The singing was the staple of our world. And I was an enthusiastic but terrible singer. It didn’t matter.

This was Camp. Yes, with a capital C. Camp Downer (believe it – what a name!). A few adults and a bunch of teenagers. Campfires. Swimming. Singing.

Culture is a word and concept that everyone’s talking about–in sports, teams and business. Entrepreneurs, influencers, coaches and leaders of all sorts talk about the importance of building culture.

At camp, however, we didn’t build culture, we just lived it. Morning reveille, the bells, the bunk beds, the cold water showers and late nights of counselors drinking in the woods. All of it – the shared experience – was glue that stuck groups together. Forever.

Pick your year. The summer of ____ can be recalled in detail by many of the teenagers who shared just eight weeks together.

Camp Downer was anything but a Downer and remains at the front of my mind forty years later because we had “culture”. We shared the the fears, the fires, the bed wetters, the fake weddings…and the songs. The rhythm of our behaviors, the “we know what’s supposed to happen next,” the bugle in the morning and Taps at night…day is done. Now you know.

We were a team. And because we were a team then, we remain a team now, through grainy pictures and comments on Facebook. The shared experience remains etched. That, and the songs.

We’ll get together then…

Rule #29

Providing clear standards and expectations is a gift that coaches can offer. The comfort that comes from knowing what’s likely to happen, and what will happen after that, is real.

An important part of well defined standards is “what it doesn’t look like”.

If the downside outcome is achieved the real or imagined booooo you hear is the same voice that says, “I know you’ve got this!”.

Get back after it knowing your people are in your corner and will be behind you no matter what.

Rule #3

Most complexities are compiled of sets of simple things.

Simple. Not easy.

If your team knows where and who gets the ball, all your bases and covered and has an understanding of the need for backing up the current priorities, things will go well.

The doing is important, and the planning and understanding is critical, too.

A team that’s confident in their ball, base, backup plan–one that has run the drills over and over until the play is sharp and the communication is on point–is the one that will be able to deal with derailments with aplomb.

Being ready when things go wrong is a key to having them go right.

Rule #2

Play “the right way” each and every time?

The ends justify the means?

Unless everyone knows exactly what the right way is we won’t achieve that, and no-holds-barred, win at all costs isn’t ok either.

Like most things on a spectrum, reasonable performance and appropriate behavior is somewhere in the middle.

When it’s clear that it’s cheating, however, the answer is obvious.

Even if the people don’t know you’re skirting the rules–official or unofficial–the game will know (Rule #98).

True prosperity comes with honest success.

Exit Row

When you sit in the exit row on a plane you are required to give a verbal commitment.

You commit, by agreeing out loud, to do all you can to help the entire set of passengers get out in case of an emergency.

When you say “yes”, you’re saying, “I’m prepared to be a leader,” and to do what the 143 or 175 or 300 others need you to do, according to the specific instructions.

The others are on your team. You’re sharing an experience and have the same set of guidelines. For the duration of the flight you are a team.

As a leader your get some more leg room. That’s it. It may or may not be worth it. And even if you’re in the middle in the last row, the flight will be better if you are on board with the rules of being on board.

Does Everyone Know?

Oh yeah, everyone thinks that’s the right thing to do.

Everyone says it’s true.

I’ll get everyone together and we’ll get it done.

Is “everyone” really all of the people? Who’s important, and who is optional to be in the group of everyone?

If you need everyone on board you better be sure that everyone knows what’s happening. And if you don’t need everyone then just ask the people who are crucial.