Updated: Jul 29, 2021
The following is a partial transcript from the Process2Perform YouTube channel
With all the turnover going on both in the NFL and major college football– certainly the implication is that there needs to be a change in philosophy, a change in culture, in most of these organizations. I have a number of friends entering into new roles this spring with new organizations at the college and professional level, all of which are intending to 'change the culture' of the organization.
A good friend of mine, who is moving into a new role in major university, recently posed the question, “how would you turn around the culture if you were coming into a new building?” There are many ways to answer; I have previously discussed that the most successful method of culture promotion is our United States military. Our Armed Forces break down the culture of the individual only to rebuild a culture of team first – mission first members of a community that have the capacity to think individually, but put the best interests of others before them.
While this model, like all models, has its faults; it is the best we have to demonstrate a significant change in the culture carried by the members of a team in a relatively short amount of time. And time is certainly of the essence when it comes to high level sports. Coaches are often told they are on a five year plan, but can start feeling the heat after two, or even a single, losing season. So we want to have to perspective of time, but truthfully we need to force change as soon as possible.
But this model doesn’t necessarily work with the youth of today, and certainly would be difficult to indoctrinate those at the professional level. We have proudly promoted these athletes on social media, showered them with excessive amounts of attention and praise from early ages. They are brands, they are individuals in every sense. The money game in professional sport no longer promotes allegiance to a specific team – or at least – it doesn’t promote a reciprocal allegiance from team to player.
But the beauty of sport – team sports – is that you have this unique group of individuals that come together to create value. To become more than they would be individually by changing the way they collectively approach obstacles. To do this – to add value to the equation – you have to commit to a common cause.
So the question was really – how do you get a group of individuals to follow new leadership in a direction that will be most beneficial for all involved, without making it feel like they are being forced into an environment that they lose sense of self?
Before I give you my answer to the question - Imagine – for those of you who have been in a building, or love to follow your favorite team – imagine that you walk into a building for the first time, as a freshman in college or a third year pro still trying to figure it out. You sit down in your chair, there’s an excitement in the air because the new staff is promising a change in culture, a turnaround in the quality of play. They are offering a second chance, but maybe you have been around long enough to know that the culture of the room – the shared values of those left in the wake of the last firing – was that of undisciplined, selfish individualism.
Now imagine the new head coach gets up and tells the team; we are going to be the hardest working, smartest, toughest football team there is! We are going to have a great plan for you to execute, we have hired the smartest coaches in the country, and we are going to win the game through our preparation!
Sounds great – but I think every single player that has ever been through a coaching change has heard some semblance of this speech. It doesn’t resonate. Actions speak louder than words, but what are the words that will raise eyebrows and force bodies to sit up in their seats? Offer them the chance to become better. Not stronger, not faster - better. Offer them an opportunity to become a player that can consistently and decidedly beat the player across from them. Offer them a process driven approach to finding success. Offer to make them masters of their craft.
Every single player in the room has a dream they have been dreaming since they were little; to be the best player they can be. Or to be the best version of themselves possible. They might not know what exactly that looks like, but that is the goal. So that is what you offer them; that is the commitment. Commit to your team, your building, your university; commit that your primary mission in life is to help the members of your team reach their ceilings. The culture of your building is to develop athletes to become their best, so that they can perform their best for OUR TEAM.
And what should we base success on then? And this is a crucial point – team success is the only measurement that matters. I have never met a player on a Super Bowl winning team that would trade championship rings for another ten catches or five tackles. Team success is the ultimate success, people outside of sport want to be associated with winners. Winning take care of social media followers, endorsement deals, ALL-STAR voting. So we are committed then, to develop these players the best we know how, so that they can perform at their best for OUR TEAM.
That promotes buy-in; I am going to put you in situations to be successful, and I am going to give you the tools to find success. It is a commitment – it is an investment that can only be realized if both parties are willing to work. But think about the change in the room if you promise the athletes sitting in front of you that they will be given the opportunity to become master technicians that are able to win in any scheme vs. any opponent. And then you follow through with your promise with action – action designed to directly improve their on-field performance. What does that do for your buy-in?
We offer the opportunity to become masters of your craft, and we use this as a vehicle to drive our mission and change the culture in our building. This is effective for two reasons; one – as a player, technique is your calling card. People will know players through their demonstration of technique regardless of where they play or who they play for. A player with a great skillset can play in any system against any opponent. You are investing in them. Those that add-value to the lives of others are likely to find committed tentpoles in return.
And second, technique – or the acquisition of skill – will develop and reinforce the habits and routines that help you carry the culture in your building. Think about how much you can accomplish if you can really walk the talk of process over outcome. What can I put on a player whom I have committed to making a master of their craft?
Ownership. You can teach them to own their process, own their careers. And if you can do that – if you can make that investment – you will have your own army of individuals that are committed to the cause. They will buy into your process – they will give you more than they thought they were willing to, because you have given them a clear path to personal development within the confines of team success.
How do you turn your words into culture. Through transparency, consistent messaging, and through your actions.
How many times have you watched a coach speed through individual period, using ineffective drills they spent zero time putting together – just so they can get to install? The same coach will yell at the players after losing the game for missing tackles. This is the definition of insanity. If it matters on game day, it matters on Wednesday.
If you use this as a guiding light – invest in the development of your athletes – every aspect of development. This is a culture of allegiance, of commitment, of expectations, and one that fosters the pursuit of excellence. This is the challenge – can we walk the walk from day one?
Best of luck,