Friday, October 29, 2010

Discipline in Black and White

I met with Coach Vern Simmons from St. Paul Johnson High School last week. During our almost two hour visit, one of the best things Coach Simmons said to me was that discipline is black and white - there is no grey. This is something I really needed to hear, and love the idea of.

The bottom line, Coach Simmons said, is either the player did it or he didn't. He closed out or he didn't. He sprinted or he didn't. He is playing hard or he isn't. He is being respectful or he isn't. He is being a good teammate or he isn't. There is no gray area here, it's a all or nothing type thing. I think when you approach discipline in this way, it becomes more effective. It also gets you away form falling into choosing certainty over clarity. As a coach you want to be certain he isn't playing hard before you get on him, but the truth is if you think he isn't playing hard he's probably is not.

The Five Temptations of a CEO

I know I haven't updated in a while, but I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with this - I need to start doing it more. I know no one reads, but it's a good place for me to keep my thoughts!

A few weeks ago, after reading "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" I read another book by Lencioni titled "The Five Temptations of a CEO" and it was great. Lencioni has a bunch of different business books that translate really well to coaching, I would urge coaches to read his work. The book centers around the idea that CEO (or coaches for that matter) have some temptations they fall into as high status leaders. They do these things for a variety of reasons, but all of them negatively impact their ability to be good leaders. I think these translate very well to coaching, I know I was guilty of a few of these last year and after reading the book hopefully I am able to put them behind me. And I think that's the point - be honest with yourself on these and then work hard to overcome them. Below I will go over each of the five temptations and what he talks about in relation to those five temptations.

1. Choosing Invulnerability Over Trust
So many times as coaches we want to appear invulnerable to our players, and try to portray the idea that we don't have faults. But players are smarter than that and see through it, at that point we just come off as insecure and over macho which doesn't really work well when you are trying to lead your players. I think it's far more productive to take time once in a while to show them you are not perfect, that you aren't better/stronger than everyone, that you are human. So if this is a temptation for you, take some time this season to let them know when you made a mistake and to show them your human side. This is one of the temptations that I can say I don't have a problem with.

2. Choosing Harmony Over Conflict
As coaches and leaders, we feel that if there is harmony everything is fine, but that isn't always true. Sometimes harmony is just thin a cover for big issues that will boil over and ruin your team at some point during the season. This idea that conflict is good is a common theme with Lencioni in his writing. If teams learn how to have good, productive, healthy conflict they can put everything out on the table, there is no backstabbing and such. So as a leader instead of pushing the conflict to the side you have to let it happen, and sometimes even entice it to emerge. Because if you have immediate and healthy conflict small issues don't simmer and grow into big problems down the road.

3. Choosing Certainty Over Clarity
As leaders we want to make sure we are making the "right" decision, and sometimes that fear of making the wrong decision paralyses us so much that we don't make a clear decision and that doesn't allow us to hold people accountable. Sometimes, as coaches we need to just make a decision and live or die by that decision. In doing that, it allows us to hold our players accountable and have our players understand what is going on. So as coaches make a decision, stick with it, and back it 100%. Sometimes I fall into this category.

4. Choosing Popularity Over Accountability
Sometimes, as coaches, we worry that holding guys accountable to everything will make them dislike us and not play for us. This is a trap that I somehow fell into last year and it shames me to admit it. I was so worried that the guys would rebel that I didn't hold them accountable as much as should have been done. We as coaches need to have more of a black and white mentality when it comes to holding people accountable - this is something that I am actually going to mention in my next post here. But I do think you need to work on accountability over all else. It lends to your credibility and makes you a great leader.

5. Choosing Status over Results
In the current state of athletics, coaches loose their jobs quite regularly. I think this makes us all a little bit gun shy to make the moves and do the things we need to do to have a great basketball program. We worry if we institute rule X or follow through with discipline Y that we are going to lose our jobs. I did last year and it was the worst mistake of my career!! It was my first year of head coaching, I was told I had one year to prove I could do it, and was so worried that if I did the things that needed to be done I might not be around next year. That ultimately lead to me having a hard year because I was too worried about losing my job. You have to get the mentality that you are going to do your best, do what needs to be done, and if that's not good enough then it's not. But when you worry about getting fired, you're going to get yourself fired anyway (luckily I wasn't).

So in conclusion, we all fall into some of these temptations sometimes as coaches and there is nothing wrong with that as long as we recognize what we are doing and fix the situation. I wish I would have read this book last year, it really would have helped with some things during my season.