Fundamentals are foundational to leadership. They are the basis of which big ideas and dreams are built on. Lack of fundamentals can build shallow Foundations where those same big ideas and dreams fail to get traction.
I have had the pleasure of coaching youth sports my entire adult life. Football, baseball, basketball, and wrestling. Regardless of the sport, everything starts with the Fundamentals. They do not always shine brightest, but they are the foundation of our success.
Solid fundamentals are not just required in sports. They are a must in Leadership. Let’s look at three ways fundamentals become foundational:
All too often in the world of youth sports I watch coaches make the dreaded mistake of becoming “game good.” I used to look around the practice field and see coaches scrimmaging day one of practice. Meanwhile, our team would be exhaustively working on the fundamentals…over…over…and over. It can look like watching paint dry, but you can rest assured the final product was a well-orchestrated work of art.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell presents a concept that it takes us ten thousand hours of doing something to be proficient at it. Seems crazy, but it is so very true.
Especially this time of year, leaders can be flooded with new year’s resolutions. It can drown out the focus on fundamentals. Are we expressing gratitude, encouraging the team, celebrating small wins, and creating time and space to connect with our people? Those are the little things that we must do over…over…and over again to experience success. It requires repetition.
Discipline Determines Direction
Spending the first practice working on fundamentals is easy. Any coach can spend some time on YouTube and develop a good practice plan. The real question is, does the coach have the discipline to commit to that plan week after week. Too often coaches lose discipline in the process by preparing for the first game. They would rather look good in game one, than be good.
In an episode of the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast, he interviews leadership legend John Maxwell. Maxwell tells a story (at the twenty-five-minute mark) about a “kid” that had approached him at a conference. The kid said, “I have decided to do what you do.” Maxwell responds with, “I have a question for you…would you like to do what I did, so you can do what I do?” Later in the podcast he says, “we see the success of somebody…not realizing there was a whole process of daily disciplines that got them there and without those, they would have never had that day.” Leadership gold.
As leaders, it’s easy to lose discipline when it comes to practicing fundamentals. The bright, shiny reward at the end can cast a shadow over the necessary processes and systems needed to get there. Always keep in mind discipline determines direction.
Unshakable When Things Go Bad
The famous philosopher and former heavy weight champion of the world Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The reason fundamentals were so important to our teams and their development was because the game doesn’t always go as planned. Bad things happen.
When bad things happen on the field, we defaulted to our fundamentals. It allowed us to regain our legs when the big punch was landed. We were able to stabilize and press forward. It slowed the game down when chaos sped things up.
When life and leadership punches us in the mouth, we too default to our fundamentals. The foundation in which we have built ourselves on. If those fundamentals are solid, it calms the storm. Things slow down. If we neglected the fundamentals, we fold under the pressure of chaos and confusion. Things speed up. Fundamentals are unshakable when things go bad.
It is possible to be successful without fundamentals. Here is the kicker…for only a short period of time. It is not sustainable.
I have seen this story unfold for years. A coach will assemble talent and win now. They sacrifice the long-term growth and development of the kids for a shiny trophy.
The coaches that are the most successful in the long run are the ones that develop a program. A program where the fundamentals are repeated, they stick to the process, and are at the core of who they are.
Not so sure about that? Since 2015, there has been one team and three programs account for all the National Championships during that period of time. LSU was a TEAM built to win that year and that year alone. Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia were PROGRAMS led by coaches that developed programs based on fundamentals, that is why year in and year out these programs are in the hunt for Championship. What they have built is sustainable.
We should emulate this practice as leaders as we develop our organizations. Put fundamental systems in place, repeat them, stay disciplined, and fall back on them when things get tough. Fundamentals are foundational to our success.