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Inspiring a Generation of Community Leaders to Make the Turn from Ordinary to Extraordinary

How Great Coaches Win

Want to know how great coaches win? Styles vary, but they all have several things in common.  Key factors that separate good coaches and great ones.   

One thing has been consistent in my thirty-nine years of existence on planet earth, sports. Either as a player or a coach, sports has always been a part of my life. As a player and coach, our teams played against great teams which were led by great coaches. Ones that knew how to win.

Since it is Fall, we will focus this post on the sport of football.  One that I am extremely familiar with as I spent twenty-one years of my adult life coaching it.  I had a front row seat to watch those who did it the wrong way and those who did it the right way.

how great coaches win
2020 10U Acworth Warriors

Here are seven leadership lessons on how great coaches win:  

Grow From Mediocre

This generation of sports fans have witnessed two coaches reach legendary status, Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. Most fans only see Belichick’s six NFL Super Bowls and Saban’s seven College Football National Championships. Both accomplishments place them in a greatest of all time conversation in their arenas.  Most people do not know about Bilechick’s mediocre years as a head coach for the Cleveland Browns and Saban’s mediocre years at Michigan State.

I chose the word mediocre because these guys were around the .500 mark at these places. That is about as bad as it gets for great coaches. They weren’t terrible by any means, just middle of the road. Very few coaches are great upon arrival.  The land of mediocre allows good coaches to wrestle with how to become great and win. 

Leadership is the same. High potential leaders struggle early to find their identity and style of leadership.  Sometimes it means experiencing mediocrity to understand how to get to greatness.  It gives you a perspective of a place that you do not want to return to once you have tasted greatness.  Every leader grows from mediocrity.     

Learn From Losing

When I coached, we were fortunate to win way more than we lost.  Of our twenty-five losses over twenty-one years, eleven came in the first three seasons.  We only lost fourteen times over the next eighteen seasons. 

Why?  Because we learned from those first eleven losses.  Those eleven losses later translated to 175 victories.  We studied what other coaches did that beat us, saw what worked for them and did not work for us, and took bits and pieces of each loss and turned it into our system for success moving forward.

The equivalent to a loss in leadership is failure.  Great leaders are defined by how they deal with failure.  When they fail, they learn from the experience.  They grow wiser.  They do not return to the same behaviors and decision making that landed them there.  The leader takes that experience and grows forward.  They learn from losing.    

Never Celebrate Someone Else’s Loss

When I say this, some of you may go straight to the fact that most people like when your rival losses. Perfect example, social media is lit up right now with Coach Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide’s loss to Texas A&M. Alabama was the number one team in the nation at the time and undefeated, Texas A&M was unranked and three and two on the season. Most non-Alabama fans rejoiced in the loss.

I am a Georgia Bulldog Fan. Georgia fans accounted for most of that heckling on social media. Guess what? Welcome to number one in the polls UGA! Now, everyone else in the nation becomes a non-Georgia fan. Nobody likes Goliath!

Here is what I mean by not celebrating someone else’s loss. Do not celebrate when the other team losses their best player to injury, when the other team has a player ejected and must miss the next game, or when a coach takes a big risk that costs them the game.

The worst thing we can do in leadership is to celebrate the failures of a competitor, rival, or enemy. Here is the deal, there are two types of people in this world, those that have experienced misfortune and those that are about to.  Humble yourself and remember that you are not exempt from misfortune, no one is.  You are only one decision away from a fall that others will celebrate.

Get The Best Out of Their Players

This one is critically important. Great coaches win because they get the best out of their players. These coaches believe more in the players than the players believe in themselves. Their players would run through a brick wall for them. The coach could give the order to run through the wall and the players would turn and run. They would not ask why, how thick the wall was, or if there was another way to get to the other side. They would just go.

Leaders create cultures where people trust the mission and vision of the organization. Great leaders create that trust by believing in their people more than the people believe in themselves.  They get the best out of their team.

Orchestrate Talent

One of the easiest critiques of great coaches that win is, “they just have great talent.” Sure they do! That is why they are a great coach.  Great coaches know what it takes to orchestrate that talent, which is not easy. Orchestrating talent requires getting the entire team pulling in the same direction, getting players to understand the importance of team, and putting people in the right positions.

Just like great coaches, great leaders attract, develop, and retain top talent. The formula is simple. From there, the leader becomes the conductor of the orchestra. They take a group of talented individuals and use them to create one harmonious work of art.

Develop Systems

Great coaches develop a system. Coaches that win develop teams that are consistent and disciplined. They have a predictable level of excellence and expectations. There is a rhythm to their methods and madness. All of this creates their “system.”

As a leader, do not confuse this for having standard operating procedures. That is not what is meant by this. Great leaders build systems that provide a vision that guides forward progress and establishes expectations in the form of guardrails that keep the organization working within its mission and vision bounds.  This becomes your leadership system.

Know What Real Winning Is

Any great coach would tell you that the greatest wins are not posted on the scoreboard or reflected in the number of trophies one accumulates.  The greatest wins for a coach come when a player succeeds in life.  When you see them become great citizens, employees, fathers/mothers, and spouses.  That is the ultimate reward of coaching. To know you played a small role in the development of a player that will go on to better others and the worlds they live in. 

As leaders, we coach every day.  We have the awesome obligation to positively impact those we lead.  We Intercede in their lives.  That is how great leaders win.    

Conclusion – How Great Coaches Win

I probably sold this topic short.  If it were not for a self-imposed word count, I could have gone on and on.  Great coaches do so much more than what is listed.  These were just a few things on my heart at the time of writing.

In the world of leadership, we are all coaches, our fields just look a little different.  Your field of play is an office, a conference room, a board room, you name it.  These lessons on how great coaches win is transferable to the world you lead in. Great leaders win so pick up your whistle and get to leading!      

Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection

What have mediocre seasons of leadership taught you?  Do you learn form your failures?  Have you celebrated someone else’s misfortune?  Are you getting the best out of your team?  Do you have good systems in place to win?  Is your perspective right on what it really means to win?   

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