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Each year at the start of football practice, Vince Lombardi, the coach of the Green Bay Packers started his season the same way. His opening statement to his players was, “This is a football.” Every year, John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins started his first practice of the season by demonstrating to his players how to properly put on their socks to prevent blisters. Pretty basic stuff, huh?
Notice the similarities between Wooden and Lombardi in the educational formats. Whether it’s athletics or business, you must start with the fundamentals first. Just as if you built a mansion on a weak foundation, a business built on a weak foundation will crumble. Bill Walton the former star basketball player for UCLA was interviewed about John Wooden and he recounted his first practice with Wooden and how the coach talked about putting on socks properly. Bill Walton remarked that he expected incredible wisdom to come from his legendary coach in the first practice and was disappointed that the practice started with how to put on his socks. When Bill Walton questioned Wooden about the first meeting, Wooden’s reply was simple. If he were to teach Mr. Walton everything he knew about basketball but he could not do any of those things because he was sitting on the bench unable to play because of blisters, then all those teachings would not matter.
How many times have you experienced or witnessed yourself, sales people, managers and owners looking for miracle cures without taking care of the fundamental basics? Massive advertising campaigns, computers, software, business development centers, new facilities or cure-all sales approaches won’t matter if you don’t have the right foundation in place. What are the components of a solid foundation? First, you must have the right team members. Everything starts with people. I encourage every manager or owner to raise your expectations and requirements for the team members you recruit. Concentrate most all of your efforts into getting the right people before you move on to anything else.
Make sure you have the talents of those people matched to their positions. Many baseball historians have reviewed the “Big Red Machine” of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team in the 1970s and noted the improvement in the team that was made when Sparky Anderson, the Reds manager, moved Pete Rose from the outfield to third base to allow the insertion of George Foster to the outfield. At the time, the move was considered by many to be risky and even ridiculous. In retrospect, the move was genius because it allowed the right people to be in the right positions. In the book, “From Good to Great” by Jim Collins, Collins noted that great companies not only must have the right people on the bus, but that you must have them in the right seats as well. An example would be that great sales people don’t always make great managers and vice versa.
Next, make sure you give your team members the processes to use their skills. Talented team members going in different directions will still create bad results. The proper education of process should include what to do, how to do it, when to do it and, just as important, why. Talented and intelligent team members will also provide beneficial feedback to strengthen your process. It can even be argued that the process should come first. Talented and bright team members recruited into a bad process with limited flexibility to improve the process will just create heightened turnover problems. In other words, if your business model is bad, the better the recruit, the quicker he or she will leave.
When looking at a big task like creating a winning team with a winning strategy, it is natural for it to seem daunting. Remember that all big goals are accomplished one step at a time. Break down your strategy into small steps. Create a simple flow chart that utilizes a visual guideline for your goal. Put estimated timelines next to each stage to create urgency in creating your success. However, don’t be tempted to reduce your level of expectations to just say you made your deadline. Remember your end destination and take action every day, the time of achievement will take care of itself.