There I was yesterday morning in my favorite chair. Sitting on the edge, leaning forward, elbows digging into just above the kneecaps. It was about 9:30 in the morning and I was glued to ESPN waiting to hear what college football teams made the final four and the national playoffs. My team (and alma mater), the University of Washington, appeared to be perched precariously in that final spot. Although logic told me they would be in, humans don’t always make logical decisions. When the final spot was revealed and the Huskies were announced as the final team, both my daughter Kelli and I erupted with a cheer.
During the broadcast, ESPN sent crews to the three campuses of the schools that were still in contention for that final spot. The thing that occurred to me after the announcement (becasue I was very focused on the outcome before) was that all these teams “paths” were in someone else’s hands. They all had strong resumes to fight their cases. They all knew no matter what, they’d be playing in a major bowl game. But only one would have a puncher’s shot at the national championship that year. So it is in college football.
Unlike college football, you control your own path. You don’t control your own “fate,” becasue by definition fate is per-determined. I prefer the term path. While others might have influence, throw up roadblocks, or offer guidance; you ultimately determine your path based on your decisions, your boldness, and your self-confidence. Bad things happen outside of your control (e.g. the financial apocalypse of 2007-09). People offer both encouragement and discouragement. Your best efforts will fall short. However, those that are the most successful in their businesses, careers, and lives have a remarkable resolve to keep seeking opportunities. Instead of hanging their heads, they find solutions. Ironically, that’s what all the best college football programs do to.
So as you sit back to enjoy the upcoming holiday season, start thinking about what you can do today to forge your own path. How can you be just a little better today? There’s no committee determining your path. The only one…is you.
Quote of the Week:
“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”
I admit to being an NFL geek. I watched the NFL Draft on Saturday as the Seahawks had about a gazillion picks to make. It was worth it when I heard former NFL head coach and ESPN Monday Night Football announcer, Jon Gruden tell a rookie quarterback…
“If the dog hadn’t stopped to take a crap, he would have caught the rabbit.”
Now, THAT is wisdom!
Here’s why. The dog takes off on a mission to catch the rabbit. The rabbit himself is fast and tough to catch to begin with. The dog stops to do his duty and the rabbit speeds on. The dog misses out on the rabbit and the rewards of catching the rabbit.
You start off on a new mission/objective/goal/initiative/dream (you pick one). The objective is going to be tough to attain to begin with. You are going fast and then something distracts or stops you. Seems like it’s important at the time. By the time you get going back again, you’ve lost momentum; lost passion; lost direction; and ultimately lost your rabbit and reward.
You, in your professional and personal life, are constantly setting goals and objectives. Too bad you’re allowing things to distract you and keep you from reaching them. More often than not, these distractions are of your own doing. It doesn’t have to be that way. You have control, you just need to be resilient, focused, and passionate. There’s always time to ‘um…”take a crap” later!
I was in New Jersey this past week for a couple of speaking events when the Rutgers University Men’s Basketball debacle hit the national headlines. For those of you who
missed it, Head Coach Mike Rice was shown in videos of practice verbally and physically abusing players. He was throwing basketballs at them; punching and shoving them; using gay slurs; and literally acting like a maniac. The video was made available to Athletic Director Tim Pernetti back in November, 2012. At that time, rather than fire Rice, he tried to rehabilitate him through a $50,000 fine, suspension for 3 games, and mandatory anger management treatment. Next thing you know, ESPN’s Outside the Lines program is showing the world the actions of a coach gone mad. The reaction from the sports world was harsh to say the least, and also drew the ire of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Rutgers is New Jersey’s most prominent state school, and this was a crisis that was spreading like a wildfire.
In the following days, Rice was fired; his assistant coach resigned; AD Pernetti resigned; and the President is under fire. As I write this, I am listening to the press conference by the president. According to Pernetti in his letter of resignation, they followed advice from the University’s Human Resources Department, Legal team, and outside counsel. He regrets now the decision of rehabilitation over dismissal. He wishes he had it to do over again because he would change his decision. Hindsight tells us that he should have known these tapes would be leaked. In today’s world, things like this never stay silent. But, that’s hindsight. Let’s use a little foresight for you.
Crisis doesn’t have to come in the form of a windstorm, fire, or data breach. Your reputation as a business or organization is priceless, and may be more impactful to
your bottom line than those other examples. For Rutgers University and its President, board, and leadership, this is a train wreck. Now, all eyes are on them on how they diffuse and react to the situation. It gives us a chance to learn from them.
Here are a few tips and suggestions on lessons learned…
Understand plainly that electronic and written communications and information rarely will stay private. What is written in emails even securely (see David Petraeus) can and will come to light, and is usually damning to you and your organization.
Poor behavior of employees and leadership will be held to account by your clients, prospects, investors, key stakeholders, community, and the media. You need to be prepared to respond to it publicly.
You should have behavior clauses in your employment agreements regarding poor behavior, including what might be done or written on social media.
Silence after a crisis like this is bad. You need to be proactive early. In the Twitter and Facebook world we live in, public opinion can be swayed and determined very quickly.
Practice for events like this. Role play mock interviews and press conferences and hope you never have to perform them live. At least with practice, you can work on your game.
Respect and have empathy for those who have been injured in the debacle – whether physically or mentally. The wost thing you can show is arrogance or indifference. Contrary to what you might have heard, apologies are not only acceptable, but necessary if they are warranted.
Do the right thing. Legal and HR have value, but if the right thing to do is fire someone because their actions were intolerable, then you fire them.
You better be good at public speaking. When issues related to bad behavior in your business pop up, you can bet you will have to address them to the media. You’d better have some skill in this area. If you don’t feel like you’ve “got game” in that area, now is a good time to change that…or delegate it!
I’m not hear to throw Rutgers under the bus. The leadership has acted pretty swiftly for an organization like this. The post event decisions seem to be good. This
article is more about what you can learn as a business owner, executive, or organizational leader. Now, some of you might be thinking, “This stuff doesn’t happen to me. I’m just a small business owner.” That’s where you may be tragically wrong. You may not end up on ESPN or CNN, but a bad report in your local paper or television station can be just as devastating. Don’t think it happens? Spend some time reading your paper.
Bottom line – Bad behavior happens all the time in many organizations. You need to be prepared as the leader to prevent it through education and consequences; mitigate damage if it does happen; and bring your team together to move forward after it’s calmed down.
Many of my friends have been posting something they are thankful for each day on Facebook. I’m not that creative. I’m thankful for 7 things. That’s right…7. I’d like to share them with you on this Thanksgiving….
1. I’m thankful for my faith. Life can be challenging with it. Without it, I can’t even imagine.
2. I’m thankful I married up. Big. Meeting my soul mate and spouse at 17 years old and being able to share our lives together was a blessing. Having it be her was icing in the cake.
3. The two greatest things in the world to be called are Daddy and Coach. I’ve been called both. The former by the most amazing daughters anyone could ever dream of. Heck, they even called me the latter, but usually with a twinge of sarcasm. I miss them this Thanksgiving.
4. I’m thankful to live in the United States, where I can grow up to be who I want, change my mind, run my own business, and fly the flag outside my house. God Bless the USA.
5. I’m thankful for my health. I watched a moving ESPN program on former baseball player Ben Petrick. Petrick was a rising star when he was stricken with early onset Parkinson’s Disease at age 23. It’s an amazing story of resilience and gives me perspective on my good fortune.
6. I’m thankful for Rotary. For nearly 19 years, Rotary has been the vehicle to join arms with friends and give back by improving the lives of others around the world.
7. “No man is a failure, who has friends.” Clarence Oddbody (guardian angel to George Bailey) – I have an abundance of wonderful friends. Thank you!
But as a high school basketball coach, I certainly knew who he was. Coach Meyer from Northern State University in South Dakota, was a legend among coaches. He ran impressive camps and clinics for kids and coaches during the summer. During over 40 winters, he eventually amassed more victories than even Bob Knight. He was well respected, admired, and loved by college basketball luminaries like Knight, Pat Summitt, Tom Izzo, and John Wooden.
In 2008, Coach Meyer was involved in a horrific car accident. During surgery to save his life, the surgeon discovered he had inoperable cancer. He eventually lost his leg below the knee. And, he was coaching at Northern State a few short months later. Coach Meyer’s story is told brilliantly by ESPN baseball journalist, Buster Olney. Olney covered Meyer when he was coaching at Lipscomb in Nashville where Olney was a young beat writer.
The name of the book is “How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer.” You don’t have to be a basketball fan like me to appreciate the depth of faith, family, and friends that Coach Meyer reflects. It’s well worth the read.
I once spoke to Coach Meyer somewhere in 2004 or 2005. I was signing up to attend his coaching clinic. Unfortunately, something derailed that and I never made it later. I regret that because I would have loved to meet and know Don Meyer.
In 2009, Coach Meyer was awarded the Jimmy V award at the ESPYs. Below is the footage from that night, including his speech. I recommend highly both the book and this video. You won’t be disappointed.
There is a tragic story coming out of Oklahoma State University this morning. Head Women’s Basketball coach Kurt Budke and his assistant Miranda Serna were killed in an airplane crash following a recruiting trip. This happens as college basketball is getting started and leaves the university both mourning and grasping for answers.
Certainly, the focus is on the families of Coach Budke and Coach Serna. However, their loss at such a critical time is also an example of how important it is for organizations to be prepared for “human redundancy.” Certainly, the team has other assistants, but these were the head and first assistant. How well prepared the assistants are to take the reigns of a major college program will soon be seen.
What about your organization? Who is next in line if something happens to you? What if a crisis occurs like this where the top two or three go down?
This is often a difficult subject to talk about, but it must be done in businesses of all sizes and even families. Tragedy usually occurs suddenly and having to make decisions in real-time can lead to problems. Take the time now to work out those issues and potentialities. None of us are invulnerable to them…