Posts Tagged ‘sports’

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Say it ain’t Joe

October 14, 2010

Joe Paterno has been a constant on the sideline at Penn State for 61 years. His life has been spent developing young men into community and business leaders, teachers, coaches, lawyers, and the list goes on. Oh and he has two national championships, five undefeated seasons, and countless All-Americans. He and his wife have donated more than a million dollars back to the University and he still preaches that you need to be good student first then focus on football.

And what I am going to say next might shock you. He should retire.

I’m not just saying this because Penn State is fielding an uncompetitive, boring, and flat out bad football team but because the team lacks leadership. I’m not faulting the players. The same man who used to grab a player’s facemask as they walked off the field, the same man who paced the sidelines barking out orders, and the same man who oozed confidence looks tired, old, and out of touch.

In all fairness I am obviously not at practices, team meetings, or locker room pep talks, but the team has no identity. If his main goal is still to give these kids the best chance at winning both in the classroom and on the field, he has lost the later. You don’t win 397 games with an attitude built around quitting, but it is time to hang up the black shoes.

Joe once said, “You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional.”

Sadly, by holding Joe to his own expectations, this is not happening in Happy Valley any more.

I can’t help but think about the parallels in business. The maturing leaders of companies who have lost the pulse of their surroundings, the tenured lifer who is change resistant, and the executive comfortable with status quo. They become gatekeepers for growth and they do so in such a fashion that can literally tear down the walls around them.

I thankfully have only had to fire one person in my career. It was hard, it was uncomfortable, and yet it was the right thing to do. Sometimes the best decisions are the hardest and most unpopular ones. And time and time again those decisions aren’t made. Those businesses who change out of want are the ones creating the curve, the ones who change out of necessity, change because they can’t yet see the curve.

So Coach Paterno, thank you. For a kid who grew up in central Pennsylvania I have bought into the way you run a program. I agree being a good person always comes first, my kids will win and lose with class, and if I ever coach, you better believe we’ll treat our opponents with respect. But it is time. Impart your legacy on a new staff, let them take your foundation and build on it, and when 108,000+ fans cheer, “We are…Penn State” know you had a huge part of that tradition.

 

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What business can learn from athletics

September 23, 2010

I had the privilege to go to a luncheon yesterday put on by the Indiana Humanities Council. The topic was Sportsmanship, Competition and Civility in Athletics and the panel included Chairman Jim Leach, Bill Polian, Dr. Bernard Franklin, and Coach Beth K. Wilmeth.

The panel was asked a question by moderator Clark Kellogg about what one word each panelist would use to describe not only the civility in sports but business, politics, and life.

Chairman Leach went first with team. He used examples of Iowa football players who now play for the Colts and how their journeys weren’t always from point A to point B. His main focus was these players did what was asked of them to make the team better. What a concept for business. Instead of a group of individuals focused on their personal needs, get the team focused on collaborative and collective goals and move as a unit towards the end result.

Bill Polian was up next and picked respect. His examples were around the NFL’s decision to cut back on celebrations and taunting. He also eluded to the fact that after 60 minutes of physically beating on someone, the players leave with a tremendous amount of respect for their opponent, the game, and the product. One of my old bosses always used to stress that above all else you respect the position even if you struggle with the person. After working on numerous communications teams throughout my career this is so true. It takes every person in the agency, department, office, etc. to accomplish whatever goals are set in front of the team. When people start losing respect for each other, trust and the willingness to succeed are not far behind.

Coach Wilmeth was next with integrity. Her story was unique and very inspiring. Her volleyball team decided as a group to challenge themselves to be better, to impact people around them, and to leave a lasting impression. The team decided to call hand fouls at the net if the referees missed the call. In a society where winning is everything these women decided to do what was right, even if that meant it would cost them a win…and it did. Each day we go to work and hope that everyone is holding themselves accountable and responsible for their actions. Yet many times there are instances of pointing the finger, passing the blame or simply delegating work through to the next person. When did we get so far away from taking ownership and pride in our work, even if that means we sometimes have to admit mistakes? In most cases we can learn from them, move on, and become stronger.

And last but not least was Dr. Franklin. His word was character and how he felt it is a byproduct of your value system. I agree completely. I’m not sure why as a society we can spend so much time tearing someone down instead of building them back up. I also believe adversity shows someone’s true character. When the world around you is crumbling do you motivate or devastate, inspire or conspire, or lead instead of follow?

Most sports and businesses are a team concept. From top level management to the rookies, everyone has an active, responsible, and important part in achieving goals and upholding reputations.

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What I learned from LeBron

July 9, 2010

First let me start by saying I believe everyone is entitled to switch careers, positions, companies, etc., depending on their needs and wants. Athletes shouldn’t be any different. However the way in which we do things is important.

As much fun as it would be to have our industry reflect the professional sports world, thankfully it doesn’t. I wasn’t courted as a sophomore Ball State student by the biggest agencies in the US to come out early and sign on with millions of dollars to bring my talents. I didn’t come to Hetrick from my previous employer because I felt I could add more Addy’s to the trophy case. And last week after I wrote a strategic brief and was walking to lunch downtown I wasn’t flooded by people telling me, “I am a HUGE fan. The way you articulated the client’s point of difference and audience segmentation was sick.” (Ok, I did buy the intern lunch for saying that in a crowd of people.)

My point is, I will never know what it is like to piss a whole city off (at least I hope not) or have the stress of millions of expectations set upon me from people I will never meet. But what I do know is that my reputation or  “brand” if you will, would take such a huge hit from showing such an arrogant, selfish, and narcissistic approach to leaving a current employer that I would have a hard time finding work again.

We all have reasons for why we leave. Some sound or feel more noble possibly, but either way the way we treat people, show respect, and hold ourselves accountable for moving forward is every bit as important as the work we leave behind.

So “King” Lebron, let’s see if karma hits you where it hurts. And let’s also see if the King moniker has an odd effect much like Elvis and Michael. I guess if LeBron has an amusement park in Miami and starts putting peanut butter on his Cuban sandwiches we’ll know.

What do you all think?