It’s signing period, which means that even though the season’s over Urban Meyer has a lot to do. Justin Zackal explains that if he doesn’t empower his assistant coaches, he takes all that work on his own shoulders. And then no one succeeds.
In an article published on Yahoo! Sports’ The Post Game, Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer revealed an epiphany we had while away from coaching in 2011. It’s a lesson that we all can appreciate, from the mail room to the executive’s corner office.
Being a perfectionist at the height of his profession came with a cost: Meyer neglected his family and his own health for years. But that wasn’t his revelation. It was already obvious his priorities were misplaced and that’s why he left the University of Florida after the 2010 season.
However, when he took a step back and viewed the college football landscape with a wider lens as a TV football analyst for ESPN, he learned something about football that goes beyond the X’s and O’s.
“I learned what all great programs have in common,” Meyer told writer John U. Bacon. “It doesn’t matter if they’re running the spread, the wishbone, or a pro set, or if they run a three-four defense, or what league they’re in. No, it’s the alignment of the staff. If everyone’s on the same page—if the CEO says this is how it’s done, and nine coaches believe it—you have a shot. If you’re not—if even one position group is off—you don’t, and you’re done.
“That means, when I ask [an assistant] for a quick answer, give me a quick answer. Don’t give me another question. And when I say something, I want it done.
“I need that responsiveness.”
Sound demanding? Is Urban Meyer a control freak? Would you want to work for him?
If your quick answers are ‘Yes,’ ‘YES!’ and ‘No way,’ try reading it again, instead emphasizing the actions Meyer desires: believing, answering, responding.
You may think of Meyer as a hammer and his assistant coaches as the nails. And if nails believe they are nails—guess what?—they start acting like nails.
But Meyer can’t be a hammer to all things. He doesn’t have all the answers. Head football coaches have more obligations than any of us can imagine—recruiting, fundraising, mentoring players, game and practice preparation, film study, talking to the media, not to mention his family and health. He needs his assistants more than they need him.
Perfectionist coaches are vulnerable in this way. Meyer must empower his coaching staff to be hammers. They must believe and respond with those quick answers, not more questions, and offer solutions so that Meyer can be more efficient with his time.
More questions are time wasters. In an article on BusinessInsider.com, Executive Management Advisor Jim Alampi explains why.
“As an executive, if you allow your employees to ask you questions every time they don’t know the answer you’ll end up spending a chunk of your day doing your employees’ work for them,” Alampi said. “Plus, having your employees find the answers themselves allows them to think more deeply, grow, and become leaders themselves.”
Lessons for supervisors: Focus on your staff’s alignment, matching strengths to clearly defined tasks and responsibilities. As tempting and as cost- and time-efficient as it might seem, don’t treat your employees like order-takers or nails, but instead enable them to be problem-solvers or hammers. Believe in them as much as you want them to believe in you. Seek answers from them. They may respond with ideas that will help you write a better plan.
Lessons for subordinates: Choose to work for an employer whose plan you believe in and respond like a hammer, not like a nail—nails are dispensable. Understand that no boss will simply let you rewrite the plan, but make sure those “quick answers” or solutions you provide help influence the supervisor to write a better one. Then you become indispensable.
As author Seth Godin says in his book Linchpin, “if you become indispensable, you’ll discover that you get a better boss.”
And maybe someday become the boss.
AP Photo/Julian H. Gonzalez