Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Handling relationships

One of the good books I have read in the past year or so is called "The Emotional Intelligence Quickbook". I have researched this topic a fair amount since I first discovered it in one of my Master's classes.

The book has some great points. One that was made regarding relationships was in the chapter entitled "Taking Emotional Intelligence Home"

The authors (Bradberry and Greaves) make the point that emotionally intelligent relationships are driven by two people who focus their energy on repairing their disagreements.

They noted that when you argue with your partner, every word and every act serves to make things better or make things worse. I think this is a very important aspect of any relationship that can't be overlooked. It is crucial to work at repairing disagreements rather than perpetuating them. The problem, most often, is that people differ in opinions which causes the disagreement. Many of us are not willing to change the way we look at things in order to repair the disagreement.

Whether it be a personal or professional relationship, it is important to choose your words and actions wisely when trying to resolve a conflict or a disagreement. One of the analogies I use when speaking about handling different situations is that of two buckets. When an adverse situation occurs such as a disagreement or a conflict, you arrive on the scene "of the fire" with two buckets. One contains gas and one contains water. Which bucket fans the fire and which puts it out? I often ask people to think about how they handle situations and which bucket they carry with them and use most often.

It pays to slow down so you won't overreact. It pays to think of things from the other person's perspective. It pays to THINK before speaking and reacting. IT PAYS TO USE THE WATER BUCKET.

Lastly, if you do get into a disagreement or conflict, everyone will benefit from an attempt to repair the situation as soon as possible. As Bradberry and Greaves state, "A repair attempt sends the powerful signal that you care, you respect your partner, and your love is more important than proving you are right". The key to remember is that relationships can be far more powerful than you imagine. Things don't always have to be done your way or looked at only from your perspective. There are a lot of different ways to get significant results in any relationship but nothing can be accomplished without consistently building the relationship. Showing others that you genuinely care about them and their opinions can make a huge difference in the relationship.

Handling your emotions and building relationships can help lead you on a path to success as a leader. Remember to carry your water bucket!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kermit's Lessons about Bad Things

A while back I read a quirky little book called "Before You Leap: A Frog's Eye View of Life's Greatest Lessons" by Kermit The Frog. While I wouldn't recommend you run out and buy it, it did have some cute and helpful things in it.

He talked at one point in the book about when bad things happen. Below is an excerpt from the book (with my points in brackets).

"But, for many like myself, the only way to deal with difficult times is to accept them and learn from the experience. And what have I learned? I'm so glad you asked because I just happen to have here ...


Sometimes the hurt is physical, as when Gonzo misjudges In motorcycle reentry trajectory and lands on your instep or when Miss Piggy inflicts a karate chop to your lower lumbar region. Sometimes the hurt goes deeper as when someone disappoints you or Miss Piggy lands on your instep. In either case, you must try to heal. Let time pass and the hurt will go away, though you may walk with a limp.
(Bad things do hurt and often we make ourselves miserable by carrying them with us forever. We have to learn to deal with things and move on. Eventually the pain will go away. There will be subtle reminders but we will survive.)


We are all capable of causing bad things to happen to others; that does not mean we are bad. Even when someone goes out of his way to make bad things happen to people, that doesn't mean he is bad. We have to give people the benefit of the doubt and to forgive them for the hurt they may cause.
(We have all been in the position where we have hurt people and caused bad things to happen to them. That is life and making mistakes is part of it. Apologies aren't just for wimps. If we can learn from these mistakes and try to treat people better afterward then we are working to make ourselves better people)


There are two ways to react to bad things. The easy way is to get angry, cast aspersions, and generally get in a bad mood about the world and everything in it. The other way to react takes a lot more work. You can get over it. That's right; accept it, be happy you survived it, and get past it. Then make every effort to prevent bad things from happening to you and to others.
(Why carry it with you? Why get so ticked off that everyone around you is impacted? The key is to try and let things roll off you and keep on moving. Forgive and forget is the old saying but that is hard to do. It's much easier to be negative and whine about things. It's harder to accept reality and move forward. I think the ones that master step two are the ones who "really get it".)

The only thing worse than having something bad happen to you is worrying about it beforehand. Constant fretting can make you afraid to face the world or even get up in the morning. Don't be a worry wart. Not that there's anything wrong with warts; some of my best friends cause warts.
(A good quote I once read said that worrying is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do but it won't get you anywhere. Why worry about things you can't control. Focus on the factors you can control and work to make these contributing factors to your success.)

Overcoming difficult limes is what turns you into "you.” We are often at our best when we're facing our worst situations. Know that when you come out of it, you can be a bigger you.
(This bring back the old "tough times don't last" quote but I think it goes beyond that. We are shaped by the decisions we make and the experiences we go through. As a coach, I work with a staff and 12 players. We experience the same things, both good and bad, but we get different "experience" from each situation. What may prove to be a situation with a lasting impact on one person may not be on another. Each person is shaped differently and we are all going through tough times in our life. The key is recognizing them, knowing how to deal with them and becoming better because of them. That is called growth and positive growth is a great thing.)

As Kermit sums up this section (and I couldn't have done it any better :)) "Life is Great but Without Bad Times, We Wouldn't Know the Difference"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Orchestra

Lyle Sussman wrote a neat little book on leadership called “Lost and Found”. There is some useful information laid out in a “fable” style. One of the great analogies made in the book utilized the idea of conducting an orchestra.

I can see where this would relate to micro-managing your organization. Too often leaders try to over assert themselves or try to look after every last detail. Coaches often do the same thing. We fuss over every little detail and try to make sure that we are involved in every little decision. It’s like having an orchestra of talented musicians and not letting them play the music.

Our job as leaders and coaches is to help them understand our vision and plan for the organization. Help them understand their roles and importance to the team. In other words, help them understand the music, help them to HEAR it.
Once we have them “bought in” or have them understanding the music, we have to inspire them to play it like they have never played it before. Finding the motivating factors for the involvement of people in your group can be simple or very difficult but once you do, you can identify how to inspire them to “play the music”.

Micro-managing is like trying to play all the instruments and still conduct the symphony. It just won’t work. When we micro-manage we tend to get in the way and slow things down. By doing everyone else’s job we never let them grow in their own position. If they can’t grow, they can’t enhance their performance. Like conducting the orchestra, if we played every instrument for them they would never get better for the next performance.

I think the key to leading a group is holding on tight enough to not lose control yet loose enough to allow for freedom. Whether it is on the basketball court or in the office, letting your people develop a heightened sense of awareness of their own skills and capabilities will allow them to grow. Giving them the chance to grow helps their confidence and improves their skills. This will help your organization blossom and lets the orchestra play some beautiful music.

Potential not performance

“Unless the manager or coach believes that people possess more capability than they are currently expressing, he will not be able to help them express it. He must think of his people in terms of their potential, not their performance.”

This is a quote from a good book I read a few years ago called “Coaching for Performance” by John Whitmore. The quote really says a great deal about being a visionary leader.

One of the things that I often say is that young people today “can’t see past suppertime”. They are often not thinking of their overall development. Many of the young people I am dealing with at the university level often think about their assignments in the coming weeks and when they might get home at Christmas but they tend to disregard their own development. As coaches, we often judge players on how they are performing. I have done it before but I have worked at being able to see more of what lies ahead for people. Sometimes we judge a player based on poor performances or their inability to execute a skill. However, all it might take is one more “turn of the wheel” to help them get rolling. With regards to skills, maybe they don’t have the physical abilities to handle the skill and this can be assisted with training. Possibly they don’t understand the skill and its’ requirements. This can be assisted with discussion and explanation. If they don’t care about the skill, that is a whole other problem to deal with.

The point I am making is that often we get judgements set in our mind based on performances and not on potential. I’ve been guilty of this as well. Now I evaluate our players in six different areas and I meet with them to discuss these areas. With their assistance we develop a plan for them. The best part of this whole process is their heightened awareness of where they are and where they could be. It is very rewarding to see young people “clue in” to their potential and start to realize it.

Basically what I am saying is that we need to give more young people an honest chance to show their “good sides”. We tend to give up too early. No matter who you are coaching or working with, establish your vision for them and then assist them in developing a plan. It might mean a little extra work on their left hand dribble or one more “chalk talk” session to help them realize more of their potential. If you help them realize how good they could be and show confidence in them, they will probably amaze you with how much they will accomplish.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Gary Barnett had a great analogy in his book "High Hopes" regarding vision. He compared vision to that of a jigsaw puzzle. He was trying to turn around a bad program and he utilized the idea of the puzzle to help him along. As he said in his book,

"When you buy a jigsaw puzzle, the only way you know what that puzzle is supposed to look like is by looking at the picture on the top of the box, the vision of what the puzzle should ultimately be. But when you open the box, the first thing you see is chaos. What a jigsaw puzzle represents, though, is a system for turning chaos into order. That's what we set out to do, just like we used to do on our card table at home when I was growing up."

I think this is a tremendous analogy that everyone can use. From a coaching perspective, I have utilized a similar idea in the past with the picture I had in my mind being what the pieces in the box were supposed to resemble. Each year I plan my vision for for what I would like to see our program accomplish both on and off the court. I put that plan on paper and then work with all of the pieces to make it fit. The human pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are much more difficult to put together because, unlike the cardboard pieces, there are emotions and psychological issues to contend with. However, by sticking to the vision and working to make the pieces fit, good things are possible.

I think the analogy can be used in a lot of other areas as well. Whether it be changing a bad habit or building a better relationship, once you have a vision and have identified the pieces needed for success, then you can eliminate the chaos and work to build what you wish.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A few good books

Here is a list of just a few of my favorite coaching / leadership books. I will try and post more as time goes on.

Leading with the Heart - Coach K
Beyond Basketball - Coach K
Five Point Play - Coach K
Reach for the Summitt - Pat Summitt
High Hopes - Gary Barnett
How Good Do You Want to Be? - Nick Saban
Everyone’s a Coach - Don Shula and Ken Blanchard
Wisdom of Teams - Katzenbach and Smith
The Carolina Way - Dean Smith
Sacred Hoops - Phil Jackson
Success is a Choice - Rick Pitino
Championship Team Building -Jeff Jannsen
Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni
The One Minute Manager - Ken Blanchard
The Smart Take From the Strong - Pete Carrill
Values of the Game - Bill Bradley
Coaching the Mental Game - H.A. Dorfman
The Winner Within - Pat Riley
Competitive Excellence - Stephen Brennan
Building Successful Teams - Bill Butterworth
Everyday Greatness - Stephen Covey
Think Like a Champion - Mike Shanahan
Wooden - John Wooden
The Leadership Game - Tom Mullins

Also Any book by John C. Maxwell :)

High vs. Low Expectations

How do you deal with expectations on your team?

Recently I read an article by Wilson and Stephens (Journal of Sport Behavior, Sept. 2007) that dealt with the expectancy of athletes. Basically they argued that coaches who placed low expectations on their athletes gave them a great deal less instruction than athletes with higher expectations. They stated that the coach will often consciously or subconsciously behave in a manner congruent with these expectations. This really made me think about roles on a team and how I deal with my own team. While I have seen where I have definitely been in this model, I am consciously trying to break this habit. I am trying to put as much effort as possible into coaching everyone in the same manner. While I think certain roles are beneficial to a team I don’t want the players to get comfortable in their “role”. I want them to strive to achieve another “role” and I try to reward them if they work hard enough to move up. I feel that when a player gets comfy as the “12th man”, they tend to relax and enjoy the ride rather than bust their butt every day in practice. The same goes for the star. If they know they are going to play a lot of minutes and get a lot of shots, they feel untouchable and will often coast. I have seen it many times. I want all of my players to be uncomfortable in their role because of 2 things : 1, they have higher personal expectations and 2, someone is pushing them and wanting their spot.

I had a meeting recently with a player who was upset about the change in her playing time. She compared herself to the other player in her position so I immediately stopped the discussion. I told her that the discussion had to be about her and her expectations first. It was not a comparison contest because that often leads to jealousy. I simply discussed the areas where her performance has suffered and where she has improved. I then gave her some specific objectives and things to work on. We discussed her overall improvement and I assured her that with improved efficiency, she would see an increase in her minutes.

Our goal as a team is to have one set of expectations for our group when we step onto the court. When the players work efficiently enough and can meet those expectations, then they can get more playing time. As a coach, it is my job to help them realize their personal expectations while also realizing the expectations they have as a member of our team.