Leadership Lessons—Waste of Talent!

Mary Kay, my wife, and I joined the Baylor Club last week. This allows us access to the restaurant overlooking Baylor’s new football field. The food is great, the view outstanding and we get a 25-percent discount on food. (Can it get any better?)

On Friday, I took my son, Marcus, there. His wife and daughters were at a museum for the day. Mary Kay was having a company lunch, and instead of having a hotdog from the outdoor stand on the corner, I asked Marcus if he wanted to try a new place. It was better than I could have imagined! (The food, view and the discount!)

We are both huge sports fans—even though he is a Raiders’ fan. (Perhaps they’ll be a team again someday like they were in the Kenny Stabler, Howie Long and then Bo Jackson days. I hope so for him and the Raider nation)

I was telling him about some of the players who graduated from Baylor. RG III and Mike Singletary came to mind first, then I mentioned Josh Gordon, a receiver with the Cleveland Browns. Look at some of Josh’s accomplishments, according to Wikipedia:

  • Pro Bowl (2013);
  • First-team all-pro (2013);
  • NFL receiving yards leader (2013);
  • Cleveland PFWA Player of the Year (2013);
  • Ranked No. 16 in the Top 100 Players of 2014;
  • Only player in NFL history with consecutive 200-yard receiving games in the regular season;
  • Most receiving yards in a four-game span (774) in NFL history;
  • Most receiving yards in single season (1,646) in Browns’ history (2013);
  • Most receiving yards in single game (261) in Browns’ history;
  • Most receptions in a game (14) in Browns’ history; and
  • Most 100-yard receiving games in a single season (7) in Browns’ history (2013).

By now you are thinking, “what a talent,” right? Yup. He is. He is also suspended for the 2015 season. Josh’s issues with drugs and alcohol go back to his Baylor days in 2010 and 2011. They eventually got him kicked off the team and he left the school.

Similar things happened to him with the Browns. Hard core sports fans simply say, “What a waste of talent. A million dollar plus contract and he might lose it all.”

This comes on the heels of Aaron Hernandez, Patriots receiver with a $40M contract, being convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Another waste of talent.

Stop dreaming about a $1 million or $40 million and go look in the mirror. Really—go look in the mirror.

Do you see a leader? If not, why? What is holding you back from being a leader?

Is it education? Abe Lincoln only went through one year of formal schooling. Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College after one semester. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard after two years to start Microsoft with his childhood friend, Paul Allen. Today Gates is only worth $79.3 billion.

Are you too old? According to the Kaufman Foundation, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the last decade has been by those aged 55-64. Last year alone, 35 percent of new businesses were started by people at least 50. Colonel Sanders was 65 years old when he decided to franchise his concept. More than 1,000 people said “no” to him before someone in Utah finally said “yes!”

Did you have a tough upbringing? Oprah Winfrey was raised by her grandmother. She wore clothes made of potato sacks and was made fun of for it. At age six she moved to Wisconsin with her single mother but, again, was sent away because her mother couldn’t afford to take care of her and her half-sister. When she was nine she suffered sexual abuse. None of this stopped her, obviously.

What about your race or gender? We all have too many examples—regardless of our race or gender to let this hold us down.

Are you having a pity party for some other reason? I tried this excuse at one point of my life. What I found is that no one came to my pity parties—so I just quit having them. Sure made life easier!

Go back to the mirror. What do you see? Who do you see? If you are not seeing a leader go to “Google images” and enter the words “self portrait—tiger.” You will see an image of the framed picture I have next to my desk. Mary Kay and I saw this in New Orleans several years ago and she had it framed as a Christmas present. First you have to “see” the leader inside before you can become that leader. After you envision it, do something every day to drive your progress toward that goal.

It will probably entail reading biographies of others. It may mean that you will need to have some of the most difficult conversations of your life with employees who are not doing what they need to be doing. Stepping up to be a leader is very difficult sometimes. You have to hold yourself accountable as you make strides to be the person you can be.

We all are in danger of wasting our God-given talent—just like Josh Gordon or Aaron Hernandez. The more we look in the mirror, however, and see the tiger instead of the kitty, the quicker we will start realizing who we are and what we can accomplish.

Have a great week. Roar.

Leadership Lessons—Coach

As I’ve mentioned before, I love Mike & Mike in the morning on the radio and on ESPN 2. They talked about something last week that hit home with me …. and should hit home for this week’s leadership article.

Geno Auriemma. Mike Krzyzewski. Bruce Bochy. Urban Meyer. Gregg Popovich. Bill Belichick.

These are coaches who are the current champions of the major sports programs for colleges and the pros. Auriemma is at the University of Connecticut and represents the women’s basketball team, while Krzyzewski is at Duke representing the men’s program at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) level. Bochy is coach of the World Series winning San Francisco Giants. Meyer represents Ohio State’s NCAA football champs. Belichick represents the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots, and Gregg Popovich represents the NBA champions—San Antonio Spurs.

  • Auriemma has been at UConn for 30 years.
  • Krzyzewski has been at Duke for 35 years.
  • Bochy has been with the Giants since 2007.
  • Meyer has been with Ohio State since 2012.
  • Belichick has been with New England since 2000. He was fired by the Cleveland Browns four years earlier.
  • Popovich has been with the San Antonio team since 1996.

Let’s look at each coach’s record in his first year or two:

  • Auriemma had 12 wins and 15 losses. UConn had only one winning season EVER before Auriemma.
  • For Krzyzewski, his second year record was 10 wins/17 losses. His third year was 11 wins/17 losses.
  • Bochy’s first year was 71 wins and 91 losses. His second year was 72 wins and 90 losses.
  • Meyer was so burned out as a coach when he was in Florida that he left college football in 2010 and was a TV analyst instead.
  • Belichick had 5 wins and 11 losses.
  • Popovich had 17 wins and 47 losses.

Coach. Supervisor. Manager. General Manager. The names are different but the jobs are the same—especially in a business. We are all charged with the responsibility of accomplishing a goal through the efforts of others. The fans aren’t there. They money isn’t there. But the stresses of “winning” and making things happen are no different.

Our employees won’t see us on national television and we won’t have fans who adore us. (Or boo at us night after night either). But when we go home at night after a tough day, it isn’t much different than what it feels like for these coaches after a tough loss.

In every example above, the leader was able to build a program. Eventually they attracted world class athletes who wanted to play for them. The question is: Are we as leaders doing the same? Are we building the type of program where experts in our own fields want to join our team?

As illustrated above, it didn’t happen right away. The first few years were horrid!

Years ago I heard Jim Valvano, North Carolina State coach, talk about his first game as a head coach. He said he was down by nine at the half … nine touchdowns! He said if anyone would have told him he would one day win a national championship, he would have replied, “Great. What sport?” In 1983, he took NC State to a national championship.

This week’s challenge is to look back at your coaching or managing record. Are you still having difficulties? Are they any worse than the list of winners at the top of the page? I’m guessing they aren’t.

Sure, it takes hard work. Sure, it takes focus. Sure, it takes doing what most other people won’t do. But building a winning team IS possible. It starts with you. It starts with your commitment. It starts with you becoming the leader, which we all have the ability to achieve.

Have a good week and think about what all of these coaches went through to get where they are today!