I attended the recent Coaching Clinic at The University of Notre Dame and got to hear from three Championship coaches. Urban Meyer won two Championships with the University of Florida. Chip Kelly took his Oregon Ducks to this past year’s Championship game. Brian Kelly is the second year head coach at Notre Dame, where he will win at least two Championships in the foreseeable future (or at least that’s how I see it).
These three coaches run (or ran) big time college football programs and have a tremendous amount of pressure for results. They face something that most leaders do not (or could not); they have a nationally televised test of their leadership each weekend. I was really looking forward to listening for any clues they may provide about leadership. Since the two day event was a coaching clinic, I expected a lot of Xs and Os. If I didn’t get much on leadership, I’d at least get to attend two spring practices!
I was thrilled when each man spoke passionately about leadership during their keynote addresses. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that success at the highest level of college football requires outstanding leadership. Here is a portion of each coach’s point of view on leadership.
Chip Kelly said the role of the head coach (leader) is to “create an environment where the players have a chance to be successful and then get out of the way.” Oregon’s offense was potent, racking up more points than minutes played on several occasions. So what did it take to achieve this extremely high level of success on the field? The Oregon coaching staff had to recruit amazing talent. They had to game plan for the defenses they were going to face. They had to practice extremely well. Then they had to trust their preparation and let the guys play. This model can be applied to almost any leadership circumstances: get great people; have a great plan; train well; let the team execute.
Urban Meyer said that you must know what makes your program click. You must have a plan, based on your core values. If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a chance. I found it interesting that Coach Meyer didn’t even care what the plan is; he just demands it exist. When the plan is in place, then there are three components to execute it. First, everyone must believe in the plan, no exceptions. You have to sell the plan constantly. Finally, you must demand it. He admits that demanding it is the hardest part.
Brian Kelly told us to work on winning every day. He said that “winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.” He explained that this is done by paying attention to the smallest details in order to create a sense of pride. Although winning football games on Saturday is the objective, Coach Kelly said the reason he is a coach is to develop young men. He focuses on development in five areas: intellectually, spiritually, socially, physically, and skill. Imagine your organization with a laser focus on personal development to achieve victory.
Success in football is so much more than a metaphor for success in other organizations. Football is the quintessential team sport, and most organizations rely heavily on teamwork. I wonder how differently we might lead if we knew we’d face the press core and internet boards once a week to examine every intricate decision we made in our leadership… Do you have the right personnel in place, or do you need a top 5 recruiting class as soon as possible? How well have you game-planned? How prepared is your team? If you’re not confident in these things, don’t worry about your results. They’re going to be lousy. You’re not ready to play. On the other hand, if you have great people, the right plan and proper preparation, these three champions think you’re going to be successful!