Alabama Football Style

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For me anyway. College Football season has arrived!

As I was watching Sports Center the other day, one of the reporters was talking with a line-backer from the University of Alabama. Having grown up in Alabama, I was indoctrinated as a young child to be a fan of Alabama football and Coach Bryant (aka. The Bear). I also spent some time at the University of Georgia so I am conflicted when Alabama plays Georgia, but it also means I have two really-good programs that I follow!

Listening to the Coach

I love college football for so many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is listening to the coaches. I serve as a coach in the business world, and one of the ways that I continue my education is by listening to other coaches. I learn from them and hear different perspectives on leadership, teamwork, and learning. I know how hard it is to coach professionals in the business world, so I can only imagine how hard it must be to coach 18 – 22-year-old young men who are some of the most elite and gifted athletes on the planet.

During the interview, they were standing in front of the poster below, and the player said, “This is what coach Saban and the other coaches preach to us all the time.”  It got me thinking about some of the things that I see in the business world, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

Clarifying Values

Too often, organizational leaders don’t provide clarity on what they want from the people that they are charged with leading. This isn’t the technical side of the business, this is the “Values” part of the business. I see many organizations who never take the time or effort to define what it means to be a part of that team, or to communicate what is expected of the people who are on the team. This little poster articulates what is expected of the players on the University of Alabama Football Team.

I’m sure these are values that they point to often when they are talking about practice and in game prep, but they are absolutely applicable to business and to life in general. I’m not sure how the Alabama Football coaches and leaders define, articulate, and coach to these values, but I will talk about them in a general sense.

Discipline – having the discipline to work hard, focus on the tasks at hand and to finish the drill. Self-discipline carries over to make sure that the individual is “in-charge” of himself/herself. Discipline then becomes the driving target to balance the work at hand and taking care of oneself.

Commitment – Committing to the team, committing to the idea of excellence, and the very simple expectation that they will win.  Commit to each other to do the work necessary to work to put the team in the position to be successful.  

Toughness – Focusing on getting the work done without being distracted or letting the self-deceptive feelings of self-pity creep into your mind. Toughness shows up when someone is tired and wants to stop for a break but the job isn’t complete, or the drill isn’t over, or there is one more set to finish in the gym. In business, it is the toughness to finish the project.  

Effort – Putting forth the 100% required to be a champion. Effort is making sure that you do your part on every play and every down of the game. In business, it is showing up and putting your very best effort into everything that you do.  

Pride – Taking pride in whatever it is that you do. Imagine that every single piece of work that you do will be published in the New York Times for the world to see. Imagine that your parents were going to see every bit of work that you complete. Pride is feeling the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing a good job on whatever it is that you are working on.

Putting the Insights into Play

After reading these key core values of the Alabama Football program, do you think your people know what values you consider the most important ones? Are values even a part of your conversation with your team? Do you and your team talk through the values and discuss them as part of what it means to be on the team? When you hire a new team member, do you discuss that values that make your team successful? And when you do annual reviews with your team members, are values part of the conversation? If not, then please recognize that this is a gap, and something that you should work to improve.  

Your people need to understand what is important and how you want them to engage with your values. Bring your team together and spend some time defining those key values, having an interactive discussion around what is critical to the organization, and learning how those values and embracing of the values translate into the success of the team.  

The bottom line: Values drive behaviors, and behaviors drive performance.