You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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First Quarter-Digging in

A man's wisdom gives him patience.

-Proverbs 19:11

Once you're ready, you feel prepared to put in that game plan, and then it's time for the kickoff and the first quarter. That's when you set the tone of the game. It's a feeling-out process where you figure out how best to implement all that preparation and development. The first quarter is always a little unstable because you don't know quite what's going to happen, even though you've done all this work to prepare. But you've got to have a first quarter to get to the second, so you set your parameters early, set the table for what you're getting ready to accomplish.

Teach the Why

To be an effective leader, you've got to teach people why you want them to do something and why it works. You can't just walk into a room and announce, 'This is what we're doing, boys'-not if you want to accomplish something. You can say, 'This is what we're doing, boys,' but you need to add, 'and this is why we're going to do it that way.' When you do that, your chances of getting it done go up dramatically because now there's no room for them to say they didn't understand.

Growing up, I was always asking, 'Why?' Somebody would say, 'Do this,' and I'd say, 'Why?' It wasn't that I didn't believe in authority, it was just that I questioned it.

And that was something that back then an athlete never did. You were never supposed to question authority. If a coach said this, you did it, no questions. But I asked questions anyway because I wanted to know the answers.

A coach would say, 'Do this footwork drill,' and I'd look him straight in the eye and say, 'How is that going to help me be a better football player?' He'd look at me crazy and say, 'Son, what the heck are you talking about? You think you know everything?' I'd say, 'No, I just want to know why we're doing that.' Sometimes he'd tell me, more often he wouldn't, but I did what he said with or without an explanation-although I was a much more willing participant if I knew why I was doing something.

Back then coaching styles were a lot different from what they are now. But learning about why we were doing something allowed me to be part of it and to understand the process better. I knew that in order for me to do whatever it was they were asking as perfectly as I could, I had to know why. It made me a more effective part of the team.

I believe that when you want to accomplish something, you've got to give the people who can do it for you as many tools as possible to make it happen. It gives them understanding, and it also makes them feel like a more important part of the process. For example, a guy on an assembly line can be tightening bolts all day and know only that he's tightening bolts. But let that same guy know that the bolts he tightens are what keeps the engine from falling through the frame, which keeps the car from crashing, which keeps people safe, and I'm guessing he then has a better appreciation for what he's doing and will take greater care in his work.

Remember when you were a kid and your dad told you to go to bed by 8 o'clock and you asked, 'Why?' and he said, 'Because I said so.' Well, okay, you should do what your dad says, but if he had answered, 'Because you've had a long day today and you have a big day tomorrow where you're going to need all your strength,' then it might have tempered your disappointment at having to go to bed at 8 o'clock and you might have marched right up to bed with no argument. That, of course, is simplifying things a little bit, but it's important to know that nobody responds well to, 'Because I said so.'

You can order people around all you like, but without an explanation, all you'll do is alienate people. Tell your assistant that you need the toxicology reports for that piece of property by Thursday, but also tell him that you need them by Thursday because the county inspector is coming by the office and she's been laying the heat on you about the levels. Now you've included your assistant in the project as part of your team instead of treating him as someone who merely works for you.

I try always to tell my players why we're doing certain drills, practicing shorter or longer, and why we work on certain things on certain days. I'm the head coach, yes, and I suppose I could just bark it out and they'd do it, but by letting them in on my thought process, I am including them in what we're trying to accomplish.

Before a game, I always spell out the game plan because they all want to know what's the game plan. 'What's the game plan, coach?' they keep asking. I say, 'Okay, men, here's the game plan. Here's the first part; here's what we're going to do. We're going to do it because we think it will work against what they're throwing at us. Here's the second part, here's the third part, and here's how we finish the job.'

Once I do that, I know it's all in their heads. I've established parameters. I've told them what we're going to do and why and here's how. They can focus now on the project because we all know the game plan. No one's above the game plan.

Players may work for you, but that doesn't mean they're less important to the goal. Teach 'em why and they'll have a better understanding of what you're trying to do.

You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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