Welcome back to The Culture Factory and part three of a five-part series on program systems for success. In this edition of the TCF, I will explain the system I use to communicate our schedule for the week and a couple of others from top high school coaches that are excellent also.
A young farmer was covered in sweat as he paddled his boat up the river. He was going upstream to deliver his produce to the village. It was a hot day, and he wanted to make his delivery and get home before dark. As he looked ahead, he spied another vessel, heading rapidly downstream toward his boat. He rowed furiously to get out of the way, but it didn’t seem to help.
He shouted, “Change direction! You are going to hit me” to no avail as the vessel hit his boat with a violent thud. He cried out, “You idiot! How could you manage to hit my boat in the middle of this wide river?”
As he glared into the boat, seeking out the individual responsible for the accident, he realized no one was there. He had been screaming at an empty boat that had broken free of its moorings and was floating downstream with the current.
Leaders must have an intentional communication system or all who are involved will feel at times like they are just drifting without a captain guiding the boot. I have improved in this area over the years and I am 100% sure everyone I work with now is glad I did.
In this ‘Factory’ I will discuss how we organize our staff meetings to be efficient, how we strive to make everyone’s voice heard and what we include in our weekly schedule both in-season and out of season.
“The difference between mere management and leadership is communication.” Winston Churchill
Our staff meetings are fairly structured so we can be organized. Like everything we have a system on how we meet.
I. SEATING CHART
Our staff will meet daily throughout the season and most days in the offseason. This may seem extreme to some, but we have a seating chart for staff meetings. I started doing this a couple of years ago and it helped make our time together more focused. It also sets the tone that we are now in ‘lock-in’ mode and it is time to get productive. We have our coordinators at the head of the tables, our offensive staff on one side and our defensive staff on the other.
II. NO CELL PHONES
This is a big pet peeve of mine and I’m sure all can understand why. If you have ever been in a meeting and someone next to you was scrolling their twitter feed please raise your hand. We are not going to meet any longer than we have to so we don’t have time to not be locked in and all on the same page. I had a college assistant coach tell me last year his head coach emphasizes that when they visit a school to recruit they should not ever take their cell phone out but to keep eye contact and be engaged. Amen.
II. COORDINATORS LEAD FROM THE FRONT
Leadership is leading from the front. I also meet with just the coordinators from time to time and remind them they are the ones who must drive the bus so to speak. If the coordinators are not the first ones to volunteer to do a job, have their unit group be the first to do a community service project, etc. then we are in trouble. I took over at a school once where the coordinators did not have a second sport or did not do many of the day-to-day jobs all programs have to get done (laundry, equipment, etc.). This sets a bad tone for the rest of the staff. Our three coordinators at North Forney all get their hands dirty and lead from the front at all times. Two of them are head coaches of other sports and one is an assistant. In staff meetings, they are giving their input, letting me know when one of my ideas is kooky and helping me drive the agenda. Everyone is different, but I am not a believer a silent coach can be effective or a silent coordinator can be in a meeting situation.
IV. MAKE IT A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR EVERYONE TO HAVE A VOICE
Although I expect our coordinators to be vocal in our meetings I also encourage all to speak up and participate. In Daniel Coyle’s new book ‘The Culture Code‘ he discusses Pixar’s meeting philosophy where they do not allow meetings to end until all have shared something. As the leader, if you are intentional with asking questions to as many coaches as you can during a meeting it will help all to be engaged. Coyle also talks about how important it is for the leader to show vulnerability and not have an “all knowing” attitude. When you don’t hide your weaknesses (we all have some) and open up with, “this is just my two cents”, “of course, I could be wrong here” or “what do you think?” you are inviting a safe environment with more interaction.
V. HAVE A SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEK TO SHARE WITH YOUR STAFF
A. IN-SEASON SCHEDULE
I have read a few articles about Nick Saban’s pregame meetings he has with his staff. While I have not ever seen the form he uses, it has been described to me by an ex-assistant and this form is my best effort at replicating it. Basically, the meeting and the form is about getting the coaches to think about the game before the game. The way I use the form is more about the weekly plan. We don’t have a two-hour window each game day but this is a great way to all get on the same page with our weekly points of emphasis, sub-varsity schedule, is there a pep rally, who are officials will be, etc.
Examples of other in-season schedules:
Rodney Webb Head Football Coach – Rockwall H.S. – Rockwall, Texas
Dane Oliver Head Football Coach – Sentinel H.S. – Missoula, Montana
B. EXAMPLE OF WEEKLY OFFSEASON SCHEDULE
We meet each Monday morning and go over our weekly strength and conditioning schedule just like we do our in-season schedule.
If you want to go 100 mph and not waste time while you are in the presence of your athletes then you must meet and get on the same page as a staff. I hope some of these ideas will help your meetings be more productive and systematic.
Thanks again for getting into another ‘Factory’. Please post your thoughts on staff meetings and communications on our Facebook page Culture Defeats Strategy. Let’s get better together!