the wrong “right thing”

September 29, 2008 at 11:15 am | Posted in Business, Professional Development | 1 Comment
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How long do you fight the good fight, when you realize that things need to change, but that you are not going to be able to change them? When do you stop trying? How do you know success isn’t just one month away? How long do you fight to be an agent of change when you can’t control all the changes that are made? The bigger the company, and the lower you are on an org chart, the more interesting those questions become.

When I left coaching at Trinity, a top-25 nationally ranked school, I had a set of ideas on what was the “right” way to do things. And, I *was* right given my surroundings. When I went to CAL, a brand new program with 1/5th the players, it became quite a different story. I had to abandon what I knew was “right” at Trinity in lieu of what we could “execute” at CAL. We spent the first year crawling; spoon feeding them everything. We spent year 2 walking. In year 3 we started to jog, and in year 4&5 we were able to run. But it was a long process of education, building confidence, trust, and putting in things a little at a time.

I was just starting at CAL and meeting with an older coaching buddy of mine who had retired a few years back. I’m whizzing away on the board with the schemes and style I wanted to implement. He sat back and said, “Looks fantastic. Now put player names above the x’s and o’s.” So I did. Then he asked, “Can those names do what those lines are telling them to?” They couldn’t. That’s when I realized I needed to start by teaching them to crawl before we did anything else.

What’s “right” in theory can get screwed up really quickly when the reality doesn’t give you the tools you need. Maybe the most philosophically sophisticated saying of all applies here: “Don’t try and teach a pig to sing. You just frustrate yourself and irritate the pig.” Know your environment and adapt accordingly.

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  1. Another wonderful observation!

    A very good friend of mine has won an astonishing number of tennis games against “better” opposition by playing the simple strategy of always getting the ball back deep to the back of the court. His more skillful opponents (myself included) get frustrated at his not playing “properly” – properly being ala Roger Federer, which although brilliant for him they are incapable of delivering against.

    It is a lesson well worth applying to business problems.


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