unity and diversity – part 2

September 23, 2008 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment
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Continuing on some earlier thoughts on trying to be diverse and maintain unity…

With college football now in full swing, I can’t help but turn to my beloved sport for yet another analogy.  Football, to me, is the greatest example in sports of unity and diversity.  One team, one objective, but many different sub-teams, each with their own unique battles, all working together for a win. I think it’s pretty clear why diversity is imperative to success.  Having one person try to run everything just doesn’t work in a fast moving game — or fast moving business for that matter.  You’ve got to trust the people you put in place to make good choices.

But what of unity?  Unity avoids anarchy, inefficiency, and unhealthy internal competition by getting all those parts moving toward a common direction.  When they *know* the common direction, it actually adds a ton of morale to the individual efforts.  I’m not a big fan of hidden objectives unless they are absolutely necessary.  So the head coach needs to inform, inspire, and evaluate each of the individual units to ensure the overall objectives are being met, then work with the position coaches to make the necessary changes.

This stuff sounds so easy, but it’s anything but.  Take it for granted and odds are you will end up with inefficiencies all over the place.  Moreover, internal competitions can shred morale.  Here again, I think we’re back to people.  Communication, cooperation, energy, passion, teamwork.  These are the things that are incredibly difficult to sustain at maximum levels.  Throw in a distributed team and it can get even more challenging.  But like most things that are difficult to do, the rewards are great.

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does bottom-up leadership work?

July 23, 2008 at 10:52 am | Posted in Professional Development | 5 Comments
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Over lunch today, I read an interesting story that talks about how former college football powers Florida State and Miami are both trying to recapture their dominance, and how both are doing it with player-led committees.  The idea is to get players to take responsbility and become an active part of the plan for success.  All sounds great.  But from my personal experience as a college player and a high school coach, it doesn’t seem to work.

When things get to the point where players are forming committees, there is an underlying message there, which is “our leadership is no longer relevant.”  I wish it wasn’t the case, but again, from 5 years of college ball and 13 years of coaching, it almost always seems to fall short of the goal.  Something — and it’s hard to put my finger on just what — but something has gone wrong with the leadership when things like this happen in a way that appears to be a REPLACEMENT FOR, not an COMPLIMENT TO, strong leadership from the top.

The strongest teams I’ve been on, coached, or played against, have had a combination of both, but in every case, it was FAR more tilted to the top-down leadership being the stronger pull of the two.  Within that framework of strong top-down leadership, it was a privilege to be allowed to form a smaller, sub-leadership team to help the cause.  That’s the “compliment to”.  But you never doubted the ultimate source of your teams strength.  Paradoxically, acknowledging that strength actually strengthened the individual players. 

This one has caused me a moment of pause to think about how (if) this concept applies to the business world.  Would be interested in any comments here, publically on the blog, or emailed to me privately.

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