on December 29, 2003
Don Shula, the National Football League's all-time winningest coach, teamed up with Ken Blanchard, the internationally known and multiple award-winning author, educator, and management and leadership consultant, and together they co-wrote an outstanding book about leaders getting the best performance from the individuals and organizations they are privileged to lead. Whether you are responsible for the performance of multiple organizations, or for just one other individual, the leadership wisdom and insights in this book can help you maximize your coaching and leadership effectiveness.
The winning combination of the two separately distinguished leaders in their respective fields, and the complementary structure of the book were brilliant. Organized around the acronym C.O.A.C.H., the five coaching "secrets" that Shula had practiced and Blanchard has been teaching for over 30 years, the book alternated synergistic passages from Shula then Blanchard to explore and explain the acronym in theory and practice from the football gridiron to modern business situations, and ultimately to the game of life.
Here's how Shula and Blanchard define and think about the acronym C.O.A.C.H.:
Conviction-Driven: Effective leaders stand for something.
Overlearning: Effective leaders help their teams achieve practice perfection.
Audible-Ready: Effective leaders, and the people and teams they coach, are ready to change their game plan when the situation demands it.
Consistency: Effective leaders are predictable in their response to performance.
Honesty-Based: Effective leaders have high integrity and are clear and straightforward in their interactions with others.
Conviction-Driven: "Someone has said that a river without banks is a puddle. When I apply that saying to human interactions, it reminds me of the job of a coach. Like those river-banks, a good coach provides the direction and concentration for performers' energies, helping channel all their efforts toward a single desired outcome. Without that critical influence, the best achievements of the most talented performers can lack the momentum and drive that make a group of individuals into champions."
Overlearning: "To me a game doesn't end when the clock finally runs out. It ends on Monday, after we've analyzed every play and learned all we cana from it...Failure is successfully finding out what you don't want to repeat...Learning is defined as a change in behavior. You haven't learned a thing until you can take action and use it."
Audible-Ready: "Preparation means everything to me. I'm passionate about my players being ready for anything. Now, part of being ready is being able to shift your game plan at will. I see myself as a battlefield commander who has the guts to make the right moves to win. I want to be prepared with a plan - and then to expect the unexpected and be ready to change this plan. I must preserve the right to change - even to change at the last moment - as circumstances demand...Audibles aren't surprises - just new ways of doing what you already know how to do. Business people need to learn to call audibles, because in today's world, nothing stays the same."
Consistency: "Your team will soon learn what your standards are and perform accordingly. I not only insist on practice perfection, I'm there to see that it takes place. I don't miss practices. I need to be out there smelling out whatever isn't working. Even the slightest deviation from perfection needs to be noticed and corrected on the spot. Correcting and redirecting performance is strategically important - it's where we outstrip the competition. Some coaches will let little things go. Right there is where the difference is made. To me, it's not a matter of how many times we've done it or how late it is or how tired the players are. We'll do it until we get it right. Then we won't deviate from it in the game. I'd rather throw out a play or formation during practice than find out it can't be done correctly in the ball game. We seldom try anything on game day that we haven't been able to perfect in practice. If I'm asking our players to do something they can't do, I want to know about it now."
Honesty-Based: "I have a straight-up approach. I don't know how to go around corners or how to finesse. My players know this and they expect candor from me. Congruence is important to me. What you see with Don Shula is what you get. I don't play games. Effective coaches confront their people, praise them sincerely, redirect or reprimand them without apology, and above all are honest with them. Integrity pays, and integrity means being honest with yourself and others. This is a key ingredient in my coaching philosophy."
In his introduction to the book, Blanchard stated that he is on a search for simple truths to help leaders and managers be their best. With Shula's proven long-term coaching effectiveness as the foundation for this book, Blanchard has found and shared many simple leadership truths and complexities. This book would be a welcome addition to anyone's coaching or leadership collection.
on May 23, 2003
It is tempting to use all sorts of analogies with respect to business. Two of the most obvious are Warfare and Football (sailing is one of my additional favorites). Given that Football is itself metaphorical with respect to War, you can naturally expect to sole-source your analogies.
Coaching is a necessary aspect of personnel management (and one might wonder whether expecting a single manager to be coach, strategist, and resource manager should yield any better results than NFL coaches who have tried to run the whole show). Who better to address this essential aspect of management than a successful professional football coach?
While it's a little bit trite, the "COACH" acronym is actually fairly useful. Unfortunately, in practice, remaining Conviction-driven can be very difficult, particularly in that most managers will not have the luxury of complete buy-in to the corporate vision. Overlearning also seems to be disposed of in the "Fast Company" environment. Just as the salary cap has accelerated the ROI demands in the NFL, managers also have less time to develop and train employees. There's less time for practice when the game is always on. Correspondingly, Audible-Ready (adaptable) is even more critical in this economy. From my (brief) experience, the last two items (Consistency & Honesty) are the most critical with regard to personnel management.
The football stories throughout this book are worthwhile, and interesting just as a history (in the absence of a really good Shula biography). In any case, it's nice to have this book around to pick up now and then for ideas.
on August 7, 1997
Of the 1000's of books written on leadership in the past 100 years, this one presents a very real picture of world we live in. Too many of the books I've read lately give us the magic formulas to follow, some leading us through a veritable mathematical maze to tell us what kind of leader we are. "Principle-Centered Leadership" by Covey and "The Platinum Rule" fall into this category. What Blanchard and Shula have done, and done quite successfully is to integrate theory with actual examples. While I don't agree with everything that Shula has done, I do applaud his efforts. I do absolutely believe in his philosophy of "Lead by example," and the necessity of developing trust. Both Shula and Blanchard emphasize this aspect of leadership as critical. There are too many so-called leaders in the corporate world who do not lead by example. They are quite willing to demand of you what they are unwilling to do themselves. On top of the quality of the reading, the book is very easy to read. I hi
on April 7, 2004
What makes this book so effective is that the advice offered is not only solid, but it can be applied immeditely. It's a "hands on" doer's guide. The strength Ken Blanchard brings is his strong Christian influence. Shula's credentials consist of his long term track record as an NFL coach. In this book Shula describes how he leads by example and thorough preparation.
One place this book separtes itself from books of this genre is that it emphasizes "follow through" as contrasted with goal-setting. That's an action focus. It puts the spotlight on doing something.