We’re down to The Final Four (Go Blue!) and so what better place than the Golf Channel to have a chat with a great college coach? That’s exactly what aired last evening as part of Feherty, one of my not so guilty pleasures. David Feherty interviewed Bob Knight, best known as the coach of Indiana University. He’s the sort of coach that many people love to hate – they respect his accomplishments but can’t understand the screaming, chair-throwing, and general misbehaving that he did. The interview helped me to understand it – and him – a lot better.
Early on in the show, Coach Knight said something that really resonated with me as a businessperson and it’s our topic today. It seems kind of simple but it often gets lost:
The role of a coach or the role of a teacher is to get the player or student to be the best that they can be.
Exactly. Not “to get them to achieve some impossibly high standard that even professional athletes can’t reach.” Not “to win a championship at all costs.” It’s centered around understanding each kid and the potential for greatness that’s in each of them to whatever degree it exists. Even if the kid doesn’t get it. Then the challenge is to fulfill that potential.
Think about it in a business context. How many managers are focused on “winning the championship” and not on getting each employee to be the best that they can be? Instead of using the initial interview process to determine what that potential might be, many managers think about it as filing a box on the org chart. They don’t think about complimentary skill sets, the potential to advance, or how well the candidate will fit into the group. Instead, they assume the people are fungible. Big mistake.
If we take the time to think carefully about Coach Knight’s standard, it becomes obvious that the key to success lies in looking hard for potential, especially if that potential is untapped to a great degree. After all, if we’re focused on getting people to be the best that they can be, we want that bar set pretty high so the organization as a whole is elevated.
What do you think?