What Can We Learn?

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

On January 11, 2016 one of the biggest events of the year occurred and a man accomplished something in his profession that no other person has ever accomplished.  That event was a National Championship Football game.  It made a lot of people glad and a lot of people sad.  It has been hashed and rehashed by the news media and sports talk programs.  Some football fans are ready to make Nick Saban the fourth member of the Trinity.  Other football fans are very critical of him and his program.  It has created excessive celebrations and new levels of frustration.

I want to try the impossible – ask everybody to hit the pause button on their emotions and simply ask the question “What can I learn from a successful man who won his 4th National Championship in seven years that can make me more effective in my work and my life?”  People who are willing to learn from people who are successful are able to accomplish more in their own lives.  Here are some things I learned:

Coach Saban has a plan.  He refers to it as a process.  He always stays focused on the process, but realizes that the process sometimes has to be improved and tweaked since football has changed since he came to Tuscaloosa.  Do we have a plan?

Coach Saban became quite a topic of controversy just a few years ago with the up-tempo offensive minded people.  He listened to the discussion, did not become stubborn, and decided there were some parts of this new offense that he could implement into his process.  Now he sometimes uses a no-huddle scheme.  He intentionally looks for match ups with great receivers covered by slower linebackers.  In the National Championship game he was required to adapt and resort to the very things he decried a couple of years ago as the earmark of an inferior brand of football.  He was willing to change.  Do we change?

He shocked the football world two years ago when he brought in Lane Kiffin who didn’t think like he did.  He saw in Kiffin somebody who would challenge and help elevate his own way of thinking and improve his offensive output.  Kiffin brought in new ideas.  The number of plays run and the points scored in crucial games have increased remarkably. Do we seek new ideas?

Coach Saban realized that football was not just about coaches who could execute through x’s and o’s.  He saw that he was dealing with young men, not robots to be trained.  Therefore, he deployed new ideas for helping develop his football players.  He utilized different folks to help with motivation for the team.  He employed professional help to test his players and coaches and understand what kind of motivation to which they best respond.  Some players best respond to being chewed out – some players rebel against it.  He relates to his players in the manner in which they best respond.  His coaches have been amazed at how much more can be accomplished with this new knowledge.  How do we relate to people?

He is willing to take risks.  With the score tied 24-24 at the National Championship game, he called for an on-side kick.  If it had failed, it would have given the ball to Clemson with excellent field position and could have been the end of the ball game.  He was willing to take the risk, recover the kick, went on to score, and changed the momentum of the game.  What kind of risks are we willing to take?

He learned last year he needed to change his preparation schedule and model for the play offs and championship game.  Preparing for a bowl game is different from preparing for a championship game.  Notice any difference in the results this year?

He has an uncanny ability to evaluate talent.  He does a great job of picking the right people to play the right position.  If a coach picks the wrong guy or girl to play a strategic position, the team won’t be very good.  Great coaches put the right people in the right position.  This is true in any organization.

The best lasting effects of January 11, 2016 will be what we can learn to improve as individuals, teams, and organizations.  Good learners become good leaders!  What did you learn?

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