I’m a sucker for a good quote. I read, watch and listen to great leaders and mentors. I look back on events in my life where mentors influenced me — the hows, the whys and even the what ifs — and how I do my best to provide the same mentor leadership to those who surround me.
My actions are intentional. My life is spontaneous.
The “one word” practice that’s become popular over the last several years is also one I believe works. It’s a simple, yet powerful, practice that brings focus, clarity and purpose.
In the midst of the chaos, the meetings, the classes, the travel, the stress, you have “one word’ guiding you. It’s your “why” for the year.
My word for 2016 is “consistent”. A word stuck in my brain since Ball State President Paul Ferguson described our program and work with this simple sentence: “Excellence is consistent.”
Whatever I hope in the new year for myself, my family, my friends, my students and Sports Link won’t happen accidentally.
Relationships won’t accidentally be meaningful or productive. Productions and accolades won’t just happen. The best stories in Ball State sports don’t produce themselves. Multi-camera live sporting events airing for a national audience with students in all positions just don’t happen.
If I want it, I have to be consistent. And so does Sports Link. It’s a monthly, weekly, daily, hourly mindset.
So even though this new “one word” thing is trending, I’m still a quote guy. There’s no better for me than John Wooden.
“Do not be vulnerable to praise or criticism from outsiders. Your strength of consistency depends on how you let praise and criticism affect you. Some of it will be deserved and some of it will be undeserved. Either way, don’t get caught up in the opinions of others. When you are honest in your self-analysis, your opinion should count the most.”
Let’s do that part one more time … “your strength of consistency depends on how you let praise and criticism affect you”. Now, let’s also do a call back to President Ferguson … “excellence is consistent”.
I’ve also done a lot of research and studying of culture. How some organizations thrive and succeed, while others fail. Yup, one word: consistency.
The prototypical leader gives the rousing speech, inspires the troops, and shows up at the last minute to save the day. At least that’s how leaders are portrayed — and it’s true CT’s speeches are memorable. Don’t worry alums, I will continue that trend in 2016 too, but it’s not the only thing Google discovered as the most important qualities.
The most important character trait of a leader is one you’re more likely to associate with a dull person than a dynamic leader: predictability. The more predictable you are — day after day — the better.
Taking an evidence-based approach rather than a gut-driven one, Google debunks conventional wisdom on how to build an awesome team. What they found was remarkable for its overlooked common sense. Leaders must be predictable and consistent.
Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google says “if a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom.”
The freedom a consistent leader provides is a powerful force, because having autonomy over one’s work is one of the most potent motivators of personal productivity.
Autonomy is also incredibly motivating. People crave some degree of control and self-determination to make, build, create awesome things rather than being told what to do.
Yet letting loose a bunch of people and proclaiming “Go forth and be autonomous!” will likely result in chaos. You have to think about what brings people together and how to scale that organizational glue.
The counterpart to autonomy is alignment, as Henrik Kniberg, an agile & lean coach who works very closely with the rapidly growing Spotify, explains.
At Spotify, engineers and product people work within a kind of matrix organization that evolved out of a need to scale agile small teams. Their basic unit or “cell” is called a “squad,” a cross-functional, self-organizing, co-located team of less than eight people that has autonomy on what to build and how. While each squad has a mission to work towards, they still have to harmonize across many levels — on product, company priorities, strategies, and other squads.
The Google “leadership philosophy” is to provide information employees need, work from their perspective and cultivate performance by offering the oxygen needed to succeed. Then they’ll have the breathing room and self-determination to shine.
If you’re reading this blog in 2016, the Sports Link philosophy as shifted slightly, but not losing track of the “Big 5” mission, vision and values that guide our program daily.
As 2015 wound down just before Midnight, I received a text from a producer at ESPN who has been watching some of our shows and critiquing some non-SL shows. His text was simple too: “I know what kind of work you guys do, and believe me you guys do very well.”
Here’s to 2016 filled with love, purpose, influence and consistency.
And yes President Ferguson, excellence is consistent.