A week or so ago, 60 Minutes (the Sunday night television program) produced a piece on Nick Saban. Saban is the very successful college football coach at the University of Alabama. His teams have won four National Championships (one at Louisiana State University and three at Alabama), including the past two championship games. His career record as a college coach is 164 wins, 55 losses, and one tie.
In his interview with 60 Minutes, Saban talked about how he challenges his players to be the best they can be every single day. His goal is for his players to be better today than they were yesterday. Very much like John Wooden, the famous former college basketball coach at UCLA, Saban does not focus on winning. In fact, Saban never challenges his team to win. He knows, instead, that if his players focus on being the best they can be, the winning will take care of itself.
Saban’s interview reminded me of one of my favorite speeches of all time. In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a similar message to a group of high school students. The idea King conveyed was that “you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor.” King went on to say, “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”
As we start out this week, let’s first try to be the best leaders we can be; let’s try to be better leaders tomorrow than we are today. Then, let’s encourage our team members to be the best they can be at what they do. This week, let’s not focus on the “wins” – the competition, the market share, the sales, the profit – but rather let’s focus on performing to the best of our abilities. I’ll bet, like at the University of Alabama, if we can work on being our best, the “wins” will take care of themselves.
Thanks for reading,
Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle
Blog – http://www.jvearle.wordpress.com
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Book – 100 Yards of Success: Leadership Lessons from College Football, http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-62510-731-2