By: Beth Launiere and Leo Hopf
Originally Published in: Techniques Magazine
Provided by: USTFCCCA
In programs that are simply competing hard, coaches and support staff go to work every day and do their best. They scramble, deal with the issues of the day and fight fires as they arise. There are unending demands on their time and never a chance to step back and plan. Their world is reactive and the pressure unending. They work hard every day, but they are not necessarily working smart.
If a program that simply competes hard happens to have great players, they win. If they have a year with only average players, they lose. Annual success is highly variable, and each year seems like a roll of the dice.
Coaches and staff in programs designed to win experience things quite differently. Success is embedded in their culture and their processes.
Programs that are designed to win have the following characteristics:
SETTING THE RIGHT GOALS FOR YOUR STARS
The challenge with star performers (both players and staff members) is that they can outperform others without having to work very hard to do so. Their sheer ability ensures they will virtually always beat average performers. The key is to set targets which are appropriate to the star's capability, rather than setting the much lower targets that others may have to stretch to reach. What gets measured gets improved, and a star's goals need to be set high to unleash their full capabilities.
The targets for stars need to be set against their own already-high level of performance or against outstanding players on other teams who have already reached the peaks your star is trying to climb. For example, if your star was a starter last season, what stats would they need to be named All-Conference? If they were All-Conference, what stats would make them
All of these numbers are easily identified by looking at the stats of players who have already reached your star's next goal. Present the numbers to your star, collaborate with them to set goals, and then step back and let them shine. Chances are they have a wonderful growth mindset based on their current success, and by challenging them, they will stay focused on the next step in their development.
Setting targets is more difficult for your star staff members since they have few stats and do not have easily identifiable honors such as All-Conference or All-American. Instead, you will need to rely on your own evaluations of their skill levels. The targets you set with them will, by necessity, be focused primarily on internally perceived growth and development rather than on external validation.
YOUR STARS MUST BE ENCOURAGED TO FAIL
If you are truly stretching your stars, they will fail at some point. As Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi said, "If you are
Your goal should not be to prevent your stars from failing to protect their fragile egos, but instead to push them so hard that they inevitably fail. When they do, you need to help them understand and accept that they failed, solidify what they learned from it, and then get them to dust themselves off and get back in the game.
The longer your best performers go without failing, the more they define their self-worth as being the person who never makes mistakes. Because of this, they will become more and more risk averse and will avoid doing anything that might not work out perfectly. This lowers their ceiling and downgrades a potential star into just
THE TRUE COST OF A "C" PERFORMER IS FAR HIGHER THAN YOU THINK
When we refer to "C" performers, we are thinking of at most 5–10% of your coaching staff or players. "C" performers stand out from the pack, and not in good ways. The true cost of a "C" performer is much higher than you think.
Obviously, "C" performers do their own work much less effectively than either stars or solid performers. Their assignments come back late, unfinished, off target or not to the level of quality required. Even though they don't deliver high-quality work, they often make the biggest demands on your time. They may want endless meetings to show you how clever they have been, or they might avoid you entirely and plan on surprising you with the brilliance of their work after it has been completed. Either way, they will not complete the task in the way you need it and will take more of your time than you had allotted.
If it was just the fact that they do their own jobs poorly, you might think it better to just ignore "C" performers and work around them. After all, you have many things to do, and it takes time to deal with the issues "C" performers create. But if you want to design your program to win, you cannot let "C" performers hang on because they hurt your program in many more ways than just their own poor performance. Other ways they hurt your program include:
Continued acceptance of "C" performance signals that either the leaders are clueless or they have lowered the bar. If you don't take action, you are signaling that the results being delivered by your "C" are perfectly acceptable to you.
The final point is that misery loves company. "C's" tend to be dissatisfied and generators of drama, gossip and grievances. There is no way a program can be designed to win unless it sets and maintains high standards for everyone in the program, including the "C" players.
THE GOLDEN RULE OF DELEGATION
There is a golden rule that simplifies and clarifies decisions as to what to delegate.
The golden rule is this:
Anything that can be delegated must be delegated.
It is this single statement that started Beth on her journey with Leo. He mentioned it to her at a lunch, and it stuck in the back of her mind. Beth kept trying to understand how she could apply this and what the implications would be if she were to adopt the golden rule. Her acceptance of this rule was their first big step in working together.
Without the golden rule, delegation is a complicated process. You must first decide if a task or project should be delegated. To do that, you will need to balance priorities, capabilities, workloads, trust and urgency. Then, for each of the things you have chosen to delegate, you need to decide to whom you will delegate it, actually delegate it and then ensure the person understands exactly what you need.
But you only need to decide one time to accept the golden rule, and once you do, your life is simplified. You will no longer need to spend a lot of time and energy deciding whether or not to delegate each task or project. Instead, all you need to ask yourself is if there is anyone below you in the organization who could credibly per form the work. If there is, you delegate to them. It is that simple.
Tara VanDerveer, Stanford women's basketball coach, believes that effective delegation was natural when we were children, but we have forgotten about it along the way. She said:
"My parents delegated chores and they had it down to a science. Dad would show me how to do it the first time, and then I was expected to do it myself and you just got it done. Mom even had a saying for it - everyone works and no one works too hard."
YOU CAN'T SAY "YES!" UNTIL YOU LEARN TO SAY "NO."
Delegation is essentially the art of saying "No" to doing work yourself that could be done by someone who reports to you. You cannot master delegation until you master the art of saying "No" respectfully and with finality. Mahatma Gandhi summarized the importance of saying "No" when he said:
"A 'No' uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble."
As William Ury points out in his book The Power of a Positive No, you can't enthusiastically say "Yes" to high-value tasks unless you free up your time by saying "No." to lower-value tasks. In other words, you say "No." with a period so you can say "Yes!" with an exclamation point.
If you do a small number of important things, you can do them with excellence and bring great value to your program. If you try to do a large number of important and unimportant things all mixed together, you will get little done and add little value. As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, says:
"The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything."
Saying "No" requires balancing your power and your relationships. If you exercise your power to say "No" too often, you could damage your relationships. People may become offended because they wanted you to agree to do the work they had requested.
But if you always say "Yes," it takes away your ability to control your own life and work. It also reduces the respect others have for you. Someone who always says "Yes" signals they have no higher priorities and are not focusing on the small number of things that matter.
There is also a sense of satisfaction that arises from a strong and confident "No" As Elizabeth M. Thackeray, MD, University of Utah Anesthesiology Residency Program Director, told us:
"I was surprised at how empowering it felt to say "No." I felt a surge of confidence: I was taking control over my time and my attention, which are my most valuable (and nonrenewable) resources. My "No" defined my priorities and I refused to allow anyone else to define them for me. It felt fantastic!"
About 3 years ago, Beth began to say "No" to committee work for the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). She felt it was time for younger coaches to take over leadership roles in the organization, and she reached out to them to encourage their involvement. Slowly, younger coaches began taking over the responsibilities of building the sport.
By saying "No." to committee work, Beth has been able to say "Yes!" to writing this book, doing special projects for the AVCA, coaching more USA national teams, and getting involved in other coaching organizations such as WeCoach, Art of Coaching, and Gold Medal Squared.
Here is a great way of deciding whether or not to accept a project or task:
Think back on all of the ways you spent your time in the past year. Then ask yourself this question - what percent of your time was spent on things that could have been delegated, turned out not to matter, or that shouldn't have been done in the first place? Typically, responses are in the range of 30-40% of people's time that was spent on work in these categories.
THE SINGLE WORST APPROACH TO DELEGATION YOU CAN TAKE
There is a terrible approach to delegation that is difficult to resist. It is most people's first instinct, and it raises its ugly head again and again. The single worst approach you can take to delegation is this:
"I can do it better and faster myself."
Of course you can do it better and faster yourself. That is why you were promoted. But the question is not, "Can I do it better and faster myself?" The question is, "What value will be lost if I do work someone else could have done instead of doing the work that only I can do?"
The statement that you can do it better and faster yourself is almost assuredly correct. It will take longer to explain how to do the task and describe what you want than to do it yourself. That will be true every
But tasks repeat. An individual task may take three times as long to delegate as it would take to just do it yourself. But if that task, or one similar to it, comes up 20 times later on, investing the time and training to delegate it will pay off in the long run.
When you delegate a task today, you are making an investment that will be repaid many times over by enabling you to confidently delegate that same category of task in the coming months and years. And, by doing so, you will be building the capabilities of your team, which will enable delegation of even more complex topics at a later date.
As Jamie Morrison, former head coach of the Dutch women's national volleyball team, told us:
"Head coaches need to think of themselves as less of doers within their organizations and more as planners, organizers, and delegators."
YOU CAN'T DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY
Running an effective organization requires delegation. But doing so opens you up to taking the heat for someone not delivering for you. You can delegate tasks and projects, but you can't delegate responsibility.
When your people don't deliver, you must hold them accountable. You need to point out where they went off track and let them know what could have been done differently. You are not looking for excuses, you are looking to get the job done.
But just as you hold your people accountable, your boss will hold you accountable. It doesn't matter if you were the one who did the work or if you delegated it to someone else. It doesn't matter if there is an excuse for not delivering. What matters is that it was your responsibility to complete the work and it was not finished on time with the quality required. You are responsible, and there is no getting around it.
If you delegated the task to someone who was overloaded and couldn't do it in time, you are responsible. If the person didn't have the skills to complete the task, you are responsible. If they let the task slide and you didn't know about it, you are responsible. Welcome to being a leader.
The pairing of a business consultant with a Division I head coach may not have been an obvious match, but it has benefitted both parties. As professionals grow in confidence, capability, and experience within any one field, they move towards mastery of it. But eventually, their rate of growth slows because they have accessed the bulk of the ideas that make up the knowledge base in their field.
What seems difficult in one specialty may be routine in another because people in different specialties know different things. Leo would have no idea how to teach middle blockers serve-receive approach patterns to hit the gap or the slide, or transition footwork patterns to be able to attack in as many point-scoring situations as possible. That is simply not part of his experience or training.
Likewise, Beth would not know how to optimize the risk and return of a pharmaceutical research and development portfolio located in business units throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. What is the bread and butter of one specialty may be totally foreign to another.
On a humorous note, Leo had made a first cut describing a type of volleyball problem he would be clueless to solve. Beth saw it, laughed, and then totally revamped the example. Not only did Leo not know enough to solve the problem, but he also didn't know enough to describe a volleyball problem he couldn't solve.
The purpose of this book was not just to tell stories celebrating the career of a long-time coach. More importantly, we wrote it to show you that there are ideas not typically found in athletics that can be applied to your program to help you make the leap from simply competing hard to being designed to win.
BETH LAUNIERE IS IN HER 31ST SEASON AT THE HELM OF THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH VOLLEYBALL PROGRAM IN 2020. BETH IS A PAST PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN VOLLEYBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION (AVCA). SHE HAS ALSO COACHED IN THE USA NATIONAL TEAM PROGRAM FOR THE PAST 11 YEARS.
LEO HOPF IS THE CO-AUTHOR OF RETHINK, REINVENT, REPOSITION: 12 STRATEGIES TO RENEW YOUR BUSINESS AND BOOST YOUR BOTTOM LINE. HE HAS LED STRATEGY EFFORTS IN 15 COUNTRIES AND IN 40 DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES. HE EARNED A MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION DEGREE WITH HIGHEST DISTINCTION FROM THE TUCK SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT DARTMOUTH AND HAS BACHELOR'S DEGREES IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING AND IN METALLURGICAL ENGINEERING FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA.