Monday, January 23, 2012

Leading Like Joe Paterno

"A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd." --- Max Lucado

You've probably heard that Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach, died this past weekend. If your only knowledge of him was that he coached and was fired as the result of a scandal involving one of his assistant coaches, then have missed out on some good lessons on developing and leading people.

In a 2010 Sporting News interview, Paterno was asked what it is that he tries to communicate to his recruits, Paterno responded, "It's a great opportunity for a kid. Get a good education, understand what football can do for them, a sense of loyalty, commitment, how as a group you can get some things done, good things. But, most of all, they better go to class." JoePa's coaching style was not winning games at all costs, but using the football program to help kids develop discipline and instill hard work for winning in life.

There are many takeaways that can be gleaned from analyzing JoePa's coaching style we can apply to our businesses, but let's look at four strong ones:

1.) Leading like Joe Paterno requires caring. Joe Paterno and his wife, Sue, used to open up their modest home to tutor players who were falling behind in their studies. Paterno once said that there are many pro football players playing today that sat at his kitchen table every morning to get help from Sue. Paterno cared for his players. He felt a responsibility for them. Not just so they would do well on the football field (not just so your employees will do well on the job), but so they will achieve individual success. Your concern for your team member's success only enhances their potential and their success in your business. Some side benefits include loyalty and dedication to their jobs.

2.) Leading like Joe Paterno requires sharing. Paterno gave not only of his time, but he gave a huge chunk (in the millions) of his income to Penn State. He could not legally give money to his players, but when in want he used his network to get the help his players would need--- whether it was assistance for a player's family or helping a player with gainful employment after graduation. Sharing your resources, including paying top dollar for top performance, increases chances for your team's success.

3.) Leading like Joe Paterno requires sacrificing. When Paterno was coaching Penn State, he would often bench a star player for an infraction. This would often cost the team in terms of performance, but Paterno knew that if a team member wasn't working toward the team goals, that player would eventually act as a cancer destroying morale throughout the team. Paterno was willing to sacrifice in order to mold particular players into the full potential he knew they were capable of. There are times when the player (employee) must be cut free. It is a sacrifice and you may even have to step in and take some of that employee's workload, but the alternative may be too costly.

4.) Leading like Joe Paterno requires patience. Paterno knew he had a foundation of players to work with, but that a championship win would only come if everyone came together as a strong team. He knew that took time. He was willing to work with each team member in order to get them to a level that both he and the player knew they could be. In business, cutting loose an employee too early is costly. If your hiring process is solid, you know the potential of the person you are bringing on board. Don't give up on them until you are certain there is no way they will ever fit on the team. Developing a good team requires patience.

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