Doesher Advisors Guide

March 29, 2012

// Pearls of Wisdom from a Pair of Coaches to Business Leaders

Brady Hoke Photo by Maze & Blue Nation

Recently, I heard Brady Hoke (the University of Michigan football coach) give a speech. What he had to say really caught my attention. After a very complimentary introduction and a standing ovation, almost the first words out of Hoke's mouth were, "We failed to win the Big 10 Championship." Although the team went 11-2 and won a bowl game, the fact remains that they did not capture the Big 10 Championship.

Throughout his brief but hard-hitting speech, Hoke mentioned the failure to win the championship four more times. I thought it was a great example of being focused. He taught the audience the following three chants, which he uses with his players: "When I say championship, you say 42" (This stands for 42 Big 10 Championships); "When I say years, you say 133" (each year's football team is numbered, so 2012 is the 133rd season); and "When I say beat, you say Ohio." Wow. For Hoke and his players, a whole season can be defined so succinctly.

Can you simplify your goals that easily, or do you have "flavor of the month" goals that are constantly changing? Are you focused on a specific outcome and willing to persevere to achieve your dreams?

Tom Izzo

A few years ago I had an opportunity to hear Tom Izzo, the basketball coach at Michigan State University, speak — and I enjoyed hearing what he had to say, too. In fact, I had a similar reaction when I listened to Izzo. What both men said was refreshing. Neither shied away from sharing stories about their failures, and telling their audiences how the things they had done wrong eventually made them — and their teams — stronger and better. What a great example of leadership!

Do your associates feel the same way about you as the players at U of M and MSU feel about Hoke and Izzo?

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Both Hoke and Izzo have amassed impressive records, but what I find almost magnetic is their humility. Last summer I had the chance to hear Patrick Lencione, the popular author of a number of books I have recommended, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, speak. His subject was the importance of humility as a leader. Read the article that summarizes his talk. He truly could have visited Ann Arbor and East Lansing and had the same experience.

p.s. There are many more stories from both Brady Hoke and Tom Izzo that I plan to share in the future. One of my favorites is a story about Izzo giving a National Championship ring to the field house janitor. Stay tuned!

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