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Champion Leadership Blog

A Leadership Lesson From the Movie “The Blind Side”

If you haven’t seen the movie “The Blind Side” yet, you should go see it while it is still in theatres.

The story is about a Memphis, Tennessee family, Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy, who offer a lost, homeless teenager, Michael Oher, the opportunity to come into their home and become part of their family.

Through Ms. Touhy’s nurturing Michael becomes a standout high school football player, eventually earning a scholarship to the University of Mississippi and being selected as the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens’ first round draft selection in the spring of 2009.

It’s a touching and powerful real life story with one particular lesson all business leaders and coaches could learn from.

During Oher’s early days on the gridiron his football coach was frustrated with his lack of comprehension of how to fulfill the offensive tackle role he had been assigned. The coach, applying his traditional coaching style of yelling louder and more forcefully with each frustrating play at practice, gets no results.

Ms. Touhy, watching her ‘adopted’ son from the practice sidelines, walks on to the field and addresses Oher, reminding him of his strong will and personal attribute of “protective instincts.” In taking the “Student Career Aptitude Test” for admission to a private Christian school Oher scored in the 98th percentile in “Protective Instincts.”

Knowing this was his personal strength she used herself as a metaphor for the quarterback, and her youngest son as the tailback, telling him to protect his teammates in those positions as if he were protecting his new family. In the movie Michael immediately “gets it” and transforms into a force on the team’s offensive line, much to the amazement of his coach, standing bewildered on the sidelines.

lessons from the movie 'the blindside'

  1. Leaders have to know what makes their people tick. They need to take the time to learn what motivates them and what their true strengths and interests are.
  2. Leaders must then take that information and apply it to the role in which they assign to their team members so everyone is working in a role that reinforces their strengths.

To apply this in the most ridiculous way, above the high school level, a baseball team would not have its star starting pitcher play the position of catcher or shortstop on days when he is not pitching. Nor would a football team put its quarterback on the defensive line.

Yet, few businesses really assess the strengths of their employees and learn what they like to do and feel good doing before they assign a job to them. I understand that in business, unlike sports, it may not be possible to have someone fill only the role they are the perfect fit for, but it is possible to identify those strengths and have their role include more of that work than not. It benefits both the individual and the organization.

For this purpose I’ve recently become affiliated with an organization that does leadership and personality assessments to identify individual strengths and weaknesses, Harrison Assessments.

To learn more about my new affiliation and how it may benefit click this link.

Champion Leadership Tip #17 – Communicate With Appropriate Tone in Your Voice

This seems like a no-brainer. But, if I didn’t come across these issues in real life coaching situations I wouldn’t bring them up.

Leadership Training program two of my participants described two separate situations in which their boss raised their voice and communicated in a very condescending and disrespectful manner in an open meeting with other staff members.

This raised the question as to whether it is ever appropriate to raise one’s voice in a conversation. I posed the question to the group of 14 and the consensus was that “no” it was never appropriate to use that type of tone.

Another participant, an up and coming leader in the company in which I was working, described another situation in which a sarcastic tone was often the norm in communicating to one of his team members. Again, it was agreed that sarcasm was low on the respect scale.

Amazingly, all leaders know communication is vital in successfully leading others and in being able to gain buy-in and commitment for what needs to be accomplished. Despite this knowledge, communication behavior is often not what it needs to be.

I’m sure leaders that are consistently communicating with inappropriate tone would argue that it comes from stress and frustration in the moment and often times they are regretful afterward. However, despite apologies, which are often poorly delivered, significant relationship damage occurs and trust is sabotaged. Additionally, the communication habit rarely changes and usually resurfaces again.

Recently, I sat down and identified seven (7) vital leadership communication mistakes in which leaders regularly engage that kill an organization’s culture. This issue with appropriate voice tone is just one of the five.

To learn the other four and what to do about them, today I’m releasing my latest White Paper Report “The 7 Deadliest Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication.” These kill organizational communication, increase workplace conflict, ruin employee morale and productivity and create a toxic work environment.” It is available for free download at this link .

Does Your Brand Promise Statement Command the Confidence of Your Target Market?

While my wife and I were reviewing our vacation pictures from our January trip to Australia, I was reminded about this blog posting I thought of while touring the continent.

In two different Australian cities, Melbourne in the State of Victoria and in Devonport in the state of Tasmania we came across these two food establishments that had significant differences in their brand’s promise to prospective customers that I thought was striking. See the photos below and see if you notice the difference:

Do you notice a difference?

Which of these two establishments has the stronger brand promise statement? How does it impact your impressions and expectations of the value you might receive if you were to sample their products and services?

I’ll wait a few days before I post my comments as I’d like to see what everyone else thinks. Please take a moment and leave your impressions.

Champion Leadership Tip #16 – Tips from Herb Brooks, the Man Who Led The 1980 Miracle On Ice

I would be remiss if I did not dedicate my Champion Leadership Tip today, the 30th Anniversary of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team’s win over the Soviet Union hockey at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, to the team’s coach, the late Herb Brooks.

Brooks’ team pulled off what may have been the greatest upset in the history of international sports, bringing together a group of elite college hockey players, average age of 22 years old to the ultimate victory over the most elite hockey teams in the world, including the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Finland.

In a time much different than today when the professionals of the National Hockey League compete for their home countries in the Olympic Tournament, Brooks took his college students on a six month world tour to prepare for the 1980 Lake Placid games.

I think there are three leadership lessons to take away from Brooks’ approach thirty years ago. One is that success is about preparation and you can never prepare enough, the second is about creating and communicating a compelling vision and future, and the third is that leaders have to know and show through their behavior that its about those they lead and not themselves.

As the players reflected on their accomplishment after 30 years, most said Brooks was a madman when it came to conditioning. Every player on the team believed they were better conditioned than any team in the tournament. This played out with the team outscoring its opposition 16-3 in third periods.

Mark Johnson, the team’s leading scorer and head coach of the U.S. Women’s Hockey team in Vancouver this week, said that Brooks “had a vision and he sold it to us.”

Team captain Mike Eruzione was quoted as saying that over the six months of preparation as hard as Brooks drove them, the team the Gold Medal Championship ring for the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team “came to trust that the decisions he made and things he asked of us he was doing for us.”

So, they followed. And, they gave their all. And, they came out as Gold Medal Champions.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock and scoreboard for the Gold Medal game read USA 4, Finland 2, the USA players celebrated all over the ice as Brooks walked off the bench to the team’s locker room. Brooks knew that the victory was for them, not him.

That’s what great leaders do! Are you showing your team that their success is all about them?

Why One Champion Sales Organization Trains Its Team for the Long-Term

The last two weeks I had the privilege of being asked to participate as a sub-contract trainer on a major corporate training initiative with the Influencing Skills program for which I am a licensed facilitator.

The 20-plus training sessions were done simultaneously, nationwide in a variety of US cities where the organization’s American “sales clusters” operate. I facilitated two trainings on opposite ends of the country (Norwalk, Connecticut & San Francisco, CA).

We were working with Diageo, a multi-billion dollar consumer products goods (CPG) company committed to improving on its place as the 16th

CPG firm in the world with a market cap in 2009 of $54 Billion. The company manufactures and distributes some of the top spirit brands in the world, such as Johnny Walker, Guinness, Crown Royal, and Smirnoff Vodka.

As part of the firm’s strategy for 2010, their corporate leaders had the vision and forethought of those that I identify as a Champion Leader.

They invested in a program for their sales professionals not usually viewed favorably by many sales organizations, influencing skills. Most sales organizations focus on the philosophy of ABC (Always Be Closing) and bringing home the deal or the contact.

Champion Leaders look for ways to differentiate their organizations from the competition. And, in a highly competitive CPG industry, one way to differentiate a sales professional is to teach them how to positively influence by building long-term relationships based on trust.

This is what we call thinking about the 10th sale first.

Some organizations give lip service to the concept of relationship building in sales but end up creating sales goals and expectations with compensation plans that sabotage the effort and keep sales professionals in an old model.

Champion sales organizations know long-term success and market differentiation in the 21st Century must be built on developing a high-trust relationship with prospects and clients. Based on the feedback from the Diageo workshops I delivered the last two weeks, the Influencing Skills program is a solid way to do it.

What we all learned is that this program has applications beyond leadership and management skills and translates tremendously well to sales organizations, too. Hmm, may be something to think it about?

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