Sunday, December 28, 2014

"We Get What We Tolerate" - Hugh McCutcheon

Former coach of the US Women's National Volleyball team and all-around genius Hugh McCutcheon is fond of saying this. For everything that we all believe we are capable of as directors, coaches, athletes, what we allow to happen through our developmental process is what we become. If we know better but do not do better, consistently, than we are no further ahead than those who do not know better at all. Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing and there are knowledgeable fools everywhere if you are paying attention.

How do we reconcile these gaps for ourselves? Does this lessen the message shared with us from others who we know are excellent practitioners yet you see things they are doing with people and that they allow that are simply not acceptable? In my mind this does not lessen the message at all it just means that there may be more work to be done than even these practitioners may be able to fully comprehend for many reasons. Maybe they are viewing their own work with rose-colored glasses; which is always ironic because it is often coaches/teachers who believe that parents are the primary population where this exists. Maybe they are aware of what is happening, and not happening, in their program but chalk it up to having a "lesser" population or individual they are working with.

None of this changes the fact that at whatever level we are talking about if what you observe actually happening in programming is less than what you expected this just demonstrates that in virtually every population there is room for growth. Some of the solutions for such problems are simple and some are more complex. The skill-set required to be a leader of excellence is truly vast.

Similar dialogue is profiled in the excellent book "Higher, Faster, Stronger" where Peter Vint refers the author to the text "Better", on the process of improved medical care, where the author Atul Gawande notes, "we have not effectively used the abilities science has already given us. And we have not made remotely adequate efforts to change that." So again it is worth noting that if there are things being missed in the process of physical preparation these are simply gaps that must be filled. If those who have brought things to this point have missed them then the responsibility falls on us to continue to find ways to address them. Sometimes we are not ready to run the program we want to run because the program we are running is insufficient.

Someone who talks about training one person may have limited knowledge in how to make a program run in a group or team environment but you can be damn sure that what they are able to do in their environment can add a special amount of focus that often gets lost in the process when we lose sight of the individual. Can they do your job as a team/group coach? Maybe not, but what they can do can only help you.

I was inspired recently when I had the opportunity to see expert performance coach Mark McLaughlin give his talk "Learning To Train One" at Mike Robertson and Bill Hartmann's Midwest Performance Enhancement Seminar. Mark's points resonated strongly because I have coached in many different environments with large groups of 25-50, in a University team environment, and with individuals/small groups. Many of us have this diversity in our backgrounds but for those who do not and may be very dialed in to your specific experience with either teams or individuals there are some things that do not translate easily across these training populations. Yet if you have not learned how to effectively train one person there is no sense in deluding yourself into believing you are prepared to train 10, 15, or 20+ people. Mark is right it all starts with one. Sometimes not even one person. It may be one correction. Of attitude in groups or making one positive change, one person at a time in a team. Mark's approach is uncompromising but his laser-like focus on excellence and quality translates across all populations. He does not tolerate less and he talked consistently of teachable moments and holding athletes accountable for a higher standard.

In the past I had a colleague who because we had a falling out I will only refer to as CV. To this day I still tell people that there is something special about what CV concentrates on and the questions CV ponders. Yet in dialogue we shared with another colleague whom I consider a mentor my opinion was that CV approached it from a very disrespectful place. CV simply could not understand why my mentor would allow things to be done the way they were in his program. My opinion was that my mentor has always done an outstanding job, keeps athletes/clients healthy and happy, and if there was anything being left on the table in development it was up to people like CV and myself to find ways to do the job better. If others are unconvinced that the changes you believe are necessary are possible then if you believe they are important enough you have to make them. Be the change. Lead the way.

Telling someone you can do the job better is not doing it better. Seeing what someone else has built as a program and picking at it is not the same thing as building a program, a business, and a culture. Maybe your skills are better suited for improving on something that has already been developed, for consulting, but you do not know that you have the skills and ability to build that program from nothing unless you have done it; which let's face it those who have spend less time talking about it from that perspective. Therefore you may never get the opportunity to do what you are truly great at if you do not have the ability to collaborate successfully and humbly learn from everyone. Have the humility to listen and learn, to contribute and challenge others respectfully when necessary, and represent positive change in what you do.

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