Be it the president of a Fortune 500 company or the head coach of a high school football program, an integral ingredient to the success formula is culture. Developing a culture with strong values from top to bottom is vital for organizational improvement and maintenance. Many times, it starts with a declaration during a president’s “state-of-the-business” address or the head coach’s call to action as part of introductory speech upon accepting the job. According to the CEO of Focus 3, an industry at the forefront of organizational leadership and performance, this is only the beginning.
“It’s not so much what the head coach of a program believes, it’s what he is doing to ensure the belief is passed along to the assistants, the players and others involved,” said Brian Kight during an interview on USA Football’s “Coach and Coordinator” podcast hosted by Keith Grabowski. “All coaches and players must be equally committed to the message. Particularly, the head coach must make sure it’s more than just talking the talk. There has to be a concerted effort to make sure all coaches are relaying the program’s culture through actions as well.”
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Kight is quick to point out a huge pitfall many new head coaches do not avoid is the practice of focusing first on the athletic system. Instead of worrying about the content of the playbook or which offseason conditioning program the team will follow, coaches need to focus on what Kight calls the human system. “The athletic portion is directly tied to the human system,” said Kight. “Clarity, the ability to find an edge over others is most important. The alignment begins at the core. Yes, strategy is important but there’s only so much of that. The issue is culture. Solidify the culture and all of a sudden those worries about player on-field assignments, technique and specific player roles become easier, and that’s due to the human system infiltrating the athletic system.”
Alignment is a common football coaching term. If players are not aligning properly during the game taught in practices throughout the week, coaches know there will be a greater chance of failure. Kight is adamant about the importance of culture alignment within a program as well.
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“Do my actions match my words?” asked Kight. “Athletes hear you, but the fact is they are watching you more closely than what their ears pick up. A head coach must analyze the coaching staff to ensure no assistants are sending out a different message through their actions.”
According to Kight, most people will process your message in this order:
“Often, coaches reverse this,” said Kight. “They hear from us and coaches think that is the priority. Then, coaches don’t align with what others feel and hear from them.”
Just as subordinates in the business world are uncomfortable when they find out their direct report or higher aren’t living the company culture, it is often difficult for an assistant coach to speak up if the head coach’s actions aren’t matching with their culture change announcement. “If the head coach isn’t doing it,” Kight started, “the assistant must address the problem. Getting the proper attention to the human system will put the program far ahead of other teams where coaches think athletic system first.”
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