What a Postal Carrier and Childbirth Reminded Me About Coaching…

October 7, 2014 / General
What a Postal Carrier and Childbirth Reminded Me About Coaching…

Almost three weeks ago, my amazing wife Mary Kate gave birth to our second child (and first daughter), Macy Anne. Even with another C-section for my wife, this was a much more tolerable experience than our first go-around with our son Cody.  Being around a new hospital with new doctors and somewhat of a “what to expect” mentality allowed us to be more at peace with the process and end result which was a beautiful, strong little girl and a faster recovery for my wife.

Side Bar: But, let’s be honest. For the soon to be dad, it never really changes. You still sleep on a god-awful recliner that doesn’t want to stay open. The TV in you room is stuck on one channel with no volume and the AC unit somehow says 68 degrees but it feels hotter than the turf in Sun Devil Stadium. And I still don’t understand why they don’t feed us? I mean seriously, I’m staying at the hospital too chief!

One way or another, I came out of the hospital four days later happy, calm and ready to take on the world with +1 to our family. Despite sleep deprivation and an IV bag of coffee attached to my arm, the development of coaching and the entire continuum of how to make an impact amongst every athlete I come across still rattled in my head, louder than ever. And during my stay, I couldn’t stop thinking about one book that I recommend all our interns read their very first week, The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn and how the simplest of things can make or break such a beautiful experience like childbirth. Our experience at Monmouth Medical Center was filled with “Fred-like experiences” throughout our entire stay, easing our thoughts and fears before the real challenges began when we got home.

The Fred Factorfred is the story of a postman named Fred who delivers mail to his customers. Now, Fred isn’t any regular postman. Fred simply takes the ordinary job of delivering mail and makes it extraordinary by all means. He connects with his customers, goes above and beyond without being told to and takes the extra step when no one is looking. He sees an opportunity to make a difference in every task or situation around him, teaching us valuable lessons for both our careers and personal lives that not only enhance our productivity, but our overall happiness as well.

And it is because of our recent stay in the hospital that I felt compelled to compare our experience with the Fred Factor and how we can relate it to coaching.

Now, to get you in the same mindset as me, I want you to think about a few situations that may have occurred to you over the years…

Have you ever sat a table, only to wait almost 10 minutes to have someone snarl at you and ask you what you want to eat without introducing herself or welcoming you to the restaurant?

Or said hello to a cashier or gas attendant only to be asked “Will that be all” or “How much?” without any ounce of sincerity?

Or even work with people that bicker, complain and flat out suck the energy out of you and everyone around them when doing easy or simple tasks in the office?

I have. And I can’t stand it.

The biggest take-a-ways I got from the Fred Factor and what I hope our interns understand are what’s called the Four Principles. It was a simple four-day stay in a hospital that reminded me of how these very four principles should drive and shape the work place each and everyday to create the very best experience for customers (athletes, clients or whomever). Hopefully, you can see how important these basic principles are in not just coaching, but also outside the weight room.

1) Everyone Can Make a Difference

Do your coaches and interns truly understand their roles and what it means to be in the position they are in?

Do they understand that what they do, regardless of how much glitz and glamor it may or may not hold, has a valid and important purpose in your department or business plan?

I remember getting upset and often frustrated with all the data collection I had to enter in during my first years of coaching. Having a constant case of  “Excel Eyes” and triple checking all my work to make sure I didn’t miss anything while it appeared the people above me were sitting around not doing anything productive.

Or maybe it was little things like weight room set-up, equipment reorganization or cleaning that never seemed to change or end. I mean, how many ways can you honestly reconfigure a weight room with the same equipment? (My record is 9).

But it wasn’t until I became a head coach and director that I realized how much OTHER stuff needed to be done while the data was being entered or the weight room was being set-up, broken down or changed. Wait, you mean there’s more than just blowing the whistle and slow clapping the breakdown?

directorWhat reminded me of this very principle was simply everyone that worked tirelessly inside the hospital walls during my wife’s stay. Everyone from the security officer at the front desk (who coincidentally has the title of Director of First Impressions), the ladies behind the cafeteria food and the nursing staff (shout out to Patti’s niece!).  Things like getting easy directions for take-out food, second helpings or special food requests for my wife and the late night search for some K-cups on the recovery floor. Surely not the people or jobs we may label as “impact makers” like doctors, but nevertheless valuable people and positions that make the world of difference during a life changing experience.

So the next time you find someone on your staff complaining about the little things, explain to them why what they do is so important and how their purpose and position assists the greater overall picture of success.

Or if you catch yourself doing the very same thing, remember the last time the waitress kept forgetting to fill your water glass or the bus-boy who didn’t take your dirty plate before adding another plate to the table…

2) Everything Is Built On Relationships

How many times have you heard one-liners like the following?

  • Communication in the key to success
  • Success is built on relationships
  • A successful relationship is built on trust

Regardless of the situation, a known and proven fact is that everything IS built on relationships. From hiring a babysitter to marrying your soul mate, the value of a healthy relationship is priceless. Despite challenges in getting to know people or figuring out if they are a good fit (think hiring new interns or coaches), the ability to connect amongst people you spend most of your time with throughout your life is vital to happiness and success.

Have you ever coached in toxic environment where you dreaded going into work everyday, only counting down the minutes where you could go home and prevent falling asleep to bring tomorrow closer?

Or fail to connect with an athlete who seems to just take what you say to him/her, spit it back onto your coaching shoes and walk away, not giving a damn of who you are or what you’re TRYING to say?

Relationships are the glue that keeps teams together. It’s getting to know people for who they are, not what they do. Who would’ve thought the woman responsible for keeping our hospital room clean used to be an elementary school teacher until she had to move to Puerto Rico and take care of her dying father?

Or the guy working the security “buzz-in” to the maternity ward was working two other jobs to help put his daughter through college?

Sure. Maybe getting to know people like that isn’t your thing. But, it’s amazing when people in those positions actually open up to you and then go the extra step for your care/service because you simply said more than hello to them.

3) Continually Create Value For Others

I get it. We’ve all got only 24 hours in a day. From the Fortune 500 company CEO to the free intern who is driving 2 hours round-trip to spend her time shadowing your groups/teams, it’s all the same. But, we’ve learned to accept that the most successful people spend their time more efficiently and effectively, constantly engineering success by creating value for not just themselves, but for others.

How many of you reading this have someone that might look up to you as a role model? Maybe an athlete, a coach, an intern or even a family member that constantly seeks your approval or wishes to learn from you? Are you PAYING IT FORWARD by teaching those who wish to be taught everything that someone along your very own development took the time to do for you?

Or are you brushing them off to the side, claiming you have no time or putting it on someone else because you’re too busy?

I started the Young Strength Coaches Corner for this very reason; to provide leadership and guidance to young and upcoming coaches so that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes me and other veteran coaches have already made or currently are making. By placing a premium on teaching and mentoring, we are able to share articles, insights and life experiences to ensure a greater end result; better coaching. While we have grown older and gotten busier with growing families and new jobs, the very premise of why we still exist still rings loudly; to create and recreate value for all those that are charged with making a difference in athletes’ lives; the coaches themselves.

YSCC4) Reinvent Yourself Regularly

This is my favorite one of all. It reminds all of us that despite the bad day we had yesterday or the grogginess and fatigue that sets in towards the end of a 12-hour grind, we have the power to be different and “reset” for tomorrow. Not one action or one behavior defines who we are, but rather it’s a collection of every experience, both good and bad that truly shapes who we are as coaches and people.

Sometimes we’re going to snap. Sometimes we’re going to say or do things we wish we didn’t. And as much as we wish we could take them back, we can’t. We fail forward by learning what we did and what we should’ve done to make sure the next time we’re in that very same position, we are armed for the appropriate response. And before the next opportunity arises, you’re fresh with a clean slate and ready for anything your way.

So, whether you’re a volunteer assistant, big-time head coach or simply a parent that helps out in your child’s youth league, are you a FRED? Can you make the ordinary EXTRAORDINARY and make a difference in this world? Will you provide value and appreciate the power of relationships? And when it hits the fan, will you have the power to rinse, repeat and start over?

I hope so. Because there are a lot of athletes out there counting on it…

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