Sunday, November 5, 2017

We Have One Agenda: Excellence

The sign, posted by Anson Dorrance, in the UNC Women's soccer locker room reads, 

We Have One Agenda: Excellence 

Ego and agenda can derail success. Kevin Eastman says, "fight for your culture every day." Steve Kerr focuses on three areas - mindset, mentorship, and culture. And the foundation for some of his philosophy is a 1972 tennis book. Here is the best brief summary. Unsurprisingly, the Inner Game reflects Kerr's beliefs about mindfulness

1) There are two games that we all play, an Outer Game and an Inner Game.
2) Learning is easy and incredible when we tap into our natural learning state. We interfere with natural learning by commands, demands, judgments, and criticism.
3) The key to success and top-performance is to ACT (Awareness, Choice, Trust).
4) Trying fails; Awareness cures.
5) Permission to fail leads to success.
6) We learn best via experiential learning.
7) Awareness is fed and nourished on sensory specific feedback.
8) Our focus of attention is the secret to mastery.
9) Success involves getting the clearest possible picture of your outcomes.
10) Success depends on mobility and flexibility.
11) When we create ‘think space’ we can step back and make clear decisions. Gallwey describes this using the acronym STOP: Step back, Think, Organize your thinking, Proceed.
12) We coach best through getting into the head of our client. 

The Navy SEALs preach priorities and emphasis through "Commander's Intent" to achieve the intermediate stages en route to end state. Without a clear vision of a successful end state, victory is problematic. From, "Commander’s Intent empowers initiative, improvisation, and adaptation by providing guidance of what a successful conclusion looks like. Commander’s Intent is vital in chaotic, demanding, and dynamic environments."

New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best in football. His absence corresponded to degraded performance; his return paralleled Super Bowl victory. About tackle Nate Solder (via Mike Reiss) he shares, "He’s done some things with his pass-protection stuff that has helped him improve -- on the punch, his hand use is much more violent, much more physical and less reactive/more proactive...I think this guy is really driven to be a good football player, and he’s worked at the things he can fix, and he’s working hard to improve." The obvious messages are control, toughness, and work. 

Gregg Popovich has one picture in his office. “That’s the only picture in my office...I don’t think he thinks a lot about what I think. He’s John Havlicek.” I remember watching a diminished warrior Havlicek from the cheap seats in Boston Garden during the 1973 series against the Knicks. 

Relationships define us. Popovich has a special relationship with fellow greybeard Manu Ginobili. They reached an understanding. Gary Washburn writes, "‘I am Manu, this is what I do.’ I said, ‘OK, you go ahead and try to save one or two of those passes per game and I’ll shut up one or two times when they happen during the game.’

We practice an "open domain." Popovich, Steve Kerr, Brad Stevens, or Dwane Casey could spend hours explaining their systems unconcerned that we could coopt their programs. They're simply better at doing what they do. But the magic is always in the work. Injured Gordon Hayward discussed the Celtics' early success, "I think we’re competing, we’re playing extremely hard. That’s the first step."

Basketball has no cabal. Washburn writes of Lonzo Ball, "An NBA scout said at summer league that Ball would struggle to shoot because he can only shoot off the lefthanded dribble. Teams are going to force Ball to the right, where he appears uncomfortable with his shot. The fact that he releases the ball from his midsection (and not above his head like most shooters) is hurting his ability to get his shot off."

"How do I get better today?" 

If excellence came easily, everyone would stake their claim. I see personal excellence as an asymptote, an intractable worthy goal. 

Reading, reflecting, thinking, seeking feedback, searching for solutions via better questions, mindfulness, and crafting our process offer progress along the asymptote. Why not have one agenda: excellence? 

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