Updated: Jul 17, 2019
During the 40+ years that I have been a football coach, I have worked for four great head coaches. They were all very different. Each had a unique way that they did their job. All of them taught me things that I still use today.
They taught me some things that I have tried to avoid. If you are just starting out in your career, I strongly suggest that you set a goal to work for the best mentor that you can find in your field. I also suggest that you work for multiple bosses. When starting out, the experience is more important than money or title. The most important thing you can do is to find a great boss and learn everything you can from him or her. After a few years, go find another great boss to work for.
Here are four things that I believe are important to being a great boss.
1. Let the Bad Stuff Go. In every job, there is bad stuff. A great boss cannot let the bad stuff influence their day to day approach for doing their job. One of my bosses could never let the bad stuff go. He kept a folder in his desk of all the ugly, nasty, and negative letters that he received. Occasionally, he would pull out a particularly nasty letter and read it to the staff. Looking back, I realize that he was hoping we would pick him up and make him feel better about what we were doing; however, it just made all of us feel horrible. A great boss has to be tough enough to take the bad and not let it affect the rest of the organization. If the boss isn’t happy, no one is happy.
2. Embrace Change. Football is constantly changing and so is the world of business and finance. Great bosses must be willing to have an open mind towards change. One of my bosses achieved great success early in his career. He had the blueprint for success. All he had to do was exactly what he had done in the past. It was like the CEO of the united states buggy manufacturer saying, “Forget about Henry Ford. All we have to do is make great buggies.” Our world is changing and changing fast. We have to adapt, adjust, and be willing to change the way we do our jobs. Coaches and business leaders doom themselves to failure when they believe that they never have to change.
3. 99.9% Consistent We all want to know where we stand. It is hard to work for a boss that is always wavering between black and white. The best bosses I had were fanatically consistent in their approach. Wrong was wrong, right was right, good was good, and bad was bad. If things were going well, he was happy. If things were going poorly, he was not happy. We all knew the difference. Some bosses are not that way at all. Their mood dictated their approach to the day. Every interaction was based upon how they felt in that particular space and time. What was good yesterday was horrible today. The line constantly moved up or down based upon some unseen forces. Great bosses do not let their mood affect the way they do their job.
4. Care Enough to Confront I remember going into my first annual job evaluation after I had taken a new job. The boss said, “Hey, you’re doing a great job, sign this.” I was so disappointed. I loved my job, I loved my boss, I loved the guys that I was working with, but I knew that I had not done a great job. Over the years, I have come to understand that I want to work for a boss who loves and cares about me enough that he will tell me what I am doing well and what I need to improve on. I want to get better. I want to be a great coach. I am willing to go through the pain of discomfort if it will make me a better coach. I need a boss that is willing to hurt my feelings, but cares enough to help me get better.
As I write this, I am so thankful for the four great men that have led me over these 40+ years. I am so grateful to them for all they have done for me. Only one of them is still with us, but their influence lives on because of the time and energy they spent with me, teaching me how to be a coach and how to be a man.