Make Minor Adjustments

Leadership Lessons from NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick

Last Sunday I found myself at an unlikely place. I spent the day at Texas Motor Speedway and got the chance to meet Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, and Tony Stewart. One thing that I knew going into the event was that some of those guys more than their fair share of fans and “haters.”

Part of the race experience for me that day was the opportunity for a very intimate question and answer period with Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer who would strap in and race later that afternoon. We also got the chance to listen to Tony Stewart tells stories and talk about his life in retirement from NASCAR racing. I am not a big NASCAR fan. But I really enjoyed the Q&A session and it provided a leadership lesson that I don’t think Kevin Harvick intended to provide. He just provided a bit of an inside look at the complex nature of modern racing and the importance of making minor adjustments.

The need for getting the best out of ourselves and our equipment

Kevin Harvick discussed his qualifying runs earlier in the week and how he felt the #4 car was performing. After his final qualifying run, he felt that he was about two and a half tenths of a second from where he needed to be to be competitive on Sunday afternoon. He said, “I told Tony (Stewart) that I have one-tenth of a second still in me and I can squeeze that out on Sunday. And after we tweak the lubrication (the Mobil 1 oil) I know we can get at least another tenth and a half from the oil.”

The importance of two and a half tenths of a second

Something about that “two and a half tenths of a second” kept bouncing around inside my head on Sunday. I thought about it all the way home from Fort Worth to Houston. So, I did a little math. Here is what that two and a half tenths of a second means to a professional race car driver like Kevin Harvick.

  • Harvick’s average speed for the race on Sunday was 187.415 miles per hour.
  • At that speed, he is traveling 277 feet per second.
  • In .25 seconds he travels 69 feet.
  • The race was a 500-mile race.
  • 500 miles is 2,640,000 feet.
  • 69 feet represents .00002614 percent of the total length of the race.

Do you see that? Harvick is concerned about only 69 feet of a race that is more than 2.64 million feet in length. But .00002614 is the difference between winning and coming in somewhere else back in the pack.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

Click here to read the rest of the article »

You Have To Be Able To Take The Coaching

Advice from Tom Brady that we all need to hear.

I have two favorite professional football teams. They are the Houston Texans and anyone who beats the Patriots. I don’t like their coach. And I don’t like their quarterback. But, when Tom Brady speaks the truth, I must acknowledge it.

One of the articles that crossed my newsfeed this weekend was an article on ESPN.com that gave some advice from Tom Brady of the New England Patriots to Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans. His advice was as profound as it was simple. “Listen to ‘demanding’ Bill O’Brien.

Here is a little more of what Tom Brady had to say to the ESPN reporter.

“Billy’s certainly [demanding],” Brady said. “They’re all demanding. That’s what makes them great coaches. They have a sense of urgency every day. They care very deeply about how the team is performing. They want every player on the roster to perform at a very high level every day, and that’s a lot of pressure for players. And I think putting pressure on players is critical to getting the best out of them, because players need to be pushed. There needs to be high demand placed on what we’re doing, and typically players that don’t like that are probably the ones that don’t last very long, in my experience in the NFL.”

There seems to be more to this statement than the obvious coach and player relationship. Brady is acknowledging that Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien, the former assistant coach for the New England Patriots, is a little tough sometimes. Brady calls him “demanding.”

Demanding

What does it mean to be demanding? When referring to a task, the dictionary says it is about requiring much skill or effort.When referring to a person it says it is about making others work hard or meet high standards. So, why the negative connotation to the word demeaning?

One of the things sorely lacking today is any semblance of high standards and expectations. We don’t have any for those who lead us. And we don’t often have any for ourselves when it comes to our own performance.

Is there value in having a demanding coach?

Click here to read the rest of the article »

The Lost Art of the Handshake

And why it really matters.

The Lost Art of the Handshake

You wouldn’t think this sort of article would be necessary, would you?  Unfortunately, it is.  It seems that men shaking hands is a bit of a lost art.

Consider the handshake.  Historical customs indicate that the handshake is commonly done upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement. In sports or other competitive activities, it is also done as a sign of good sportsmanship. Its purpose is to convey trust, balance, and equality.

Let’s Start With the Basics

Handshake 1This is a handshake.

Handshake 2This is not.

Handshake 3Neither is this.

Handshake 5I don’t even know what this is!

Why does a handshake matter?

The importance of a good, strong, firm handshake cannot be overstated. When you shake hands with a leader you figure out pretty quickly what kind of person that you’re dealing with. If you are dealing with a confident person, a serious person, and a person not to be “trifled” with you will receive a solid, firm and strong handshake and you will receive direct eye-contact. If you experience something other than that, you may have doubts about the person you are greeting.

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Going 1-on-1

Leadership Development

going-1-on-1

There are a lot of concepts and skills that can be communicated in group settings. Seminars and conferences are great forums for idea and information exchange. But, if you want transformation and not just information when it comes to leadership development, then you may want to consider going “1-on-1.”

I am incredibly blessed with a small cadre of leaders that I go 1-on-1 with on a regular basis. The frequency is not as often with some of them as I would like. However, the key is that I am talking or meeting with them in a focused 1-on-1 setting. It may be over the phone, but it is 1-on-1 and there are no other voices distracting us from our reason for being together.

Why 1-on-1?

The main reason for going 1-on-1 is that it forms an intimate and a private conversation between the two participants. It is in those moments that real dialog can occur. You can offer and receive significant feedback that would just not be appropriate in a group setting. And you can forge a relationship that will be sustained and strengthened by committing that time together.

What would we talk about?

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Full Contact Leadership

Are You Ready For Some Football?

full-contact-leadership

We are in the beginnings of football season. The college season started two weeks ago and the pro season started last week. But, teams have been practicing for quite a while.

I played football many years ago in high school. To be honest, I wasn’t that good at it. But I remember it well. And I was thinking about those experiences recently.

If you ever played football in an organized fashion you will remember that there were multiple kinds of practices. In the summer, there were “2-a-Days”. Those were a morning session of practice followed by lunch followed by another practice followed by complete exhaustion. There were “Walk-Throughs”. Those were usually conducted in very light athletic gear. That meant that we wore no pads and sometimes even wore no helmet since no one was going to get hit. They usually were more strategic and educational. The coach taught us new plays and showed us our blocking and routes.

Full Contact Leadership

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Simple Leadership

The Importance of Basics and Fundamentals

Simple Leadership

I love it when an article strikes a chord in someones brain and creates a strong enough wave that they publicly comment on it. Such was the case in last week’s article about my haircut experiences over time.

One commenter (whom I have excerpted and edited) said the following:

I don’t disagree with the thought that simplicity in life and leadership is a worthwhile pursuit. When I gained most of my experience we had the philosophy, “KISS”, Keep It Simple, Stupid. But I wonder after reading your post, if our issue is that everyone wants to be different — to be separated from the pack.

Do you think the value proposition here is “Chair Cut” on the inside, “House Cut” on the outside? I don’t want to be like everyone else. I guess I see where the relief stems from — less to worry about, relieve some stress.

Simple may be better, but I think I want my leader to be a Chair Cut.

Wow! That has some profound implications. And in retrospect, I was looking at the impact of simplification solely from my perspective and not from the perspective of those around who follow me.

So, let’s consider the impact of being a Simple Leader.

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Sincere

Sincerely Wrong

Sincere

I have become a huge baseball fan over the past few years. I won’t go into why or how I became a baseball fan so late in life. But, trust me. It’s a good story.

I saw this quote one night a few years ago while skimming the sports news. Apparently, Yadier Molina, the catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals was thrown out for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire Paul Schreiber on that particular night. Now according to the rules of baseball (both the written AND the unwritten ones) you can maybe mutter something under your breath to the umpire. But everyone knows you are going to get tossed out of the game if you argue balls and strikes. And both Molina and his manager Tony La Russa got tossed out of the game that night for doing just that.

But that is not the point of this post. What really struck me was the comments by his manager, Tony La Russa. La Russa knows Yadier Molina well and Molina has a reputation for being competitive, but good to work with from the home plate umpire’s perspective. Here is what La Russa said to the media following the game.

“You try to coach emotion in players, and that’s what competition is about,” La Russa said. “That’s not his style, so evidently he was sincere. And if he’s sincere, what can you say about it?”

Well, I can say a whole lot about it Mr. La Russa!

But what is the Leadership Lesson?

Click here to read the rest of the article »