by Art Turock

Content Guy's Note: I'm not big on consultants as contributing columnists. To be honest, it always feels like they're selling something. Plus, there are websites out there that specialize in consultant commentary. That's a perfectly legitimate business model. Just not mine.

However, today I'm making an exception. Art Turock is a leadership development coach with considerable experience and, more importantly, a unique perspective - he's focused, among other things, on the player development tactics of Pete Carroll, who will lead the Seattle Seahawks into battle on Sunday against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Art has a new book out - "Competent Is Not An Option," which is available from Amazon by clicking on the book cover at left - and in view of the Seahawks' return to the Super Bowl after winning the championship last year, I asked Art to offer what I think is a timely and unique perspective. Enjoy.


“How do we develop leaders who are A-players when there’s barely enough time to get the day’s work done?”

This question poses a dilemma business leaders view as an insurmountable problem inherent with being in business. Solve that dilemma, and you change the game. A game-changer opportunity requires looking in a different direction than your competition. One place to look for solutions is in a disparate field such as sports, where a coach’s top priority is developing an elite performing team.

I’ve been privileged to learn leadership development lessons from Super Bowl winning Head Coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks. While Carroll coached the USC Trojans in 2006-2009, I immersed myself in coaching clinics and watching team practices. Over the next five years, I’ve adapted the best principles from his player development process to help my clients build all-star leadership teams. I’ve field-tested my adaptation, called the Learning-While-Working Process, in year-long leadership development projects, with food industry groups like Deschutes Brewery, Blue, Bunny, Hormel, and Doug’s Market (a two store grocery retailer in Minnesota).

In this article, I will share two vital lessons I learned from Coach Carroll and describe how food industry leaders can employ them in developing elite talent.

Lesson One: COMPETENT PERFORMANCE IS NOT AN OPTION. SET STANDARDS THAT DEFINE ELITE PERFORMANCE..

Coach Carroll says, “If I was writing down the keys to our success, I would write one point: we’re going to do things better than they have ever been done before. We are going to teach, practice, recruit, counsel, analyze, and do everything better than it has ever been done before.”

At first, I relegated Coach Carroll’s outrageous “best-it’s-ever-been-done” standard as the ranting of a Baby-Boomer coach, who never met a positive-thinking course he didn’t like. College jocks who aspire to NFL careers will drink the Kool-Aid, but business executives never will.

But I gradually realized that unless leaders can conceive elite standards, then their team’s performance capacity will conform to an industry’s customary role descriptions.

For instance, what if the supermarket pharmacist wasn’t just a prescription filler? Elite pharmacists could reinvent their roles as cross selling specialists who recommend purchasing produce items and supplements which remedy depletion of vital nutrients caused by pharmaceutical drugs. What if sales reps weren’t merely pitch men offering up boilerplate presentations to extol their company’s brands and capabilities? Elite sales professionals provoke customers detect strategic blind spots and neglected growth opportunities, and then offer unique solutions they would never think to ask for. The goal is for customers to say, “I got so much value from that call, I would have paid for it.”

One of my coaching clients, Chuck Lindner, owner of Doug’s Markets’ requires every employee on the sales floor to track their daily add-on sales generated from offering extra service and relevant suggestions to shoppers.

Lesson Two: LEADERS ORCHESTRATE ELITE HABITS.

Football analysts disparage Pete Carroll’s coaching style as over-the-top positive and new age. Actually, he is old school - like ancient Greece. Coach Carroll frequently refers to a quote from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Habits are reinforced patterns of behavior that are repeated regularly and occur subconsciously and are hard to give up. So habits occur effortlessly–for better or for worse, for excellent or for watered-down decent performance. In Pete Carroll’s coaching style, practice plays a vital role in instilling excellent habits. Any enduring habit consists of a triggering event, which activates a routine, which ultimately leads to a small win.

A trigger is a cue to focus attention to the task at hand. For Carroll’s USC football team, one primary trigger was the day of the week, which calls for a specific practice routine. The practice regimen gets choreographed into a rhythm of varying intensity of physical and mental effort so the team’s performance peaks on game-days.

"Tell the Truth Monday” calls for players and coaches to rigorously study game film and take accountability for problems and successes in their game plan execution to improve the next week’s performance. “Competition Tuesday” focuses on re-energizing players’ competitive instincts to bring ferocious engagement to the drills and scrimmaging. “Turnover Wednesday” casts attention on one single factor that contributes to winning or losing—ball control—to prevent the offensive team’s mistakes (like fumbles and interceptions) while the defensive team aims to cause opponents’ turnovers. “No Repeat Thursday”emphasizes flawless execution of the game plan. “Walk Through Friday” drastically slows down physical effort so players conserve energy while engaging in confidence-building rituals in final preparation for Saturday’s game. This weekly rhythm insures that learning the game plan, physical conditioning, and honing position-specific skills gets accomplished with no wasted effort.

Small wins reinforce the value of practice routines. Each impeccable repetition of an agility drill reflects increased athletic prowess. The coaching staff devises metrics to analyze practice and game film to measure players’ praiseworthy efforts and spot areas for improving movement and split second decision-making. Players get recognized for modeling the teams’ unwavering beliefs: no whining, always protect the team, or always compete.

When Coach Carroll endorsed my ability to translate his player development process to business, he referred to my Learning-While-Working Process, which instills a rhythm for building capabilities while real work is getting done. The Learning-While-Working Process alters the habitual cadence of work from “getting tasks done efficiently” to “engaging customary tasks as learning occasions.” Excellent habits for leadership, customer service or selling can become as automatic as efficiency-driven habits like multi-tasking, winging-it, and micromanaging.

The rhythm to drive the Learning-While-Working Process comes from 5 triggering cues, called the 5Ps. Each of the 5Ps signals team members to choose from a number of time efficient, job-imbedded-development routines. In turn, each P triggers the next one, so there’s a rhythm to direct full engagement with potential learning opportunities designed into the work day.

P1) Prepare: Move from presuming that basic leadership skills are already sufficiently mastered, to requiring clear defining and ongoing refining of basics.

P2) Practice while real work gets done: Move from getting tasks done expediently, to consciously designing and improvising deliberate practice drills in the midst of daily tasks.

P3) Perform in game-on situations: Move from simply going through the motions in getting a task done, to bringing second-nature proficiency to high-stakes situations for improving business results and enhancing learning outcomes (e.g. strategic planning, performance reviews).

P4) Perfect the process: Move from expediently completing an activity, to scrutinizing the just-completed process, in order to extract every bit of learning possible.

P5) Publicize fresh learning: Move from absorbing learning for your own consumption, to sharing learning generously with co-workers, trade association colleagues, LinkedIn group members, even customers.

Any business leader who aspires to stage a game-changer innovation eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon perspective and accompanying work process to leapfrog what’s already being done. In the same way Pete Carroll’s coaching style is called un-football-like, a truly game-changing work process will look un-businesslike since every possible minute isn’t devoted to getting work done efficiently.

If sports champions employ a world-class talent development process, I invite you to make them a source for adapting liberating models, mind-expanding beliefs, and novel best principles. And learning from a Super Bowl-winning coach is a great place to start this journey.


For more information about Art Turock's approach to elite leadership development, go to www.Turock.com.


To order his book, click on the book cover above or go to click here.