Daily Short-hOPT: Teach and Empower

“Zim will be a great head coach because he’s a great teacher. First and foremost that’s what makes a great coach.” – Cincinnati Bengal Chris Crocker on former Bengals coach Mike Zimmer being hired as head coach for the Minnesota Vikings (via Brad Johansen – @bradjohansen)

As coaches, what are our top priorities? Winning? Accolades? What about Mentoring or Teaching? Winning and Accolades go hand-in-hand as much as Mentoring and Teaching do. You can achieve the first two without really doing the other two, unfortunately. More fulfilling (and more transformational) would be to gain the first two through use of the other two; in other words, using Teaching and Mentoring to eventually equal Winning and Accolades.

I grabbed Chris Crocker’s singular quote today to illustrate this point, but in his tenure in Cincinnati, I have heard people talk about Mike Zimmer as a teacher on several occasions. Conversely, I read a blog post earlier today that discussed a high school baseball coach who used screaming, yelling and grandstanding to mask his lack of knowledge of the game and his inability to relate to his players. In a recent conversation with Jeremy Baioni, Head Baseball Coach at Highlands, something he said stood out to me: “Our players trust us and we trust our players. They are not afraid to ask why we are doing something a particular way. I try to emphasize “the why”. Anyone can tell a player what to do but when a player asks why you are doing it a certain way, you better be ready to explain, in detail, why you chose this method over another. This will get them to “buy in” to your program. Once you explain it and “own it”, you get a lot less resistance when you introduce something. The players start to trust you more.” To me, this is teaching at its most base level. This is giving your players the knowledge to understand and a reason to follow and trust you. This is what great coaches and leaders do.

Another trait that makes a great leader is the ability to empower others. Say what you will about Marvin Lewis (head coach, Cincinnati Bengals), but offhand, I can think of four coaches who have been hired as head coaches of other NFL teams that worked under Lewis at some point (Leslie Frazier, Hue Jackson, Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer). What this tells me is that Marvin Lewis empowers those that follow him to be the absolute best they can be. What it also tells me is that Marvin Lewis isn’t afraid to hire the best. I know some coaches that have to have all the knowledge and power and prefer to work with those that they deem inferior to themselves. This is not leading. This is dictatorship. This only works for the dictator. In our leadership positions, we should want to hire those that want to advance. These are the folks that will work hard and have the desire to be better.

True leaders teach and empower. Let’s work toward that.

Have an awesome Wednesday,




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