Bringing Out the Magnificence in Your People

john-calipariLast week I had the chance to spend time with my old friend John Calipari, coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team. I met “Coach Cal” more than 35 years ago at the University of Massachusetts when he was on the coaching staff and I was a faculty member. Through the years, our careers have both been focused on leadership skills—mine emphasizing the development of business leaders and Cal’s concentrating on leading young athletes.

I believe that people want to grow and develop, and that the job of a great leader is to bring out the magnificence in people. I can’t think of a better example of this than Cal.

As I watched Cal working with his team, I asked him about his vision for them. He said, “We’re in the life skills business. We just happen to play basketball.” What a wonderful perspective. As a true servant leader, he wants to prepare these kids for life and help them accomplish their dreams. He realizes that leadership isn’t about him; it’s about the team he serves. In his book Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out, he challenges players to be the best they can be and to help bring out the best in their teammates.

Calipari has led his team to the elusive Final Four tournament three times in the past four years. They won it all in 2012. When asked about that NCAA Championship, he replied, “It isn’t about me. It’s about these 13 players.” He truly trusts that each player has a special skill, talent, or strength and that his job is to help each individual develop to his highest level.

Although Coach Cal starts out with a new team every season and works within a specific time frame, he uses the same skills to build team after successful team. Business leaders can learn a lot from Calipari’s leadership style. All leaders should spend time with their direct reports to understand their individual strengths, help each of them realize their brilliance, and bring out their magnificence. It’s an investment that serves the individual, the leader, and the organization.

Don’t Be a One Dimensional Leader—Adjust Your Style to the Task

Leadership and the One Minute ManagerHarperCollins just released our revised edition of Leadership and the One Minute Manager. Much has changed since the original book was published nearly 30 years ago—workforces are more diverse, workplaces are less centralized, and technology has revolutionized business communications.  Surprisingly, much has remained the same, especially when it comes to managing people.  Today more than ever leaders have to do three important things. First, they have to help people set clear goals. Second, they have to diagnose people’s development level on each task. Third, they have to match their leadership style to the development level of the person they’re leading, to provide that person with what they need to succeed.

Notice I said “diagnose people’s development level on each task.” Even among experienced managers, it’s easy to fall into a trap of seeing people as beginners, or moderately competent, or highly experienced.  When we paint people with a broad brush—for example, assuming that because a person is an expert in one aspect of their job, they’re an expert in all aspects of their job—our assumptions often lead to misunderstandings and poor performance. Continue reading