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Learning from A Master: Review of “Bear Bryant, CEO”

Learning from A Master: Review of “Bear Bryant, CEO”

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    Richard Truman.  2006.  Bear Bryant, CEO.  Sweetwater Press.

    Legendary coaches are great sources of inspiration and wisdom, and Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, the iconic coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide from the late 1950s through the early 1980s, is revered as something approaching a minor deity in the state of Alabama.  There is a museum named for him at the University of Alabama (my alma mater), and every year adds a new pile of books to the literature on the man and his legacy.  Last Christmas, I was given a copy of Bear Bryant, CEO, a short volume that compiles anecdotes and quotes from the great coach’s career.  As one might expect, it’s a very easy read, and its contents are a great source of inspiration even when they are almost creepily reverential at times.  There is much we can take away from the book, and even if you aren’t an Alabama football fan you might find it useful.  Here are a few takeaway points.

    Fundamentals Matter. Bryant, “the master of hard work and determination” (p. 7), was obsessed with perfect fundamentals.  This paid off handsomely everywhere he went and culminated in six national championships during his tenure at the University of Alabama.  Sound fundamentals mean not having to think about the basics and, therefore, having more time and energy to devote to higher-level creative projects.

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    Principles Matter. Bryant was also devoted to principle in part because of the way compromising his principles would change incentives.  When it was suggested by higher-ups that Bryant compromise his principles at the University of Maryland, he resigned instead.  This didn’t seem to affect his job prospects: he left Maryland for the University of Kentucky and went on to become one of the most successful and revered coaches in the history of sports.

    Details and Delegation.  Bryant also noticed the little things and delegated authority where necessary, all the while shouldering blame when things went wrong and making absolutely certain that everyone knew that he was the boss.  The book relates a story about Bryant talking to one of his assistant coaches before a game.  Bryant notices that the wind is a little peculiar and suggests that his assistant take this into consideration.  This illustrates a couple of important things.  First, Bryant paid attention to a small detail that might matter.  Second, he has delegated its analysis to a trusted subordinate.  This allows him, as head coach, to focus on bigger and more important issues.

    Just Do It.  Bryant was a doer, not a dreamer, and he expected nothing less from his players: “(i)t’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.”  This was also reflected on a plaque Bryant allegedly had in his home: “Ask God to bless your work.  Do not ask Him to do it for you.”

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    Know What Your Time is Worth.  Bryant was extremely conscientious about making the best use of his time.  A poem Bryant was fond of sharing with friends is entitled “What I Have Traded”:

    This is the beginning of a new day.
    God has given me this day to use as I will.
    I can waste it or I can use it for good.

    What I do today is very important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it.
    When tomorrow comes this day will be gone, forever,
    Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.

    I want it to be gain, not loss, good, not evil,
    Success, not failure, in order that I shall not
    forget the price I paid for it.

    For Bryant, every minute of every day was precious.  It’s difficult to imagine him (or, say, Joe Paterno) frittering away a morning on Facebook.

    Always Evaluate What You’re Doing and Don’t Be Afraid to Change.  As the 1970s started, Bryant’s Alabama teams had weathered a few down years and people were wondering if Bryant was washed up.  A few weeks before the start of the 1971 season, he installed the wishbone offense.  This set the stage for unprecedented dominance as the Crimson Tide went on to compile a record of 103-16-1 in the 1970s.

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    There is much to be learned about productivity and discipline from great coaches like Bear Bryant, John Wooden, Woody Hayes, and others.  Bear Bryant, CEO is an interesting contribution to the “management and leadership lessons from coaches” genre, and it will probably be interesting even to people aren’t Alabama Crimson Tide devotees.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2019

    15 Smart Ways to Approach Interpersonal Relationships at Work

    15 Smart Ways to Approach Interpersonal Relationships at Work

    Once you have embarked on your professional life, whether it is after college or high school, you will be making a transition to the workplace. If possible, it is good to find an employer that is flexible. In other words, one that possesses a culture that is diverse and tailors to the needs of its employees as a bottom line.

    But, even if you don’t land your dream job right away, there are many ways to improve your experiences within the workplace as you climb the career ladder.

    In the subsequent sections will be looking over ways to engage your relationships at work, including 15 ways to effectively approach interpersonal relationships at the workplace.

    1. Open Up Cautiously

    Depending on if its a startup, a small business, enterprise or corporation it’s important to be aware of your surroundings.

    Be mindful of how much you open up about yourself, specifically regarding your personal life. You do not want to give the wrong impression, so be careful how much or what details you divulge about being in a relationship or having children.

    You have to reach a certain comfort level and rapport with the rest of the staff to be able to engage in transparent conversations. A good general guideline is to stick to small talk.

    2. Observe Your Surroundings

    There will be times when we are summoned to have a leadership role or to undertake a project to lead a team.

    Try not to be too bold or overcompensate at every turn when there is a meeting or an interaction among other staff or employees. The last thing you want to do is to be the person who wants to monopolize every conversation and every interaction.

    Be a passive observer at first, and more often than not, you will learn a lot by letting others talk a lot about themselves.

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    3. Listen Actively

    It may seem redundant, but it is essential to practice the art of really listening to the other person.

    Developing interpersonal skills and connections with others at work comes down to listening. It is not just paraphrasing what your superiors or colleagues are trying to communicate; it is about understanding what is at the core and reading between the lines.

    Phrases like “I can see what you are saying” or “I can acknowledge your insight” are just some examples. Learn to empathize and relate with people with whom you have a genuine connection.

    4. Consolidate All Feedback

    When you learn to listen to others and to allow them to finish their thoughts you are on your way to be being a great communicator.

    One of the toughest tasks to accomplish is to include everyone’s voice. Don’t rely on shout-outs or trying to come up with the best answer. Including everyone’s voice is about listening to all suggestions and putting together an entire picture. When everyone feels part of the process there is great cohesion.

    5. Never Make Sweeping Judgements

    As person and a human being with compassion never make any assumptions about anyone.

    Just because they have a certain skin color, clothes or physical features, never make stereotypical or generalizations about anyone.

    6. Keep Emotions in Check

    Work-related stress is something we all have to deal with at some point or another. Whether you work in the public or private sector you will encounter stressors or stressful co-workers. In this case, it is good to keep open the lines of communications.

    Always ask to clarify how a person feels and where they are coming from. It is better to entertain these conversations before they make a person lash out or have a negative reaction. Ask to speak privately and get feedback. When you do this it really shows you care about what your role is and that you are a true professional.

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    7. Give Help to Others

    Having compassion and empathy for others is a noble attitude to practice.

    Though, do be careful about how much you want to get involved with colleagues at the office; it could jeopardize the nature of your work relationship and the roles you both have.

    It’s best to separate the personal from the professional and lend a hand by using your best judgement.

    8. Broaden Your Horizons

    Once you have worked in a company or an organization, things can get repetitive and dull. Sometimes we need to remember that we are human and need to fulfill certain responsibilities.

    Often we want to try to change things by introducing our best abilities or perhaps our inventions, but we need to be realistic. Change does not happen overnight, rather it is a long process.

    Step back and take a look at the big picture, and, put all your cards on the table to get perspective. Sometimes we approach situations in life from the wrong point-of-view.

    9. Be Optimistic

    This is probably one you have heard time and time again.

    When we suggest to have a positive attitude it does not mean to fake it until you make it, nor to conceal your feelings. This is not the case in this situation. Overall, you want to try to be authentic in how you are feeling, because life will throw curve balls that are beyond our control.

    10. Be Sensitive to Cultural Norms

    Whenever you are around other people within a professional workspace, do not make assumptions in trying to figure people out in an instant.

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    Some cultures discourage physical contact, while others may be inviting. Always be courteous, respectful and ask questions. It will not only make you more aware of others’ needs, but show that you are considerate of the differences.

    You do not want to get off on the wrong foot by being too friendly or too touchy. Just observe how people respond to your approach and let them lead the way of what is a safe practice to meet and greet the first time around.

    11. Show Professionalism

    How you interact and carry yourself around others will be the difference between a job promotion or losing your job. No matter what, always respectful and professional towards others.

    You will have an opportunities in life and at work, so showcase an outpouring of great and positive energy in the face of adversity.

    12. Get Involved with Activities

    When you are part of a company, there are often opportunities for organized activities outside of the office space.

    Sometimes it is worth exploring uncharted terrain and to get to know people in a different environment. Plus, you will have an opportunity to be seeing in a different light.

    Even though you are off the clock, keep your professional tenure and set boundaries. You want to be vulnerable, but not put yourself in a comprising position. Use your intuition and common sense to evaluate these situations.

    13. Get to Know Your Company

    With your smartphone or your laptop, you have at your fingertips a mine of information online. Just as you would do before a job interview, conduct ample research to get familiarized with what your company does and how its branding is perceived via the media or social networks.

    Rather than just focusing on doing your job and fulfilling the duties, see what the business is up to. It is fundamental to really know what organization you belong to. Get educated on what other ventures they are involved with as well as the ones that you are directly in the know about.

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    14. Learn to Problem Solve

    Problem solving is going to be a skill you will acquire with experience and by making mistakes. Furthermore, not only will you make mistakes but you will likely also sometimes fail. This is okay and is part of the natural swing of things!

    Learn to take responsibility for your actions and decisions. At the same time, do not blame others for coming up short. When you come forward with the truth and responsibility, your supervisors or superiors will take notice of your authenticity.

    One of the greatest gifts in life is fail and once you experience you start to get a different perspective on how to move forward at the job.

    15. Do Some Prospecting

    If you have coding, computer, language or other beneficial skills, be sure to pitch these at the right time.

    When you start out new at a company it is best not to show all your cards. It is like poker: don’t let others see if you believe you have the upper hand. Take time to get familiarized with your company and organization before promoting your outside skillset.

    You will know when to put forward your amazing talents, so proceed with caution.

    Conclusion

    Learning to refine your interpersonal skills is a lifelong process. In time, you will also became more effective and skillful after accumulating work-related experiences.

    Exert humility, understanding, compassion, and mindfulness and the rewards will come!

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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