The Big Difference

the big d Mar 30, 2023

I live in Athens, GA, the current Mecca of college football. The University of Georgia practice fields are half a mile from our apartment. Sanford Stadium is 1 mile from our doorstep. I also graduated from UGA years ago, so I am a big fan. A lot goes into building a sports dynasty. It starts with great recruiting. Kirby Smart, UGA head coach, once said, “No coach can out coach recruiting.” Competitive recruiting requires building relationships, knowing what players want and need, and being a place that will prepare athletes for the future they want, whether that is pro ball, academic opportunities, or something else. But recruiting is only one part of building a sports dynasty. The other part is The Big “D” – and I’m not talking about defense. The big “D” that separates the top tier from everyone else is “Development.” Emotional development, academic development, physical development, position development, the list goes on and on. Recruiting is where it starts. Development is what turns great talent into great performers.

I work out at the UGA track a couple of days a week. Behind the track is the football weight room and indoor training facility. I see players lifting and working with trainers all year long. One day, in the fall, I was running the stairs at the track and stopped at the top to catch my breath. The weight room was buzzing with players. Some were on machines - others were lifting free weights. A few were on the training tables in the middle. Stetson Bennett was working with a receiver catching short throws in odd places.

As I watched the buzz of activity, I thought about workforce development. Payroll is still one of the largest budget items in most organizations. How much do you invest in the development of your team? I’m not talking about giving them a book or sending them to a seminar. I’m talking about intentional individually focused plans to help everyone on your team become a stronger performer. You update your software multiple times a year. Are you updating your team members and their craft the same way?

If a running back needs to improve, do you think Coach Smart sends him to a seminar on running or gives him a book on running and then expect him to apply it on his own? Absolutely not. Running backs watch films, work with their position coaches, practice specific moves, work on techniques, meet with sports psychologists, and more. Great sports programs meet people where they are and take them where they need them to be. Great leaders do the same. They meet people where they are and develop them into the people they need.

The reality in most organizations is that workforce development is a selective resource. For the average team member it doesn't exist. We hire the best talent we can find and afford. We then give them information and turn them loose, expecting them to apply the information on their own with minimal follow-up. We only assess people's growth when there is a problem. That strategy creates "doers" not the "thinkers, adapters, and innovators" that we need to thrive today.

If all we needed was the right information, we would all be in great shape, have great relationships, and be independently wealthy. The information is out there.

The secret ingredients of developing people are the 4 A's - Assessment, Analysis, Application, Accountability.   These are the things that turns average performers into superstars. How much time to you spend now on the 4 A's with your team?

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