Guest Column: Notre Dame and Rutgers

(This is a guest column from Dan Coughlin, a member of my Mentor Hall of Fame. You can find the original on his blog. You can find the Hall of Fame here.)

September 23, 2007
Rutgers and Notre Dame: The Story of Two Teams

I have a good friend, Alan Weiss, who is a graduate of Rutgers University. I’m a grad of the University of Notre Dame. In 2002, ND played Rutgers and was a 40-point favorite. Alan was willing to bet me on the game as long as I gave him the point spread. I should have taken the bet. ND won 42-0. On August 18, 2006, ND was ranked #2 in the country, and Rutgers was not even in the Top 25. Today, 13 months later, ND ranks in the bottom ten teams in the country and Rutgers is in the Top 10. How is this possible, and what does it mean for your business? Here are a few themes that come to my mind:

Leadership & Stability

Greg Schiano, the head football coach at Rutgers, was hired on December 1, 2000. That means he has been there through the bad times and the good times. Here’s his record through the first six seasons:

2001 2-9

2002 1-11

2003 5-7

2004 4-7

2005 7-5

2006 11-2

2007 3-0

Is your organization willing to be patient when your senior manager is struggling through a 1-11 season and four losing seasons in a row? Are you as a manager willing to hang in there and keep believing in yourself?

Schiano did, and he never wavered in his goal to win a national championship. He influenced those people that he could at each stage in this seven-year journey. At this point, the story is unfolding for Charlie Weis at ND. Will the university stay patient as he works to build a long-term, successful organization? Will he maintain his patience and confidence in the face of relentless criticism?

Momentum

When an organization begins to win, or lose, on a regular basis momentum is created. It’s far easier to sustain momentum than to create it or change it. That’s why every play counts. One win that could have been a loss, or one loss that could have been a win, can begin to shift the momentum.

In your business, what small detail or seemingly unimportant project can you propel to a higher level of performance that can generate the momentum you want?

Talent Management

I think the biggest story here is the story of talent management. Rutgers held onto a guy they believed in, and gave him the time he needed to build a successful organization. In those same seven years that Schiano has been at Rutgers, ND has been through three coaches, and a lot of people want Weis fired for losing six games in a row while giving up over 30 points in each game.

The first step in attracting, retaining, and developing talented employees is attracting, retaining, and developing a talented senior manager. Be patient.

The second lesson on talent management is that great players make great coaches, and great coaches make great players. In other words, Schiano became National Coach of the Year when he had the players necessary to win. I doubt he became that much better of a coach in the four years it took to go from 1-11 to 11-2, but I have a hunch his players got a whole lot better.

Always work to improve the quality of the performers in your organization if you want to improve the quality of your organization’s performance.

© Dan Coughlin 2007. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


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