I heard Tony Robichaux, baseball coach at the University of Louisiana, say that he would rather recruit players that drank from a water hose than those that had their mommas bring them a Gatorade to the dugout. Now I love that comment. It embraces what toughness in sports is all about. Robichaux is obviously interested in more than talent alone. He is looking for a degree of toughness as well.
That concept isn’t limited to athletics. Regardless of the field of work or service, talent or experience will only take you so far. At some point, you or your team/organization will experience unforeseen challenges or problems. Those challenges or problems will oftentimes be more than talent or experience alone will be able to handle. It will take an enhanced degree of commitment, dedication, toughness, and sheer grit to work through it. It’s these situation that define leaders and their impact.
Over the years, I have seen many examples of this type of dedication and commitment to winning. People sleeping after their work day at the mill because an ice storm was going to impact travel back to the mill the next day, and the mill had to keep running. People stepping out of their normal line of work and helping us fight a fire, deal with water in the plant, or sandbag against potential flooding. There were people finding ways to work through difficult machine or quality issues and getting the product out to the customer. Here recently, people driving 4-5 hours to work due to being rerouted as a result of flooded roads, people staying in hotels to ensure they could get to work the next day as their normal roadways home were flooded, and the countless hours of time people have spent resourcing orders to other plants to ensure customers got what they needed (not to mention the overtime and extended hours at those other plants).
It’s in these times that toughness takes over. Yes, talent matters, knowledge matters, and experience makes a difference. Without that inner determination to fight through obstacles, those attributes are meaningless. I don’t know if you can teach toughness, but you can sure practice it and model it for others.
So as you continue to focus on developing as a leader and developing others to lead, it’s not just about technical ability, communication skills, analytical skills, or motivational ability, but also about sheer toughness at times. The willingness and determination to face a challenge, to find a way to win, and to bring others along with you in that battle.
Looking back, I don’t think my mom ever brought me a Gatorade to the dugout or sideline, and I sure drank out of a bunch of water hoses growing up. Maybe we need to turn the hose back on!