If Saban Can, You Can Too – Adapt

So it’s almost August and college football talk and predictions are all over the news.  I was not shocked when I recently saw that Alabama was picked very high again this year.  Coach Saban has seven national titles already and looks like his team will challenge for one again this year – shocker!   The interesting thing is that while he still hold to his “process” for winning, several years ago he completely changed his strategy on how to accomplish key things within that process. 

Most notably, Saban went out and hired some more innovative offensive coaches and really opened up how Alabama played offense.  These changes not only allowed him to adapt to the more high scoring offenses that he would be playing against, but allowed him to continue to attract the modern high school players that want to play in that style.  The results speak for themselves.  He changed what he had done for years and what had won several national championships to a style/approach that would enable him to win more titles.

Now whether you are a Nick Saban fan or not is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the learning on adaptability –  The ability to change focus/strategy when conditions change.

You can say you are just old school and hold fast to all the old ideas, approaches, and strategies that you have historically based your leadership approach on, but you may not like or be getting the results you need by taking that approach.  Remember, leadership is not about you.  Leadership is about two things:  1) Achieving the mission/purpose of the team/organization 2) The people you lead.  So keep that in mind as you consider these ideas on being adaptable in changing times as a leader:

  1. Core convictions don’t change with changing times.  Our approach may change, but not the conviction.  Be sure you know what those convictions are for you, the leader.  Maybe you embody those of your employer.  Maybe you have your own.  You need a foundational conviction(s) to keep you grounded.  For me, it’s to ensure everything we do is people focused first.  That means we provide safe, desirable, and  financially secure (meet objectives) places for our people to work.
  2. Next, ensure you can define the win (success) for your team and communicate what that looks like for every single employee in their role.  Again, this one is just foundation building here.  Maybe the corporate atmosphere and focus has changed and you need to redefine what that win is today.  If you don’t know, get help and find out.  It’s important to know and adapt as needed!
  3. Now that you have those two foundational aspects in place, I want to ask you to do something revolutionary in today’s complex world of business.  Ask your people what they value most from their place of work.  What matters to them and what makes them feel like they are part of a team where everyone matters!  Yes, just ask them.  No fancy survey, online quiz, and certainly no suggestion box in the plant.  Just ask people! You will be surprised at how much you learn as a leader by just asking questions.
  4. Do the same thing with your customers.  You see, if we understand our people and our customers, we have a chance to experience sustainable success (however you defined it – I define it as reaching potential, but that’s a discussion for another time).
  5. Last but not least, and here’s the tricky part, do something with that information you got from asking those questions.  The new generation of employees are very different from the last group.  They want different things from a job.  Can you adapt as a leader and embrace the new generation?

Customers have different expectations and wants today.  Don’t assume what we are doing is what they really want.  Our efforts may not equate to their wants.  Can you adapt as a leader and meet their wants?

Adaptability is an attribute that historically received little attention, but I predict it will quickly rise to one of the top 5 attributes of any leader very soon.  Can you be that leader, and while holding fast to core convictions, adjust to changing needs/wants of your people and customers?  It will be critical that you do.

Hey, if Nick Saban can hire Lane Kiffen to run his offense and start throwing the ball all over the field, we can change the way we operate our businesses to meet the needs of a changing workforce and customer base!

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