From my book “Entitled To Nothing

Create the Space for Ownership

One afternoon, about a week later, I was cleaning my new office when Kevin Payette came in. KP would be the only senior on my first team and our captain. Not only did I benefit from having a very good team—looking back, I think we were the best team in the league my first year—but we also had only one senior, and he was a terrific leader. The combination of talent and leadership made things much easier on a first year head coach.

KP was sitting in the office and talking to me about our pre-season pickup games. I had gone recruiting the day before, so I hadn’t seen the guys when I normally would as they came over to play. I asked KP how the games went.

“Ah, not very good. They were kind of bullshit. Guys weren’t playing hard, guys were complaining. It wasn’t good at all.”

I figured I’d put it on him and see how he responded. “Really? What are we going to do about it?” I wasn’t really expecting an answer, but I figured we could start a conversation about how to fix the issue.

His answer surprised me. “We already took care of it. We got up at 7 AM this morning and ran as a team. Everybody came in and ran. The guys know we can’t have that.”

I tried not to let him see my surprise. I asked the question pretty confident that I wasn’t going to get a good answer other than, “I don’t know, coach. If guys don’t play hard, I’m not really sure what we can do.” But he had taken ownership along with the rest of the team for some garbage pickup games in the pre-season. This wasn’t something I had stressed to them. This was something they had done on their own. They had standards for how they should compete, even in the pre-season, and they held themselves accountable to those standards. That said a lot about the team I was now coaching.

How many teams are getting up before class and running to punish themselves for bad pickup games? I was impressed. It showed me for certain that these kids cared. They wanted to be good, and they took it seriously. It also showed me that they would take responsibility and ownership, which is important in any successful organization. So often as leaders we want to correct mistakes and tell people what to do. In reality, high performing teams are driven from the inside out. I got my first glimpse of that lesson in the office with KP that day. Our job as the leader is not to tell them what to do, but to give them the tools to figure it out themselves. I wanted my team to be full of leaders, not followers. They had the space to take ownership when their coach left right before school. I’d learn over time to continue to give them that space.

There is a big difference between a team being told what to do and doing it on their own. Compliant teams will do what they are told, and with talent they can be good. Teams that take ownership do it for each other, and those teams have a chance to be special. When they own it, they’ll fight a little harder for it. When your team starts to drive your culture, elite success is more attainable.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *