Coach Don Meyer is a college basketball national champion and legend, compiling a record of 923-324 (74%) over four decades. He was a mentor to many successful coaches, including Tennessee’s Pat Summit. Meyer kept leadership simple and offered three basic, but highly effective rules with wide application for any organization. While his rules have a physical application, it’s the mindset behind them that makes them particularly powerful within an organization.
Coach Meyer’s Major Rule #1: Everybody takes notes.
This rule sets the tone that leaders must be learners, regardless of how well you perform or how long you have been at it. A “been there, done that” mindset will eventually ensure mediocrity as, in the words of Zig Ziglar, “it demonstrates an intelligence arrogance that leads to a disabling ignorance.” Here are three points to support Rule #1:
- Leaders should work on themselves as hard as they work on their jobs, because a leader can’t export to followers any skills or knowledge he or she doesn’t personally possess. In other words, to add more value to others, you must first become more valuable. To that end, how many leadership books have you read, or courses have you taken this year?
- Another aspect of “taking notes” is learning from your mistakes. If you develop a mindset that there isn’t failure, and that there is only feedback, your mistakes will refine you rather than bury you.
- “Taking notes” also indicates assuming a mindset where you listen more than you speak when coaching others, in meetings, and the like. Since no good idea ever entered the head through an open mouth, be prepared to listen more; and, if you can’t improve on the conversation, remain silent and learn.
Coach Meyer’s Major Rule #2: Everybody says “please” and “thank you.”
“…an attitude that demonstrates no job is beneath the leader and that he or she is willing to do whatever it takes to contribute to the team’s welfare.”
Rule #2 sets a tone of mutual respect for all team members, regardless of what one’s role or title is. Showing gratitude, respect, and courtesy is contagious, and can productively shape a culture. Entitlement, disrespect, and rudeness however, can drain a culture and divide a team. Without common courtesies and respect, your culture can be infected by the following:
- Compliance over commitment. Compliance leads people to do the bare minimum of work required just to keep their jobs and get paid—they feel like a number, a head in a herd of cattle, a means to an end.
- A sense of entitlement. Here, people start to focus more on what they think they are owed rather than what they owe one another, and to the team overall. They can also take other teammates and departments for granted.
- Factions where one clique is at war with another. There’s little that weakens any team worse than division and the ensuing competing agendas. Both gratitude and ingratitude, as well as respect and disrespect, are reciprocal concepts. Whatever you demonstrate to others—more of the same tends to come back to you.
Coach Meyer’s Major Rule #3: Everybody picks up the trash.
Personally, this is my favorite of the three rules. It covers far more than the physical act of keeping a workplace clean. It also sends a powerful message from leadership on: how to lead by the right personal example; the importance of paying attention to detail; and an attitude that demonstrates no job is beneath the leader and that he or she is willing to do whatever it takes to contribute to the team’s welfare. In other words:
- “Picking up the trash” demonstrates a servant’s mindset. Team members realize you are there to serve, not to be served.
- “Picking up the trash” demonstrates a “brilliance in the basics” mindset. Being faithful in “little things”—cleaning up after oneself, respecting one’s surroundings, and maintaining an environment conducive to efficient work—are basics that bring a big return.
- “Picking up the trash” demonstrates an attitude of ownership; specifically, that everyone from the top to the front line takes more responsibility to do whatever it takes to help the organization succeed—they all think and act like an owner.
- “Picking up the trash” isn’t about engaging in trivial tasks, doing work out-of-your-zone, or becoming an unfocused jack-of-all-trades. It is about seeing and seizing select opportunities to set the right example and tone for the entire enterprise to live up to and emulate.
I can recall working for a dealer who owned multiple dealerships; and, whenever he would visit one, he was known for picking up the trash in his path rather than walking over it. He told me one time, “Everyone thinks I pick up the trash because I own the place. But I own the place because I’ve always had a mindset to pick up the trash—to do whatever it took to get the job done.”
Let me review what I said at the outset, to lessen the chances anyone misses the essence of these rules: “Everybody takes notes,” “Everybody says ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’” and “Everybody takes out the trash” go far beyond the technical aspects of a job one should perform or say to lead effectively. They embody the mindset behind living out these rules that helps shape a culture and build a leadership reputation that enables you to lead more effectively. They also apply equally as well at home and in other aspects of your life.
Author: Dave Anderson
Dave Anderson is President of LearnToLead which provides in-person and virtual training to many of the world’s best dealerships. Dave speaks to dealer groups over 125 times each year and has given seminars in 15 countries. He’s written the leadership column for Dealer Magazine for the past fifteen years. Dave’s 13th book, “It’s Not Rocket Science: 4 Simple Strategies for Mastering the Art of Execution” is now available worldwide. For daily leadership tips follow Dave on Twitter @DaveAnderson100.