Howdy folks, welcome to Texas, home of the folksy colloquialism. In today’s edition, we learn how to make chicken salad! No, no, not the delectable combination of poultry and love scooped on your plate at Corner Bakery. I’m talking about doing the impossible – making chicken salad out of chicken-feathers (this is the SFW version.)
This comes to mind whenever college football season gets in full gear. Coaches start spinning performance, making cryptic statements asking for additional resources, or explaining away a season that has gone awry. You also hear first-year coaches, hired to be miracle workers, remind everyone that they are still playing with the players from the former coaching staff, i.e. “doing the best I can considering the talent I inherited.” First, think about how insulting that must be to the players sitting in the locker room. For me, it’s also an indication that a coach is already developing a narrative in case things go sour.
College football coaches are not alone in this endeavor; it happens all the time in sports, in business, and in life. Buying time for poor performance based on what we’ve inherited from the previous regime. Blaming a lack of resources for an inability to compete. Blaming circumstances in general – it’s just what we do when deflecting blame. And I’m not buying it. For coaches, this is usually heard in terms of being patient with “my 4-year plan.” For new managers, it’s a lot of the same. Okay, I get it, when you’re asked to bake a cake you should be able to buy your own ingredients, but do you have the luxury of waiting 4 years before icing the cake?
So, here’s the deal – if you choose to take the job, take the money, take the title and responsibility – the expectation is for you to take whatever groceries are in the cupboard and figure out a way to make a confectionery miracle that would pass muster with Kerry Vincent.
When you come prepared with the following three ingredients, the circumstances and resources you inherit won’t dictate your success:
- A gospel – Some call it a “message,” but that really doesn’t do it justice. You gotta believe, partner. Your vision is the North Star. Keep it clear, consistent, and a constant in your communications with your team. There’s a balance involved when you’re the new leader – do you scorch the Earth of the previous regime, do you build on it, “slow-play” the integration of your ideas? Much depends on the state of the team you inherit, but remember this – it’s not your team until they believe in your gospel.
- An identity – When your gospel gels, your team develops an identity. The qualities, beliefs, and actions taken by your team will define them, and you need to embrace that (unless, of course, you develop the wrong identity.) The identity becomes the rallying point for the team, and it perpetuates even as the team grows or changes personnel.
- Exude confidence – This is a funny one; notice that it doesn’t say “Be confident.” The reality is, you may have some insecurities or doubts about your own abilities – you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t. So fake it. Confidence is contagious and a huge part of your toolbox as you establish the first two items on this list.
Pretty easy recipe if you are passionate about your vision. More importantly, none of these “ingredients” are dependent upon the contributions of others – you bring these with you wherever you go.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.