If you are a rowing coach at an American university right now, you are “in it.” You are halfway through your racing season, with a bunch of feedback and not a lot of time before the League and Conference Championships arrive. You are looking at your results and the results around the country, your line ups, your rig, and wondering what you are going to do to improve performance.
I know this to be true not only from my own experience, but because over the last week I have had several conversations with former colleagues looking for some guidance and perspective. Having been in their seat, I am quite empathetic to their situation. The more stressed you get, the more the variables seem to multiply, which increases your stress, and so the cycle accelerates.
As a coach and a builder I’ve often found clarity by asking a question I came across in Keller and Papasan’s The One Thing: “What’s the ONE THING I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.” This is an important first step, one that often breaks the stress cycle and helps direct focus.
Then there is a second step, at which the good coaches shine. They take the one thing and they break it down to the thing they can do right now, the productive action that starts accomplishing the larger thing that will make everything else easier or unnecessary.
Excellent coaches then take today’s productive action and make it specific and concrete. They give everyone focus and clarity on today’s task and then they get to it. When today’s one thing gets achieved another can be layered on top, as the team moves toward accomplishing the bigger thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary.
Sadly, nothing is as clarifying as being “in it” and having to figure it out. The very best coaches and leaders are focusing on the one thing, breaking it down, and making it specific and concrete all the time. They are the ones whose teams hold the trophy over their heads.
How about you, leader? Do you know what your one thing is? Have you broken it down into today’s P.A. and made it specific and concrete? Do it today, so you won’t be “in it” tomorrow.