You might not be a fan of the University of Alabama or college football, but if you are a fan of SUCCESS, I think you will find what I am about to share very helpful. Nick Saban, head football coach at the University of Alabama, has won 5 national championships … one while he was head coach at LSU and four at Alabama. His four championships at the University of Alabama have happened in span of only seven years … the best run in college football history.
In football, you can only put 11 men on the field at one time … it’s your best against their best, so having great talent is critical, but not everything. So, what is the magical formula for success at Alabama and why do so many teams have trouble duplicating it? A few years ago Coach Saban asked me to present a program on communication to his coaching staff. In his world, recruiting star athletes is paramount to their success, and he wanted his coaches to make the best presentations possible to the athletes they wanted to play for Alabama.
I learned a lot of things about Coach Saban and Alabama football preparing for my three hour program. There are a lot of coaches, managers, bosses and leaders out there who never mix it up with the people who are on the front lines. Not Coach Saban; he is all about being on the ground level, getting “dirty” in the details. He understands that old saying, “The devil is in the details,” so he leaves no stone unturned and assumes nothing. I don’t believe I have ever met anyone as detailed as he is. Meetings and practices are planned to the minute and everyone understands what is expected of them and how they are to accomplish it. I don’t have time to go into all that I learned about him in this short article, so I decided to share one of the most important elements of how he has become so successful in what the college football world knows as “The Process;” Coach Saban’s way of winning. As he says, “The Process is much more important than the result.”
The critical element of his success is a simple way of breaking everything down into manageable parts. He owes this technique to Dr. Lionel Rosen, a Michigan State University psychiatry professor he met when he coached there in the late ’90s. Dr. Rosen had studied cognitive therapy used in the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program and found the best way to succeed is to deal with the “moment” … not the future, nor the past. If you handle the moment correctly, the final result will work out. Dr. Rosen pointed out to Coach Saban that the average play in a football game lasts about seven seconds and that is where he needed to concentrate. What happened on the last play is done, it’s the next play, the next seven seconds that counts. By making sure his players (and coaches) fully understand what they have to do in those seven seconds, without hesitation, and prepare them properly so they can execute it … is all that matters. He teaches those young men that the game is played seven seconds at a time.
The same is true in business. By breaking down what you do into manageable segments of time and function, you will be better able to achieve the results you desire. But remember, everyone needs to understand what is expected of them and how they are to accomplish it. I would like to leave you with one last powerful thought from Coach Saban: