More Coaching Insights from the NFL

“Clean up the minor details! That’s how you get great!  There are no little things. The little things are all big things.” – Bruce Arians

A few days ago I wrote about a 35-minute video of Jason Garrett‘s opening training camp speech to the Dallas Cowboys, and this post is related.  I suppose it’s because I’m getting excited for the start of the NFL season, which is less than a week away now.

In any case, once again MMQB is giving us fans access to the inner workings of professional football, this time by shedding some light on Arizona Cardinals‘ head coach Bruce Arians as he tries to turn the franchise around.  Arians is coming off a remarkable season in which he was thrust into head coaching duties with the Indianapolis Colts, guiding the team (and their rookie quarterback) to a 9-3 interim record as he filled in for head coach Chuck Pagano.  One could argue that his situation with the Cardinals will be more of a challenge, as the squad has an array of problems that need to be addressed.

If the Cardinals manage to turn things around this season, Arians’ philosophy towards coaching and his relentless attention to detail might be big contributors.

…On Teaching

Holding the attention of a room full of millionaires who’ve excelled at football all their lives is no doubt a challenge; compounding matters is that, like all classrooms, the folks in the room will have different learning styles.  Arians knows this, and knows that he must adapt his style of teaching to the people in the room and the specific situations: “Coaches are teachers…all the great teachers can feel the room. You don’t just go in with a script and read from it.”

Think for a minute about the teachers you’ve had who relied upon a single style and were completely inflexible.  That style likely worked for some people, but probably felt alien to others.  Similarly, consider the presentations you’ve seen in your professional life.  The most successful communicators are those who are keenly tuned into the real-time feedback coming from the people in the room, and can adapt accordingly.  Ignore this feedback and stick to a single style at your own peril.

The most successful communicators are those who are keenly tuned into the real-time feedback coming from the people in the room, and can adapt accordingly.

To be truly effective, you must have an arsenal of techniques and tactics at your disposal.  Need to wake the group up?  Do a quick survey to get some arms moving.  Want to bond with the audience?  Tell a story to which they can relate.  Carefully and consciously control your body language and your tone…there are so many things you can do to increase your effectiveness: learn them, and practice them, and apply them at every opportunity.

…On The Small Things

Here’s Arians’ philosophy on the small things:

“Clean up the minor details! That’s how you get great!  There are no little things. The little things are all big things.” – Bruce Arians

I couldn’t agree more.  I firmly believe in the transformative power of details, in all walks of life.  In my own experience playing soccer, the best players I’ve played with and against (and we’re talking folks with professional and national experience) typically aren’t fantastically better in any single way than the average player; rather, they’re incrementally better in every single way – every technique, skill, and decision is just a titch better, and the collective result is a huge difference.

Of course, I’ve seen plenty of situations in my career in which attention or inattention to detail is a difference-maker: preparing a back-up plan (particularly advised for live product demos in front of a room full of CTOs), double-checking something and avoiding a relative catastrophe, taking something for granted and paying the price.  The little things become important things very quickly!

The Cardinals won’t be a quick fix, but if Arians can get the whole squad executing on the details, then that’s a foundation for future success.  That, and throwing in the general direction of Larry Fitzgerald.

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Posted in Everything, Leadership, Management

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