A new biography of Alabama’s head football coach Nick Saban provides a portrait of a man who is intense and driven. Saban: The Making of a Coach by Monte Burke provides lessons we can take from Saban’s career and apply them to our own professional lives.
Over-prepare. In addition to making sure his teams are familiar with opponents’ tendencies, Saban’s year-round conditioning program for players assures that his teams do not run out of gas in the fourth quarter. As described in the book, each time Saban would meet with a potential new employer, he arrived with a yellow legal pad full of notes, which allowed him to demonstrate his understanding of the employer’s needs. How well do you prepare for important meetings and interviews?
Network. The universe of football coaches is a small one, as it is with many specialized professions. Still, it pays to establish and maintain strong relationships with select industry colleagues, work your best connections and stay informed about jobs that may soon open up.
Don’t hold grudges. Saban’s current offensive coordinator at Alabama is Lane Kiffin who was a less-than-friendly opponent when he was head coach at Tennessee a few years back. Later, when Kiffin was not working, Saban recognized Kiffin’s ability and brought him aboard. With Kiffin running the offense, Alabama had a good season in 2014. Would you be willing to work with a former nemesis?
Focus on “the process.” Saban teaches players to take care of the fundamental elements and not focus on the end result. In other words, work on blocking, tackling, running, passing, catching and positioning correctly and scoring opportunities will come. This may be impossible in your business, but, at times, concentrating on each small task within a large project may help you reach your goal more efficiently.
Trust your spouse. Loyalty to an organization is a good thing, but your family’s needs should be your top priority. Coach Saban’s wife Terry, who married him before he was famous, has provided input and necessary nudges along the way to help keep his career in motion. Is your spouse/partner involved in your career development (and are you involved in his/hers)?
When changes occur, make adjustments. After opposing coaches complained about Saban’s huge number of visits to high schools his recruiting targets attended, the NCAA prohibited those visits. Now Saban visits those recruits via video conferencing, which is within the rules. Are you able to adapt when changes come?
As a University of Alabama grad and a lifelong Crimson Tide fan, I am happy that Nick Saban has been able to straighten out a football program that had gone off the rails. Beyond merely getting things in order, he has also won three national championships at Bama.
Thanks to Saban hater Daniel Tosh, who alerted me to the Saban bio in a hilarious segment on Tosh.0 on Comedy Central. Click HERE to view the Tosh bit. (Why the hate? Tosh is a Miami Dolphins fan. Saban ditched the Dolphins after two seasons to come to Alabama.)