Monday Morning Edge (7/27/2020)

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Greetings from Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

I’m writing this from Gate C23 in the General Mitchell International Airport. Jess and I spent an extended weekend back home. We had a great time surrounded by family and friends (more on that in the photo of the week).

Now, before we get into the meat of today’s newsletter, I have a question for you.

Do you struggle to stand out and differentiate yourself from others as a coach?

If so, you’re not alone.

The truth is that it’s really hard to stand out in the coaching world.

But hard doesn’t mean impossible.

All of the best coaches–no matter the level they coach–have found a way to successfully stand out from the crowd.

As I’ve studied the best coaches in the world, I’ve found a common 3-step process.

This Wednesday, I’m hosting the Building Your Competitive Edge Workshop to help you take advantage of what the best coaches already know and apply it to your career.

The 3-step process is the same framework I use to make decisions about my career and right now you can get it for the special introductory price of $49 ($30 off).

Registration closes at 6PM Pacific on Wednesday and I would love to have you. If you’ve been thinking about registering, now’s the time.

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With that out of the way, here’s what we’re going to cover in today’s newsletter:

  • How Amazon’s business strategy applies to coaching
  • Why shocking rules are a powerful tool to program your culture
  • Why COVID-19 will forever change our perception of what’s possible
  • And how Bill Belichick shapes his culture

New Essay of the Week

The Jeff Bezos Approach to Coaching

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the need for coaches to think differently and innovate.

But there’s another side that is perhaps more important: mastering fundamentals and focusing on first principles.

In my latest short essay, I wrote about what coaches can learn from Jeff Bezos’ business strategy of focusing on the things that don’t change.

It’s a short, 2-minute read. I think you’re going to like it.​


Book of the Week

What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture

What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture

Toussaint Louverture was a Haitian general who led the Haitian slave revolution.

Leading his men to victory was no small task, and he had to make many difficult decisions to get it done.

One thing Louverture did as general was to institute what Ben Horowitz calls a shocking rule. The shocking rule forbade married officers from having concubines.

Here’s Horowitz:

As raping and pillaging were the norm for soldiers, requiring officers to respect their marital vows must have seemed absurd. One can almost hear the officers saying, “You must be kidding!” Certainly they would have demanded the rationale for this edict…When everyone wants to know “Why?” in an organization, the answer programs the culture, because it’s an answer everyone will remember. The explanation will be repeated to every new recruit and will embed itself into the cultural fabric.”

Shocking rules, according to Horowitz, are effective ways to program the culture. One modern-day example that we can all relate to is former New York Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin’s rule on timeliness.

Coughlin Time is the now-infamous shocking rule that Coughlin’s team meetings start five minutes early. Being on time required you to be early. If you weren’t early–I mean on time–you were fined $1,000.​

It’s crazy. It’s shocking. And that’s exactly why it works.

Sticking on the theme of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, I’d like to share this anecdote from Ben Horowitz’s recent book, What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture.

“One of the most distinctive large-company cultures is Amazon’s. It promulgates its fourteen cultural values in a number of ways, but perhaps most effectively through a few shocking rules. One value, frugality, is defined as Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing head count, budget size, or fixed expenses.That’s a nice definition, but how do you drive home that you mean it? Here’s how: desks at Amazon were built by buying cheap doors from Home Depot and nailing legs to them.”

As I’ve worked in sports, I’ve realized that one of the hardest things to do is to actively build the culture you want. Horowitz points out that your culture is not a mission statement. You can’t just set it up and have it last forever.

Culture is dynamic, ever-changing, fluid. Your culture is everything; everything is your culture.

A huge part of building the culture you want is appreciating the paradoxical nature of leadership.

Leading people is uncomfortable. As is building a culture.

But anyone who leads people ought to read this book.

Article of the Week

Never the Same

You likely know that back in March, the US Government approved a massive aid package to help recently unemployed Americans stay afloat while we fought to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of this writing, that additional aid (including an extra $600/week in unemployment benefits) is due to run out at the end of July.

I’m intrigued about what’s going to happen to that aid since the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be slowing down in the USA.

In Never the Same, Morgan Housel suggests that it will be very difficult for the government to choose to take that aid away while many people remain unemployed.

Housel writes of the massive aid package:

“All that matters here is that people’s perception of what policymakers are capable of doing when the economy declines has been shifted higher in a huge way. And it’s crazy to think those new expectations won’t impact policymakers’ future decisions.
It’s one thing if people think policymakers don’t have the tools to fight a recession. But now that everyone knows how powerful the tools can be, no politician can say, “There’s nothing we could do.” They can only say, “We chose not to do it.” Which few politicians – on either side – wants to say when people are losing jobs.”

It’s no question that our perception of what the government is able to do has shifted higher this year. This has significant consequences, some good, others bad.

But one thing is certain: our understanding of the world will never be the same.

Podcast of the Week

Click the image to listen to the raw clip.

Coming back to the earlier topic of culture, I enjoyed this podcast from Cody Royle with former NFL GM Michael Lombardi.

In particular, this clip of Lombardi talking about Bill Belichick really stuck out to me.

“Because [Belichick] sees his job as the guy who installs the culture. He sees his job as the guy who cultivates the culture. 
And most importantly, he sees his main job as the guy who maintains the culture. So every day at eight o’clock, when they have a team meeting, he is basically teaching a class in culture. He’s talking about it. 
That’s why mission statements are a crock of crap. When people walk in the door, they read the letters and they just don’t, it doesn’t empower them. Nobody’s teaching them about what this company really wants to be. This is who we are. 
Well, he teaches a class every day on what we are, you know, that’s not what we’re going to do. We don’t do that. He hasn’t raised his voice, very calm and confident about it. Look, we’re not going to tolerate this. This is unacceptable here. And if a player does it again, they’re going to get fired. 
There’s accountability within his words. And the only way you can create culture is by doing that, you have to stay on it. It isn’t like you can just sprinkle pixie dust in the locker room and say, “Oh, we’ve got a great culture.” He works on it.”

If you’re looking for some tremendous insights into leadership at the highest levels of the NFL, listen to the entire episode here.

Photo of the Week

Our time back home was crazy busy, including an all-day bachelor’s party for my brother (pictured middle) on Saturday. 

We started the day off with paintball, hit up the local par 3 course for a round of golf, and ended the night with a bonfire and games. He had a great time, which is really all that matters.

Thank you for reading this week’s newsletter.

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Until next week,


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