The Process: Creating High Performing Teams
"Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Think about what you need to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s The process: Let’s think about we can do today, the task at hand. The result will take care of itself.”
~Nick Saban, University of Alabama Head Football Coach
The head football coach at the University of Alabama, Nick Saban, is either loved or hated. Very few college football fans are in between on their feelings for him. But love him or hate him, there is generally deep respect for the results he has produced on the field. The Alabama University football program can legitimately be considered the best college football program ever; a program that has already become legendary. There is Alabama and then everyone else.
Coach Saban refers to it often, and his players and coaches live by it. They say it for him, tattooing it at the front of their minds and on every action they take, because just two words are responsible for their success: The Process. I admire the simplicity of The Process and the discipline required to make it work. It always begins with acquiring the right players, of character and competence, and placing them in the right positions. This is followed with teaching the fundamentals, providing the resources for success, and the rigid discipline to insist on each player and coach doing their job.
In the chaos of sports, business, or life, The Process provides us the structure to endure, the path to sustainable performance. It says: Okay, you’ve got to do something very difficult. Don’t focus on that. Instead, break it down into pieces. Simply do what you need to do, right now, and do it well. And then move on to the next thing. Follow The Process and not the prize.
The Alabama road to national championships is just that, a road. And you travel along a road in steps. Excellence is a matter of executing the mission, of taking each step in its place. The road Saban’s teams travel is just that, existing in the moment, taking it one step at a time, each player and coach focusing on their own job and doing it the very best they can. The Saban mantra is: Do your job. Don’t focus on whether others are doing their job, you do yours. No excuses! It is the cumulative effort of each player doing his own job that produces the results on the field; one step at a time, not being distracted by anything else. Not the scoreboard, not the other team, and not the crowd.
The Process is about finishing: finishing games, finishing workouts, finishing film sessions, finishing plays. Finishing the smallest task you have right in front of you and finishing it well. When I take my focus off doing my job, I become distracted, start chasing rabbits, and try to control and worry about things over which I have no control. The leader says: Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Go back to your station and think about what you are doing instead of worrying about what’s going on out there and what someone else is doing or not doing. You know what your job is. Stop complaining and get to work. The Process is the inner voice that demands that I take responsibility for myself and ownership of the solution. It prompts me to act, even though that may be over a small area, one over which I have little control.
The Process is about doing the right things, right now. Not worrying about what might happen later, or the results. The Process is simple but hard. It takes discipline to keep my head down and do my jobs without worrying about what everyone else is doing. What would happen to an organization where every member did their best at their own job? I think the answer is obvious: the scoreboard would take care of itself through the cumulative effort of the entire team.
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