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Flow—It Feels Right

Flow—It Feels Right
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Here is another excerpt from The Shift from Me to Team, which will be published this year. This post touches on flow and the importance of having clarity about the Core Identity of the organization you work for.

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Several years after graduating from the University of Michigan, I accepted an offer from my former football coach: my family and I would return to Ann Arbor, and I would take the job of Recruiting Coordinator/Director of Football Operations at Michigan. My understanding of leadership from my post-college experiences received a wake-up call on my first day with Michigan Football. It was an eye-opener!

Every day started with the entire football staff of twelve around a large table. On my first day, Head Coach Bo Schembechler left the room to take a call. Five minutes later, he returned from his office and slammed the door, nearly knocking it off its hinges. He had everyone’s attention.

In a clear voice, he demanded, “Which one of you promised [a high school quarterback] he would start as a freshman?”

I had just arrived from Arthur Young & Co., where you kept your head down when the shrapnel started flying. The worst thing you could do was to admit a mistake—doing so could end your career.

Bo’s meeting room would be different. Instead of hiding, two coaches stood up: Don Nehlen, who went on to be West Virginia’s most celebrated head coach, and Tirrel Burton, Michigan’s legendary backfield coach. Essentially, they both said they had showed the recruit the current quarterbacks on film, and then they asked him if he thought he could compete as a freshman. They assured Bo they hadn’t promised a thing.

I was shocked at how firmly and quickly each responded to Bo.

Bo addressed the room, capturing this reinforcing opportunity to say, “Men, there is only one way you start at Michigan. You earn it! Nothing is given. It must be earned; you compete to earn everything you get in this program.”

Bo’s reinforced message was understood. And the message went well beyond recruiting.

I hadn’t witnessed anything like this transparent sharing of who we are and how we are to conduct ourselves in professional football or at BF Goodrich or Arthur Young. I had never seen a leader associate how an organization made decisions with its Core Identity with such clarity. It felt like the natural flow we are meant to feel in life. It was clear, it was simple, and it made sense.