College Football Coaches Understand Millennials

For the last couple weeks, the Mothership (ESPN) has been bringing in college football coaches and running them through the “Carwash.” It is a juggernaut of a day which includes coaches being escorted from set-to-set at the ESPN complex to be asked the same questions over and over again. Coaches return the favor with “coach-speak” answers making for a usual programming day of repetition on ESPN.

Full disclosure, I am a football nerd #gocards #L1C4. Professional, college, and even Texas high school football starts to really grab my attention this time of year. Rather than radio surfing in my car, I have loaded my iPhone with football related podcasts (to go along with the leadership and business podcasts of course). In Houston, you end up spending a solid portion of your day in the car.

ESPNU’s College Football Podcast is one of my go-to sources for information. Ivan Maisel and Matt Barrie are a good team.  On the Podcast, which I do enjoy immensely, Ivan has been interviewing nearly every college coach from the Top 5 conferences and asking some insightful questions around the culture of college sports today. What I have come to realize is that most of these coaches understand they as leaders must adjust to the generation they are coaching. In other words, these guys study millennials and even accommodate aspects of their approach to coaching in order to reach these young adults.  To help them.  To teach them.  To relate to them.  To help them grow as people and citizens.  To earn their trust and respect.

To be honest, most of the stuff out there on my leadership and business podcasts is just the opposite. They instruct managers and business owners on how to bring the millennials along to their perception of the business world mindset.  In other words, they are trying to change millennials to fit their mold for the workplace. College football coaches, on the other hand, seem to understand that they need to do some adjusting themselves!

Some of these coaches get paid millions of dollars. They receive some scrutiny on that topic, too. Yet, if you listen to them answer questions about their not-so-successful last season or about coaching their teams, they answer with, “Well, every coach should look at themselves in the mirror first. Ask, ‘What do I need to change. How can I improve my craft?'” Yes please!  Serve me up some of that humble pie!  I want that guy to coach and lead me.

Look, I am not exactly enthused about this next point.  I understand why you might not either.  It is a topic that is beaten over our heads too much.  It’s a worldly truth, though.

The major barrier between millennials and their older managers is COMMUNICATION. This is precisely why coaches are an excellent case study for understanding millennials. A college coach’s job security hinges on their ability to communicate to 18-22 year old young people.  As I mentioned above, these coaches are attempting to help, teach, grow, and earn the respect of their millennial players.

It’s too perfect!  See, college coaches are stuck with millennials (and can thrive with them too).  Older football players are now professionals who aren’t eligible or they are worn-out and of no use (speaking from experience – I am the latter).  They MUST adjust and innovate their communication styles to be heard by their young players.  When they do so successfully, they tangibly win on the football field.  For many athletes they tangibly win in life and career down the road, too.

Should not our business coaches, mentors, bosses and managers want to win with us millennials?  The media wants to say we’ve been dealt a sorry hand.  The majority of the older generation wants to doom us, because they don’t really understand us.

I’d rather focus on winning a bunch of “ball games” during my career.

The Future of Us (Millenials)

A couple posts back, I left an audio link for a debate around “Millennials don’t stand a chance?” If you didn’t listen, explainer below:

Two side were argued – one for “yes, we do” and the other for, “no they don’t.”  An audience vote after 3 rounds of debating said, “Nope.”  In summary, the audience chose the argument of two older-than-millennials debaters’ argument of nay.

My own take on this is going to come from a slightly different angle, but I think the difference is profound.  My vote would be YES, we do stand a chance because we MUST.  It’s really as simple as that.  There in no other option unless an alien race of millennial age land on earth tomorrow.

One of the presumptions I presume people have about our generation or any young generation is the following: they don’t have what it takes to face the future.  Well, if one can tell me what the future will be and what my capabilities at that point in time will include, then I’d just might have to agree with them.   The fallacy here is that no one can predict my future, nor the future.  The history of economic cycles, job rates, national growth, politics or comparisons between my generation and another’s will determine my future.

I heard someone from stage a few years back say, “The past does not equal the future.”  It was spoken with a motivational sentiment, but it’s also understated truth.  Please, anyone out there, don’t tell me or anyone in my generation about our future.  And please do not hold over the heads of millennials that they’ve got to save our nation.

What are we saving it from, anyway?  Being #2?  Or #3?  Are we to save it from government over-spending, taxes, and unemployment?   Sorry, but that bed has been made.   That is not a shrugging off of what troubles this country or any responsibility its citizens have to do something about it.  It’s the reality.  What I am about to say includes no sarcasm.  Each word is to be taken literally:

If millennials do not save America and its future, the world will not end.

I say that not because I am a pessimist.  I am not quitting on America.  I choose to put my hope in something higher than the right to vote, right to bear arms, or a democratic system of government.

Guys Named Tom

My wife and I took a trip to one of our favorite places in the US last weekend.  We absolutely love the city of Louisville, Kentucky.  The restaurants, the University, the parks, the hills, the “Keep Louisville Weird” vibe and the people were great to us when we both lived there.  Now, when we go back we get more of the same.  We stayed with a family with whom we are very close.  I spent all of Friday shadowing the father as we went about his day as owner of a successful local business. His name is Tom.

As I reflected on my notes from that day, I realized, “I know a bunch of guys named Tom.  And, well almost all of them has left an impact on me in some way.  At this point in my life I think I will meet more and more Tom’s.  Even with the ones I’ve come to know so far, I think I could write a book!  A simple post will have to do for now.

My Tom’s:

Tom 1 – Hands down the most influential Tom in my life.  He is my friend and has walked with me through Biblical discipleship for a couple years now.  Without him and his wife, my wife and I would have had to waited longer to get married.  He’s invited me into his life and it has made a huge impact on me.  We meet once every two weeks.

Tom 2 – Louisville business owner, friend, career mentor and one of the truly generous givers out there .  He also played a monumental role in our marriage by offering his home as our venue for the big day.  Love watching this dad interact with his children.  He is intentional, encouraging, and has their respect.  He takes his wife on a date once a week – no matter what. 

Tom 3 – Took a chance on me early in my career.  He saw potential in me and acted on it.  As we grow together, I can see more and more that he is a man of integrity after God’s own heart. 

Tom 4 – Showed me a early-twenty-something can drop the potential personal gain for a meek lifestyle.  And never look back!  He’s a great example for how the non-profit business world can benefit from for-profit-minded people. 

Tom 5 – The native Dallas area Texan who pretty much solidified my decision to play football at Wabash College.  He was a great friend and took me under his wing when I was a clueless college freshman.  Looking back, I should have gone to him for more help.  Did I mention I was clueless?

Thanks to all the Tom’s out there.  Here’s to more Tom’s I’ll meet along the way…

NOT knowing IS the Battle

In a new job or a new role, not knowing is the battle.  I have been a part of two very different companies since graduate school (see previous posts) and both proved to be difficult at the beginning because of what I didn’t know.  At my current job, the small office team has done well to bring me up to speed.  However, learning the industry and learning my responsibilities has come largely in response to needs or issues.  The opposite approach would be acting proactively or anticipating needs.

With my previous job and employer, I had the same kind of challenge.   It was and is a young company, growing quickly, and plowed through any unforeseen issue with enthusiasm and energy.  To put it another way, many problems were solved by “out working” them.  My wife is currently employed by a company with characteristics similar to the ones I just described.  I hear her frustrations and think, “I’ve heard that complaint before.  From me! Or a previous co-worker!”

My experience so far shows me that the biggest frustrations and the largest mistakes in my career have come from simply, not knowingExperience is just that, and everyone has their own.  I’ll choose not to bore you with mine and just ask a question I think needs answering.  In light feeling unequipped at the start of two very different jobs:

Do employers owe their employees training for the job they’ve been hired to do?

I won’t be attempting to answer that question today (maybe I will in 20-30 years when I have some more “experience“).  I will give a little more context to the questions as it starts to swim around your business mind.  Lack of training has made me hungry for training.  Most of my mistakes have come from simply not knowing what is best or what is out there.  Feeling unequipped is crappy feeling when you fail.  Asking questions is a strategy to curb mistakes from not knowing.  Yet, a constant stream of questions can begin to wear down on the relationship between who’s asking and who’s answering.  Such as thoughts like, “Am I starting to annoy this person?” or “Should I know this already?” or “Why doesn’t they know this already?”  Training can aid in preventing these possible internal battles.

Ready for some cliches?  When I think about it, being “thrown into the fire” or “jumping in and learning how to swim” is not a horrendous approach.  It can cause people to grow, learn more rapidly, and expand their capacity.  I can vouch for that.  It may also cause someone to take ownership of their role instead of “just turning the wheel” within the parameters of their job description.  Training doesn’t solve all mistakes from happening.  Even with a plethora of training, when it comes time to take on the task, it’s time to “grab the bull by the horns.” Yee-haw.

Whatever the answer to the question above may be, without training, a new employee will discover that NOT knowing IS the battle.  Consider yourselves warned Gen Y’s!   Ask questions despite the feeling like your a nuisance.


inspiration for the title of this post brought to you by:

Impact Maker

Around this time of year, being the football junkie that I am, I take in as much NFL Draft talk as I can handle.  Without a doubt, there is more talk about the Draft than I can handle.  Here are some ways a great pick or picks can IMPACT a football team and the organization:

  • Increased ticket sales
  • Increased merchandise sales
  • Feeling of excitement in the fan base
  • Good press (or just press in general)
  • Hope for the future
  • More wins
  • Better talent where there was lack (or none)
  • Stability
  • A new weapon for the coach’s game plan
  • etc…

Teddy Bridgewater is a football player who has been critiqued and analyzed way too much leading up to the draft.  Many people don’t believe he can IMPACT a team in the ways listed above.  That’s just fine, I think.  He is a favorite mine, but that’s because we are both Louisville Cardinals.  So, I’m biased.  I’m also realistic.  I do not think Bridgewater will be a star player in the NFL.  I think among his peers in the draft he has as good a chance as any to contribute to an NFL team.  Since he is one of my favorites, I wish him a long career and all the success he wants from his career.

But, check this out!  If he doesn’t become an amazing Hall of Fame QB in the NFL aiding a franchise by increasing their revenue and prestige, he can have an IMPACT on his family and others.  And he’s proven to do just that: