The Carpenter's Rule

Spend as much time working on why a strategy may fail as you do developing one. 

The iconic British toy company Hornby Railways which had been in business since 1901 was facing bankruptcy in the early 1980s. Headquartered in Kent, England, Hornby’s was a feature in James May’s Toy Stories about iconic manufacturers of children’s toys. Under the new CEO, Frank Martin, the company decided to change course and focus on collectors and hobbyists instead of children toys. Martin believed that making scale models were more interesting than toys reaching a larger, more disposable income group—adults. And adults love nostalgia, as the trains reminded them of their childhood. The change of strategy became an instant success and saved the company from sinking.

In the past, Hornby Railways had a losing strategy. Martin was smart and brave enough to alter their thinking and culture. The decision to change is never natural—traditions and past beliefs always get in the way of making the right choices.  I’m sure he had many naysayers telling him that Hornby and children go hand in hand. (If that were true, then why was Hornby going broke?) I’m also confident that Martin had many longtime employees telling him this is the way the company has always done business and it worked in the past. Those “remember when” conversations are the first step towards failure.

Frank Martin was willing to look at his problem through a different lens. He challenged the status quo while framing a question which was very similar to what Jeffrey Yass, said about strategy...“The biggest risk is that you have a losing strategy when you think you have a winning one.” Being realistically optimistic guards against making this mistake.

Planning a strategy is much like writing. The best work never comes in the first or second drafts; it always comes in the third or fourth. Once you plan, there must be someone in your inner circle who will tell you all the reasons why it might fail. If everyone agrees, then don’t believe the plan is full proof. Go back and re-evaluate because as Bill Walsh once expressed, “When we are all thinking alike, no one is thinking.”

Spend as much time working on why a strategy may fail as you do developing one. 

And always follow the carpenter’s only rule:  Measure twice, cut once.   


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S.M.A.R.T

Without expectations, how can improvement occur? 

Whenever a season begins we always hear coaches/teachers/leaders have to answer questions about the expectations for the year. An example question:  Based on last years improvement, how much growth do you expect?  Many skirt the issue of expectations altogether, in part never answering the question due to not wanting to place a bulls-eye on their back.   

However, each team, person, organization, classroom and individual has expectations.  

Without expectations, how can improvement occur? 

No one aspires to stay the same—we all expect more in a team or individual setting.  Bill Copeland once said: “The trouble with not having expectations is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” Therefore, expectations are necessary. How often have you read or heard that when it comes to dealing with expectations, they must be “managed” correctly?  Manage expectations?  You cannot manage expectations; you must lead expectations.  Don’t forget, the difference between a leader and a manager are:  Leaders do the right thing; managers do things right. 

Leading expectations is critical.  How a leader talks to their team, their fans, their organization is the first step towards driving the expectations.  The best approach is called Management by Objectives (MBO), a system that seeks to align employee objectives with the organization's goals. And using the SMART acronym is the best process.

SMART stands for:

1.        Specific

a.       What do I want to accomplish?

b.      Why is the expectation important?

2.       Measurable

a.      How much and how many?

b.      How will we know when it’s accomplished?

3.       Attainable

a.      What is the plan?

b.      Are we being realistic?

4.      Relevant

a.      How strong is our “why?”

b.      Does everyone feel the same?

5.       Timely

a.      Are we in a position to handle the expectations in the next month or year?

b.      If not, how much more time do we need? 

Follow the SMART plan and when leading always make sure to hit these critical points when setting expectations and re-enforcing them each day. 


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Wizard of Westwood

Streamline what you want from your employees/students/players

How could we have The Daily Coach without mentioning the late great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden and everything he has mastered when it comes to teaching. Wooden's principles on teaching, leading, and serving have withstood the test of time, regardless of sport, gender, or generation. One of the best Wooden stories ever told is a tremendous reminder for all coaches, teachers, leaders, and change agents.

Coach Wooden was always generous of his time. If young coaches invested energy and resources to learn from the Wizard of Westwood, he would grant them an audience. During one occasion Wooden was meeting with a first-time head coach. They went through different conversations regarding his job, and this coach filled two notebooks of information he learned that day from Coach Wooden. When the meeting ended, Coach Wooden thanked this young coach for spending time with him and said: "I am thrilled we had a chance to bond today. It was a delightful time. But you could have saved your school money and yourself time, because out of all those pages of notes there are only three things that matter." 

  1. Define and recruit talent that fits your system.

  2. Make sure you always recruit players who put the team ahead of themselves.

  3. Don’t try and become a coaching genius, or guru. Understand the variables a player must preform and practice simplicity with constant repetition. 

Coach Wooden saw himself as a teacher first. He spent time working on the finer details of the game. His ego never got in the way of being a servant leader and winning with grace. He also understood the value of time for preparation.

When he was preparing for practice, he would instruct his secretary:  “unless there was an earthquake, he was not to be bothered for anyone.” 

Read that sentence again. He never let anyone bother him when he was planning and preparing. Do you? Is your phone nearby? Can anyone interrupt you during a strategy meeting? You need to rethink your preparation meetings even when you are planning your day—limit all your potential distractions!

Wooden’s method of simplicity with constant repetition allowed him to create game plans specifically for the opponent. He never needed a massive play sheet in front of him to remind him of the million calls, just a rolled-up piece of paper.  His complexity on coaching were in the finite details. And that strategy enabled him to be complicated from the outside, but simple enough for his players as well as staff to understand and comprehend. 

All great teachers seem simple, yet their ability to coach the details of the game allows them to appear complex.

Today, streamline what you want from your employees/students/players and start spending more time coaching the details with constant reps.  The rewards will be great.


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Unrecognized Simplicity

Think divergent, find a different solution to all the questions, and test them. 

In Paramount,  California, in the downtown section of the city on the main street is a large bank.  The unassuming building, which housed the bank was on the FBI’s most robbed banks list year after year.  No matter what changes to the security system, the number of guards on duty, the bank was always in the top five of most robbed banks in America.  The bank spent time and large sums of money to prevent the robberies, and each year, the same thing occurred, it was the most robbed bank in America.  Then someone new on the staff offered a suggestion:  “I live near the police yard, and they have a bunch of old police cars just collecting dust, why don’t we borrow one, have it cleaned and park it in front of the bank?”   Do you know what happened after they did that?   The number of bank robberies went down to zero, that’s right ZERO

I love the bank story for two reasons:  the beauty of “unrecognized simplicity” that we often ignore when leading/teaching/coaching and the notion that money will solve all our problems.   Having money never solves problems, in fact, having money create problems.  Everyone reading this email who is wishing you worked at larger organizations, better programs, better offices need to understand how lucky you are to NOT have money.  Having money stops us from thinking, prevents us from finding solutions, stops us from seeing the simplicity in life.  In fact, having money spoils us—in the worst possible way. 

Today, be grateful for what you have and use your mind to solve problems, not the company’s checkbook.  Think divergent, find a different solution to all the questions, and test them.  If they don’t work, then go back and work on another solution, don’t bitch or complain that you work for an organization who lacks funds.  Money stops thought, money stops the growth, and most of all, money stops us from seeing the simple answers because we are too busy throwing money around. 


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Person of Talent

Critical habits one must have to become a person of talent

The fictional character Sherlock Holmes walks into a room where a crime occurred, spends ten minutes looking around and presto, he finds the perfect clue, the ideal way to solve the crime as if he was in the room when it all went down.  Viewers never notice what catches Holmes’s trained eye until later, and we all wonder how we never saw what was so obvious.   Now, we all know Holmes is not real, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created him as a person of “genius.” Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “People of talent hit targets others cannot hit.  People of genius hit targets others cannot see.”  Holmes was a person of genius, Doyle gave him the knack of being able to understand the non obvious.

People of genius are scarce, and for any young leader or coach, they are difficult to duplicate.  Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best seller called Outliers, in which he never separated top achievers into categories—everyone was a person of genius.  In reality, we know there are people of talent who succeed, and also there are people of luck.  Since being a person of genius is rare, and being lucky can be just as unique, let’s focus on becoming a person of talent. 

Gladwell is right, as it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. It also takes passion and curiosity to stay at the top. 

Here are other critical habits one must have to become a person of talent:

  1. Understand life backward, to better live it forward. 

  2. Apply the opportunity cost lens with broad options and consider higher-level effects.

  3. Grasp the awesome power of compounding, thus being in a persistent and steady-state --- never intermittent.

  4. Honor the value of building great habits, one day at a time.

  5. Be calm, be stoic and never impatient. 

We all might never become a person of genius, but we can ALL be a person of talent.

Just do these five things every single day. 


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