by William DiPaolo
When I was in college at the University of North Carolina I had the privilege of watching Michael Jordan play basketball. I also witnessed Dean Smith’s legendary coaching – as year after year he recruited star high school athletes – and plugged them into a system that nurtured those kids into great college athletes.
Things are different at UNC today. I still love basketball and watch every single game – but Roy Williams, UNC’s present coach could learn a lot from Dean Smith. There is no question that Roy is a great coach – one of the best ever. But, I believe he could be significantly better if he simply trusted his kids to play above their own expectations. Instead, kids in coach William’s program often underperform.
Trust is a difficult thing to understand. Not trusting is much easier – and this is why so many leaders do not trust those they lead. As a coach it is natural (and helpful) to set “high” expectations for your kids. But, the challenge arises when one of your kids does something that doesn’t mesh with your expectations. Without TRUST, your high expectations will DESTROY the kid’s ability to even sniff the air of his or her own potential. To see this play out first hand, observe Roy Williams along the sidelines during any game. What you will see is terrifying. The moment a player makes a mistake, loses focus or does anything contrary to William’s expectations – he will contort his face into a meanacing scowl and shout at the player. I’ve seen him shout “That was stupid!”. In fact, I’ve even seen him turn to the bench to scream and yell at players not even in the game! All this shouting has destroyed player and overall team confidence. It has done nothing but create stress and anxiety – the two things that create more missed expectations.
What people need from coaches and bosses is TRUST. As I said this is a lot harder than it sounds. The reason is that you have to trust them even when they do NOT appear to meet your expectations. It also means you have to be comfortable knowing that by trusting someone, one may take advantage of you.
As a coach, Roy Williams would be far more effective teaching his players in practice – and TRUSTING them to become the players he knows they can be. When a player messes up instead of punishing them with a terrifying outburst, encourage them in a way that reinforces that the coach knows they will still become the player he expects them to be. Practice is the time to teach and correct players. When the game begins, focus on the good – and TRUST them even when the mistakes happen. When players receive trust from someone they believe holds high expectations of them – trust has a very powerful way of bringing those expectations to the surface. And this is why trusting a player, or an employee, fosters growth – while eventually aligning performance with expectation.
I want to write more about trust in the workplace. But for now, and for the sake of the players under coach Williams, I hope he can learn to respect his players by putting his trust in each one of them.