A Leadership Conversation with Tom Izzo

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I sat down with my old coach to pick his brain about his leadership philosophies and try to still some of the knowledge he has gained over his many years of coaching.  I haven’t had many chances to sit down and talk with him about some of the things that have shaped his career or the values that he’s built his program on.  Coach Izzo gives a great perspective to how he has approached building his program and what he enjoys most about coaching.

Topics in this episode

Doing extraordinary things

Why coaching?

Entitlement issues

Understanding the importance of seeing the big picture?

The importance of passion

Sixth Option Podcast – Developing leadership in young student-athletes

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How do you develop young leaders?

The NCAA has a forum for developing student-athletes into leaders.  They bring in students-athletes from all three divisions for conversations and workshops around understanding the tools need to grow into a leadership role.

Today’s guest Chris Stewart has served as a facilitator at this conference as well as launching a company CW leadership that bridges the gap between fitness and leadership development.

In our conversation we touch on tools for leadership, breaking through self imposed obstacles, goal setting and other lessons he’s picked up as a former collegiate athlete and current strength and conditioning coach at Olivet College

6 Things We Should All Remind Ourselves….Especially Me

I wrote this to myself, I need the reminders

Too often I forget about them or I’ll remind myself but not commit with absolute certainty to doing them. Putting them down on paper and sharing makes them real and not something I just hold in my head.

We all get caught up with verbalizing a goal we’d like to accomplish but when you write it down and you have to look at it…..things change.

Hopefully some of these resonate with you.

Remain Present – Spend time thinking about the future and what your goals may be but don’t do it at the expense of truly enjoying the right now

Be Curious – Being curious opens the doors to discovering so much about yourself. Read and write, listen and speak, think and unthink. Act. Rinse. Repeat (Thanks to Eric Jorgenson for those)

Stay Resilient – Understand that you have to go through a certain level of adversity to fully grow.  True change happens when things are painful, it’s one of the few feedback tools we have that you can get in real time. Embrace it!

Be Forward Facing – Your greatest failures are the things that will propel you towards accomplishment

Swim in the Blue Ocean – There’s a book called Blue Ocean strategy and it say’s that if there are a bunch of sharks all feeding at the same place the ocean will be red and hard to see but if you turn towards the blue ocean there are a lot of opportunities.

Appreciate and Acknowledge – Appreciate the people in your life today and acknowledge it to them. Tell your friends and family you love them, give longer hugs, put your phone down and fully engage with people.

3 things Tom Izzo does to excel in March

When it comes to March there are few leaders who come to mind like Tom Izzo. What is it that gives him and the program the ability to remain a threat every time the clock strikes tournament time? I sat back and thought about my experiences and tried to boil it down to three things Coach Izzo and his staff do to excel in one and done situation.

Maximize your time – understand that when you’re working within a tight time frame you have to make sure that every minute is efficiently used and nothing is wasted. There will always come a point of diminishing return when the work will start to have a negative effect on the end result. Coach Izzo has figured out how to truly use every minute. A one day turn around normally give you 16 – 24 hours to regroup, form a strategy, learn the game plan and execute. It’s a lot easier to do this if you are chunking the information into easily understood and retained pockets.   Most of these are broken down into 30-60min windows for film/walk throughs/eating/etc. No minute left behind!

“Show me the baby” –A good friend of mine Martin Jarmond used to always say to me “don’t tell me about the birth, just show me the baby” meaning get to main points and stop with the fluff. You’re going to have to take in a lot of new information when you have one day prep and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You need to find the ability to trim away fluff and get to what you really need to know. I can remember how easy our coaching/managerial staff made it to learn everything we needed to know about out next opponent because of the pre-work they had done.

Answer the bell – Very similar to a prize fight there is certain when the preparation is done and you’re standing toe to toe with your opponent. You’re going to give some punches and you’re going to absorb some damage.   But when you’re sitting on the stool between rounds and the bell rings you bite down on your mouth piece and come out swinging.

There are a lot of things that can be said about the way Coach Izzo operates, the way MSU teams have play but one thing that can never be questioned is whether or not a Michigan State basketball will show up for the fight come March. That’s a direct product of the man who is leading the charge and a mindset that resonates through the whole programs.

Improve your team with these 5 lessons from Mat Ishbia

I had the good fortune of being at an event the other night and hearing one of my former teammates Mat Ishbia speak. Most people remember Mat from his time on the basketball court as a fan favorite at Michigan State, I remember Mat as being one of the most important players we had on the team. He had the ability to connect with people and his understanding of the game made him a great coach. It’s no surprise that since his graduation he has taken that same philosophy into the business world at United Shore. Here a few of the principles he’s used to help grow his business from a team of 12 to 1,100.

You Are Important – Each member of the team is just as important as the next, it doesn’t matter if it’s the CEO or a receptionist. You’re all on the same team. You have to work to be the best because your continued best effort is imperative to the growth of the team.

Set Standards, Hold People Accountable – Talk about the standards you expect from people and what it will take to achieve them. At MSU Coach Izzo only talks about National Championships because that’s the standard. It also enhances your ability to hold people accountable if they aren’t living up to those standards on a daily basis.

Recognize – Each team member at United Shore can develop ideas that they think will help improve the company. Many of these ideas have been implemented and the individual is reward with a light bulb to showcase on his/her desk. These light bulbs signify your creation of a bright idea that is helping the company and have become more coveted than a monetary bonus

What’s Important This Moment – What do you need accomplished right now to continue moving the needle. We all run into the muse at some point and it can take over our concentration but if you want to end the day knowing that you got 1% better then you have to figure what’s most important at that moment and do it

Be in the weeds of your business – have you ever seen a Tom Izzo timeout? He’s coaching everyone and knows exactly where everyone needs to be on the floor to make the system work. That’s a guy who’s in the weeds of his team. He’s spent time with each coach/player so he can understand what he can do to make them success. That only happens if you spend the time with your teammates so you can understand how the work and what you can do to help.

10 Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned from Podcast Conversations

The idea of a conversation is being lost on a lot of people, we’ve all seen the boom in technology that makes it easier for us to not have to talk face to face with a single person.  By starting my podcast I’ve been able to have 18 different conversations with people and allowed me to learn so much from each individual person.  Through these conversations I’ve had with various people about different industries I started to notice a pattern of underlying lessons in leadership.  These are a simple things that most of us forget and need to be reminded of from time to time.

  1. Understand the value of your own time – make sure the things you commit to doing are worth sacrificing the seconds, minutes or hours it will cost you.
  2. Once you establish a standard within your team, it becomes your jobs as a leader to make sure all the team members are working at a level that will live up to it.
  3. You don’t have to be the boss to be the person people look to for advice and guidance
  4. It never hurts to ask a question and be curious about a topic.  You only know what you know so there’s nothing wrong with trying to learn something new.
  5. Sometimes investing your time into doing something for another person leaves a lasting impression
  6. Appreciating the things and people in your life that put a smile on your face.
  7. Giving someone a new experience can ultimately change their outlook on life and may change the course they were heading on.
  8. Self-evaluation is a hard thing to do.  You need to sit down and take an unbiased look at where you’re seeing success and what areas you can improve.
  9. Leaders make decisions and are ready to deal with those consequences.
  10. We tend to over complicate things – show up, work hard, repeat

PODCAST – ENGAGE, EDUCATE AND EMPOWER – My conversation with Kaleb Thornhill


“The more you go through, the more you learn”

Kaleb Thornhill enters his fifth season with the Dolphins as the organization’s director of player engagement. In his role, Kaleb engages, educates, and empowers individuals to reach their full potential both on and off the field. This includes helping players in the transition process in and out of the NFL through continuing education, financial education, and providing assistance in dealing with family matters.

Since joining the Dolphins, Kaleb has been selected to participate and completed the NFL Athlete Development Professional Certification Program conducted by the Wharton School Executive Education program at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2013, he has served as a member of the NFL’s Steering Committee for NFL Player Engagement, which provided advice and opinions in matters related to off-field support of players and their families.

Kaleb has fostered a holistic approach to the overall development of Dolphins players through Gratitude, Respect, Integrity, and Trust (G.R.I.T) and the creation of the Veteran Executive Education Program (VEEP), which aims to continue to develop the veterans and families in all areas of their lives.

Kaleb joined the Dolphins from the Detroit Lions where he worked in the team’s football operation and player development departments. Prior to his time in Detroit, Kaleb served as graduate assistant to the Athletics Director at Michigan State University while earning his master’s degree. During his time, he created player development/mentor presentations that were shown to the Athletics Director and Head Director of Student Athlete Support Services and helped to develop a transition program for student-athletes.

Serving as the Director, Kaleb was an instrumental part in bringing the 4th and 1 Football Camp to East Lansing, MI in 2011. 4th and 1 is a non-profit football, ACT prep, life skills, and character development camp that is 100% free to attend for student-athletes that show a strong desire to attend college.

4th and 1 East Lansing is transitioning to APEX Academy in 2015, a non-profit organization that Kaleb co-founded with his friend and former Spartan teammate Travis Key. APEX Academy’s purpose is to ENGAGE, EDUCATE, AND EMPOWER student-athletes from under-resourced backgrounds that lack the support and resources needed to properly prepare for and achieve their goals of attending and completing college. The mission of APEX Academy aims to provide under-resourced student-athletes with a wide range of tools necessary for college & career success, while closing the achievement gap.

intro – Shining Star Earth, Wind, Fire

outro – Happy Rock BenSound


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