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Build your championship business using Nick Saban’s process

(OPINION EDITORIAL) When it comes to winning, The University of Alabama’s Nick Saban knows a thing or two. Here’s how to take what he knows and use it for your business.

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Growing up in Alabama, the end of summer and cooler temperatures of fall signal the start of the most important season to Alabama residents – college football. Unless you’ve lived there, it’s almost impossible to appreciate the fervor that surrounds Alabama and Auburn football.

At an early age, every citizen picks his team: “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle!” There are no fence-sitters. You’re either with us or against us, and your college allegiance follows you for the rest of your life.

So, as a graduate of Auburn University, it pains me to admit that the University of Alabama football team is maybe the highest achieving sports organization in the world. That includes all professional and amateur sports teams.

Over the past eight years, the Crimson Tide has finished the season as the National Champion four times and barely missed a fifth championship.

With 128 schools competing in Division 1 of the NCAA football, it’s an unbelievable accomplishment to capture 50% of the titles over that time period. And unlike professional teams, Alabama starts every year with a team that has 20-25% new players (a.k.a. freshmen).

So even as a diehard Auburn fan, I think it’s worth taking the time to study what Nick Saban, the head coach of Alabama, is doing to build and lead these championship teams. And more importantly, how we can apply those leadership skills to our business organizations.

Saban is dedicated to a philosophy he calls “The Process.”

He likes to say, “We’re not going to talk about what we’re going to accomplish. We’re going to talk about how we’re going to do it.” Emphasizing the “how” over the “what” puts the focus on execution. In short, what do you have to do day in and day out to be the best you can be?

A key to his approach is to focus only on the things you can control. It’s about executing consistently in the moment without getting distracted by the desired outcome. If his players and coaches execute consistently at a high level, he knows they will win games and championships will follow.

One of the benefits of the University of Alabama being a consistent winner is that the school attracts and recruits the most talented, sought-after high school players in the country. And regardless of the talent of these athletes, the first step in their indoctrination to Alabama football is learning the Saban way.

All players learn “The Process,” which dictates how they practice, communicate, train, study, run plays and prepare mentally. Every player at Alabama knows that if he doesn’t follow “The Process,” he won’t be part of the team, regardless of his talent.

Saban only has his players at Alabama for a few years. So, it’s critical that they understand that the Alabama program is bigger than any one player.

It’s a similar situation in business. We know that any team member could leave, get sick, take vacation and ultimately retire. Therefore, we must establish and consistently follow a process like the Crimson Tide.

Applying “The Process” to your business means that your employees focus on their activities, not the outcomes, just like Saban’s players. Each team member is responsible for executing each activity to the best of that person’s ability.

As a leader, you start by making sure each role in your organization has a handful of key performance indicators (KPIs) – activities that the team member executes on a daily or weekly basis. Once you’ve established those primary activities, a manager should work consistently to develop the team member’s ability to perform those activities.

A classic example of how to apply this philosophy is in the sales role. Many sales managers simply focus on each salesperson’s monthly sales goal. While they may have to produce $100,000 in new sales each month to justify their compensation, we can’t manage (coach) by focusing on the “what.” The $100,000 in new revenue is the “what.”

A good manager will work with the salesperson to determine the measurable activities (the “how”) they need to perform on a daily or weekly basis that will ultimately generate $100,000 in new sales.

The activities might include some combination of the following: number of daily cold calls, number of weekly prospect meetings, number of proposals sent each week, number of presentations to decision makers made each week, number of hours per day building a network and number of thank you notes written per week.

Under Saban’s leadership philosophy, salespeople should be consistently coached to execute at their highest level of performance for each of those activities. Once they execute at a high level, the “what” will take care of itself.

With the football season fast approaching, I’m confident about three things: 1) The citizens of Alabama will still be split between “Roll Tide” and “War Eagle.” 2) The University of Alabama will once again field a championship-caliber team. 3) You can apply “The Process” in your organization to create a high-performing business.

Certified Petra Coach Rob Simons draws upon his 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, brand expert and business coach. Rob founded PixelWorks Corporation in 1993 to serve the interactive advertising industry and in 1996 he founded Toolbox Studios, Inc., one of the most respected branded content marketing firms in Texas. Rob sold Toolbox Studios in 2015 to focus exclusively on business coaching, which includes certification as a Gazelles International Four Decisions™ coach. An active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Rob is currently a “Master” EO Strategy Summit Facilitator and an EO Accelerator Instructor. In 2007, the San Antonio Business Journal named him one of San Antonio’s “40 Under 40.”

Opinion Editorials

Study says women need to be seen as “warm” to be considered confident

(EDITORIAL) A new study reveals that despite progress, women are still successful when they fall into a stereotype. Let’s discuss.

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About 15 years ago, I took a part-time job in a mental health clinic handling bookkeeping and billing. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I attacked the job with what I felt was confidence. For the first few days, I simply felt as if I was an imposter. I kept asking questions and pushing forward, even though I didn’t make much progress. Within just a few days, I felt the hostility of the office manager.

It got progressively worse, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I’d done to make her so confrontational with me. I thought I was pleasant and respectful of her position, and I was getting along with the other employees. When I talked to our boss, I was told that I intimidated the office manager. HUH? Me? Intimidating? I was a complete mess at the time. I could barely put together a business casual wardrobe. My emotional health was so fragile that I rarely went anywhere new. And she found me intimidating?

Researchers have been studying how people judge others. Susan Fiske, researcher out of Princeton, found that competence and warmth are two of the dimensions used to judge others. Based on that research, Laura Guillén, Margarita Mayo, and Natalia Karelaia studied the competence and warmth at a software company with 236 engineers.  Guillén and her team collected data at two separate times about these engineers and their confidence and influence within the organization.

They found that “men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm.

Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.”

We encourage women to be confident, but based on current research, it may not be enough to close the gender gap in the workplace. A woman must be seen as helpful and dedicated to others to have the same influence as a man. As a woman, it’s easy to be seen as the #bossbitch when you have to make tough decisions. Those same decisions, when made by a man might be considered just “business as normal.”

I guess the lesson is that women still have to work twice as hard as men just to be seen as equals. I know that I have to work on empathy when I’m in an office environment. That office manager isn’t the only person who has thought I’m intimidating. I’ve heard it from it others, but you know what?  As a self-employed writer, I’d rather be seen as undeterred and daunting than submissive and meek.

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Opinion Editorials

“Starting a business is easy,” said only one guy ever

(OPNION EDITORIAL) Between following rules, finding funding, and gathering research, no business succeeds without lifting a finger.

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While browsing business articles this week, I came across this one, “Top 10 Business Ideas You Can Start for Free With Barely Lifting a Finger.” These types of articles make me mad. I can’t think of many successful freelancers or entrepreneurs who don’t put in hours of blood, sweat and tears to get a business going.

The author of the article is Murray Newlands, a “VIP Contributor.” Essentially, he’s a freelancer because he also contributes to Forbes, HuffPro and others. He’s the founder of ChattyPeople.com, which is important, because it’s the first business idea he promotes in the article.

But when I pull up his other articles on Entrepreneur.com, I see others like “How to Get Famous and Make Money on YouTube,” “Win Like A Targaryen: 10 Businesses You Can Start for Free,” and “10 Ventures Young Entrepreneurs Can Start for Cheap or Free.”

I seriously cannot believe that Entrepreneur.com keeps paying for the same ideas over and over.

The business ideas that are suggested are pretty varied. One suggestion is to offer online classes. I wonder if Newlands considered how long it takes to put together a worthy curriculum and how much effort goes into marketing said course.

Then, you have to work out the bugs, because users will have problems. How do you keep someone from stealing your work? What happens when you have a dispute?

Newlands suggests that you could start a blog. It’s pretty competitive these days. The most successful bloggers are ones that really work on their blog, every day. The bloggers have a brand, offer relevant content and are ethical in how they get traffic.

Think it’s easy? Better try again.

I could go on. Every idea he puts up there is a decent idea, but if he thinks it will increase your bottom line without a lot of hard work and effort, he’s delusional.

Today’s entrepreneurs need a plan. They need to work that plan, rethink it and keep working. They have to worry about liability, marketing and keeping up with technologies.

Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, but it’s hard work. It is incredibly inappropriate and grossly negligent to encourage someone to risk everything they have and are on the premise of not lifting a finger.

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Opinion Editorials

New age stranger danger: teaching kids about AI

(OPINION EDITORIAL) The world is changing and so is technology. As tech changes so must we, in teaching kids about the dangers about AI.

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When I was younger, when my siblings and I would come home from school, we were required to nourish our minds for an hour (study, homework, read, do math practice, whatever we were feeling that day) and then we were banished from the house until dinner.

We had to go outside and create our own fun. We rode bikes to friends houses, we went “fishing” in the creek, sometimes before we left the house we’d search the couch for loose change and go to our favorite corner store and share a bag of skittles.

Our neighborhood was a safe one — it was one of those ideal 90s neighborhoods where our house was seated on the end of a cul-de-sac so there was little traffic and there were enough kids on the street to field two kickball teams.

Each parent on the street was allowed to reprimand us and there were rarely any locked doors. As a 10 year old it felt like ultimate freedom. But, with that freedom came a very important lesson in strangers and what to do if we were ever approached by one.

I’m sure stranger danger is still a thing taught by parents and schools alike but we went from don’t talk to strangers online or get in strangers’ cars to getting online to request a stranger to drive us somewhere.

With the advancement of technology has come a readiness to bring strangers in (/near / to) our homes. The most invitations coming from those personal assistants many homes can’t seem to function without.

Alexa, Google Home, Bixby or whatever assistant you may use are all essentially strangers that you are willingly bringing into your home.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a college kid that didn’t know that the microphone on those things are always on — as such is true with the Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger apps.

In a recent article from Rachel Botsman (BOTSman, hmmmm), she describes the experience her three year old had with an Alexa.

Over the course of the interactions, her daughter asks the bot a few silly questions, requests a few items to be bought, asks Alexa a few opinions, she ultimately sums up her daughter’s experience as saying, “Today, we are no longer trusting machines just to do something, but to decide what to do and when to do it. The next generation will grow up in an age where it is normal to be surrounded by autonomous agents, with or without cute names.”

I’m not a mother and I’m definitely old enough to be extremely skeptical of machines (iRobot anyone?) but the effects smart bots will undoubtedly have on future generations have me genuinely concerned. Right now it seems as harmless as asking those assistants to order more toilet paper, or to check the weather or to see which movies are screening but what will it become in the future?

A MIT experiment cited in the Botsman article 27 children, aged between three and 10, interacted with Alexa, Google Home, Julie (a chatbot) and, finally, Cozmo (a robot in the form of a toy bulldozer), which are all AI devices/ toys.

The study concluded that almost 80 per cent of the children thought that Alexa would always tell the truth.

Let me repeat that — 80 PERCENT OF THE KIDS BELIEVE THAT THE AIS, CREATED BY COMPANIES WHO WANT TO SELL PRODUCTS, WILL ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH.

The study went on to conclude that some of the children believed they could teach the devices something useful, like how to make a paper plane, suggesting they felt a genuine, give-and-take relationship with the machines.

All of these conclusions beg the question, how can we teach kids (and some adults if we’re being honest) about security and privacy in regards to new technology? How do we teach kids about commercialism and that as innocent as they may seem, not every device was designed altruistically?

We are quickly approaching an age where the strangers we introduce our kids to aren’t the lurkers in the park with the missing dog or the candy in the van, but rather, a robot voice that can tell a joke and give you the weather and order +$70M worth of miscellaneous stuff.

So now, it’s on us. Children of our own or not, we have to start thinking about best practices when it comes to teaching children about the appropriate time to trust in a computer. If the 5 year olds with smart devices are any indicator, teaching kids to be stingy with their trust in AIs will be an uphill battle.

This story was first published here in October of 2017.

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