I have learned many things during my tenure as an LSU coach but one that has stuck with me I learned from both Dale Brown and then Sue Gunter. You treat members of your team fairly – differently – but fairly. That is a difficult concept for young coaches who want to treat each player the exact same way. As I learned, each player is unique in their background and who they are so therefore you must treat them in such a way that benefits their growth. It does not mean turning your head the other way when your star player breaks a rule. It means looking at each situation, taking both the player and the team into consideration and making decisions based on what is best for both – short-term and long-term. It is another reason that Coach Brown and Coach Gunter had very few team rules. They did not want to be boxed in by a lot of rules but wanted flexibility to lead.
A quick example would be Player A and Player B skipped their 8 AM class on Tuesday. Player A is an excellent student that carries a 3.65 GPA and works hard in study hall. Player B has a 2.3 GPA and has been someone that you have had a couple of motivating talks about working harder in the classroom.
At LSU, we would bring Player A and tell her that we know she is a quality student and could cut that class and not suffer but that we expect her to be a leader for the rest of the team and not cut class. A discussion — end of subject.
Player B however, might be sanctioned with a punishment whether it be extra-conditioning, additional study hall or perhaps a suspension from games.
The punishments are different – but we think they are fair. Player A has earned our respect by her past actions. She has made deposits into our “trust bank account.” Player B has already made some withdrawals from the trust bank account with our staff and we need to help her create a deeper sense of urgency towards her academics.
You can look at this along the lines of playing time. You aren’t going to reward equal playing time for all your players. It will be done “fairly” (by who has earned) but differently from one player to another.
A greater example for us at LSU is shot selection. Not everyone can shoot the same shots. We are fair in that we allow all players to shoot any shot that they have consistently proven to us that they can make. We differentiate because all players can’t shoot the same shot…they don’t work as hard on their shot…they are still developing certain shots.
In his book, “Straight from the Gut,” Jack Welch discusses just that:
“Differentiation is all about being extreme, rewarding the best and weeding out the ineffective. Rigorous differentiation delivers real stars – and starts build great businesses.
They say that differential treatment erodes the very idea of teamwork. Not in my world. You build strong teams by treating individuals differently.
Everybody’s got to feel they have a stake in the game. But that doesn’t mean everyone on the team has to be treated the same way.
Winning team come from differentiation, rewarding the best and removing the weakest, always fighting to raise the bar.
Differentiation comes down to sorting out A, B, and C players.
The As are people who are filled with passion, committed to making things happen, open to ideas from anywhere, and blessed with lots of runway ahead of them. They have the ability to energize not only themselves, but everyone who comes in contract with them. They make business productive and fun at the same time.
They have what we call “the four Es of GE leadership”: very high energy levels, the ability to energize others around common goals, the edge to make tough yes-and-no decisions, and finally, the ability to consistently execute and deliver on their promises.
In my mind, the four Es are connected by one P – passion.
It’s this passion, probably more than anything else, that separates the As from the Bs. The Bs are the heart of the company and are critical to its operational success. We devote lots of energy toward improving Bs. We want them to search every day for what they’re missing to become As.
The C player is someone who can’t get the job done. Cs are likely to enervate rather than energize. They procrastinate rather than deliver. You can’t wast time on them.
Losing an A is a sin. Love ’em, hug ’em, kiss ’em, don’t lose them!