The very first thing you notice when you see Mark Eaton is his height. At 7’4” that’s to be expected. (That’s not a typo.)
His career in the NBA is well-known: NBA All-Star, leading the league in blocked shots in four seasons, a five-time member on the NBA all-defensive team. He has two records including the most blocked shots in one season (456) and career average blocked shots (3.5).
His career continues as a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and now, author.
His book, The Four Commitments of a Winning Team, is a blend between his intriguing personal story and his principles for teambuilding. Even if you don’t follow professional basketball, I am certain you will enjoy it.
In our interview, you will learn:
What Wilt Chamberlin told him in five minutes that changed everything
Why he dreaded his height for much of his life
How an auto mechanic who wasn’t interested in basketball became an NBA All-Star
How the never-ending persistence of a coach changed the course of his career
Leaders will always say that the most important part of their company is their people. People-first philosophies abound. Don’t believe it? Look at the plaque on the wall extolling the value of people.
But often the saying on the wall is not reality on the floor. It’s far too common to see people judged strictly on today’s achievements and not by their integrity and compassion for others.
Anthony Tjan’s new book, Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters, is about defining goodness as a skill that can be learned and mastered, about the culture that’s created when we focus on people in a completely different way. I recently spoke to him about his philosophy. Anthony is an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and venture investor.
“Practicing goodness isn’t just a pleasantry..it’s our duty.” -Anthony Tjan
The “Good People Mantra” is a powerful and simple summation of your philosophy. Would you share it with us?
Of course. The Good People Mantra is about five principles and commitments that define what true goodness really means. Think of this as a sort of Hippocratic Oath for leaders to follow. It begins with always being people-first. Make your decisions with this filter in terms of how will the outcome affect my people? Second, recognize that goodness is really defined in terms of how you can make others feel and become the fullest version of who they are. When you are in their presence do you do that? Or when you are in the presence of someone else do you feel that? Third, goodness is something much bigger than competency – it requires character and values. Fourth, goodness requires one to be balanced against the tensions and realities that fight against it. We need to be self-aware of these tensions and ask the right questions to make us better at finding balance. Fifth, do goodness not only when you are morally tested or trying to avoid being bad but, rather, do goodness whenever you are in a position to do so. Real goodness comes from those who practice being good whenever the situation allows. And recognizing that this is a life-long pursuit and intention.
“Truth is ultimately expressed in terms of how we act.” -Anthony Tjan
When I think about a great leader, I inevitably think about someone who is a great coach, understanding my weaknesses, but helping me play to my strengths. From John Wooden to my favorite manager, a coach is someone who unlocks talent.
Share with us the Gregg Thompson definition of a master coach.
A Master Coach is someone who, through their conversations, helps others accelerate their learning and increase their performance. The Master Coach is not an advisor but, rather, a catalyst for sustained personal change in individuals. The Master Coach is a positive and creative force that challenges the person being coached to move from intention to action and holds the person accountable to do that. The Master Coach has highly-tuned interpersonal skills but is much more recognizable by who they are rather than what they do. They are men and women of exceptional integrity, sincere humility, noble intention, and a high degree of emotional intelligence. They take people into uncharted territories, challenge them to consider new perspectives, and help them plot significantly more fruitful paths forward.
“The Master Coach is a catalyst for sustained personal change in individuals.” -Gregg Thompson
What do people get wrong when they think of a great coach?
People often think of the great coach as someone with the expertise and experience to provide great advice and sage wisdom. While occasionally coaches will have valuable perspectives and insights to share with those they coach, this is not their prime role. Their prime role is to help others find their best answers, solutions, and action plans. Some people also make the assumption that a coach is a counselor. Coaching and counseling, both powerful processes that can help to improve lives, are deeply different. Coaching is dedicating time and attention to help the person being coached to be the best version of themselves going forward while counseling usually involves resolving past difficulties and issues.
“The primary role of a coach is to help others find their best answers, solutions, and action plans.” -Gregg Thompson
What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?
A mentor can function in a coach-like manner, but their role is more of a career advisor than a coach. The mentor is usually someone with deep knowledge and expertise in a particular field and uses this to help more junior individuals accelerate their development and career growth. Coaching, on the other hand, requires no expertise in the discipline of the person being coached. In short, anyone can coach anyone.
“Leadership happens one conversation at a time.” -Gregg Thompson
Consider this scenario: It’s early February. Jack Samuels, a sales director for a large logistics company, just landed back in Chicago and is now driving to his suburban home from the airport. He pulled off a successful pitch to a new customer in Dallas earlier that day, his final ticket to punch before the promised promotion to a VP role. The thrill of victory is running through his veins as he considers not only the pitch but also how he arrived on time against all odds. As he sits in standstill traffic with worsening road conditions from ice, Jack reflects on his team. Team members pulled off a big win by reliably performing their roles despite a series of obstacles, and it yielded the desired result for all involved.
Jack’s mind drifts to all the others he had to rely on today to make the pitch possible. He realizes that he couldn’t have even made it to the meeting in Dallas without a series of people from the airline team doing their jobs reliably: the curbside attendant quickly checking him in and tagging the big box of presentation boards to beat the 30-minute deadline, the gate agent persistently paging his name to ensure he was not left behind, the flight attendants politely hustling passengers into their seats, the de-icers timing their process just right, the pilots doing their dozens of checks to ensure all were safe, the baggage guys who loaded and unloaded his big box of materials, and the maintenance and food service teams who are invisible to Jack but, no doubt, played a part.
Then Jack’s appreciation deepens as he thinks of their monumental task of delivering reliable performance many, many times each day through hundreds of teams and thousands of team members. He is motivated to boost his personal reliability each day so that he can inspire more reliable performance from his team, an even bigger team with his pending promotion.
You might have experienced a similar scenario at some point where, like Jack, you could see and appreciate the connection between personal and team reliability and its profound impact on the customer.
We all inherently value reliability. It goes way beyond our air travel needs. Every day we value:
Reliable cars that save time and money on repairs.
Reliable mail that gets delivered on time.
Reliable investments that deliver expected returns.
Reliable cell phone service to stay connected.
Reliable vendors who show up on time.
Reliable restaurants that serve quality food and give good service.
Reliable friends and colleagues who do what they say.
Each of these outcomes we value is achieved by a team even though, in some cases, an individual is delivering the service. Reliability is a team sport, and like any team sport, it requires a good coach.
Of course, we all know the results of dealing with unreliable people and teams. They cost us more time and money, two things we all would like more of. Further, unreliability costs us more frustration and more stress, two things we would all like less of. Our organization has coached, trained and equipped more than 100,000 leaders to elevate their leadership since 1999. It has been evident that being an excellent coach is central to being an excellent leader. So, it’s no surprise that much of our time is spent helping clients become better coaches, and ultimately better leaders.
“You must be personally reliable before you can coach your team to generate reliable results.” -Lee Colan
March Madness was born on March 27, 1939. The record for the most successful team ever is still held by UCLA with eleven championships. How many of those were directly under the leadership of legendary basketball coach John Wooden? An astounding ten. Still amazing. Pat Summit’s record is also one for the history books with six championships for Tennessee (and 1,098 career wins!).
As someone who collects inspiring quotes, there is an unending supply of great ones from outstanding players and coaches.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Quotes from Basketball Greats
“Confidence is what happens when you’ve done the hard work that entitles you to succeed.” –Pat Summitt